The Forgotten Concerts of Roundhay Park
Words: Harry McMullen
Roundhay Park has nestled between the Leeds suburbs of Meanwood and Roundhay since the year 1872 and by boasting over 700 acres, is one of the continents largest urban green spaces. The park was originally built by, and for, the soldiers who fought for King and country in the Napoleonic Wars. Since its completion the evergreen space has witnessed: the fall of the empire, two World Wars and has overseen the governments of 26 different Prime Ministers and the reigns of 6 monarchies. In the 1980’s, Roundhay was transformed into an open air concert venue year upon year, hosting the biggest names in music. We have cherry picked the three most iconic concerts from Roundhay’s back catalogue.
Michael Jackson: Monday 29th August 1988
Arguably the greatest entertainer the world has ever seen, in 1988 Michael Jackson landed in Leeds on his whistle stop world tour. A sea of over 60,000 fans, sporting denim and mullets flocked to Roundhay Park to marvel at the king of pop. The two hour set was later described as an extravaganza, the lasers, smoke and sound all accumulating to create a sheer spectacle. The greatest showman on the planet graced Roundhay performing a set list of a tide changing proportion yet many millennials may not even be aware of the concerts existence. With tickets being retailed at £16.50, the show sold out in minutes.
Bruce Springsteen: Sunday 7th July 1985
In the sweltering summer of 1985 Bruce Springsteen landed at Leeds’ Roundhay Park to play in front of 80,000 adoring fans. The Boss played a three and a half hour set to the masses who had flocked from far and wide to hear his renditions of classics like ‘Born to Run’ and ‘Dancing in the Dark’. Springsteen’s concert in 1985 has gone down in Leeds folklore. First hand accounts of the the open air amphitheatre chronicle the carnivalesque atmosphere, an atmosphere like no other. The Boss returned to Leeds’ in July 2013 to take the new first direct arena for a test spin cementing an infinite connection between himself and the city.
Madonna: Saturday 15th August 1987
Picture a beautiful midsummers eve, red sky, stadium lights – the undisputed Queen of Pop is about the grace the stage, the lights dim and Leeds will never be the same again. Madonna was the poster girl of 1980’s pop culture, a pioneer in breaking down conservative values on sexuality, religion and gender stereotypes. Now the pop goddess was here in our city. Her groundbreaking concert in Leeds’ Roundhay Park was her first major show in the UK, reeling in a staggering crowd of 73,000, opening up the cities eyes and ears to a new sound, a new message and a new school of thought. Iconic is an understatement.
Although we have detailed three concerts today there are many more that did not make the list; U2 (1993), Rolling Stones (1982), Simple Minds (1989), Genesis (1992) and Robbie Williams (2006). As Roundhay Park patiently awaits the return of the megastar concert, will we see our outdoor concerts ever again?