The National Bowl is a 65,000 capacity entertainment venue in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, England. The site was a former clay-pit (for brick-making), filled in and raised to form an amphitheatre using sub-soil excavated when the adjacent A5 was diverted to bypass the settlements along Watling Street.
The venue opened in 1979 with gigs by Desmond Dekker and Geno Washington. In 1992, Sony/Pace bought the venue and re-branded it as The National Bowl, building a permanent massive sound stage. They pulled out in 1996 citing profitability reasons. English Partnerships, bought the site in 2000. It is currently leased to a Gaming International/Live Nation UK consortium.
- Rail: It is an easy walk of from Milton Keynes Central railway station, on the other side of the A5. There is also a shuttle bus service from Station Square to the bowl.
- Road: The Bowl is on Watling Street, just north of its junction with the A421 (and the latter's junction with the A5). However, Watling Street is normally closed at this point during major events so, for pick-up and drop-off, use the railway station car-park (signed from the A509 near its exit from the A5, a few miles from M1 Junction 14. From Junction 13, follow signs to the station. (Postcode for GPS: MK9 1AZ)
- Air: there is a Helipad just on the other side of Watling Street, though its use is normally restricted to the headline act. Fans arriving by air should use London Luton Airport (and then coach to the station) or Birmingham International Airport (and then take a direct train from Birmingham International railway station to Milton Keynes Central).
Parking on the site is very limited and will become more so to permit the proposed developments. For major events, patrons arriving by car might try the commercial district of Central Milton Keynes leading down to the station (for the shuttle bus) or the neighbouring retail districts (Winterhill and Rooksley). Arrival by public transport is strongly preferred.
Bands which have played at the National Bowl include:
- Blazin' Squad (1998), Black Sabbath (2001), Blue, Blur (1995), Bon Jovi (1989, 1993, 1996, 2001, 2006), Bruce Springsteen (1993), Bryan Adams (1991), Busted (2003), The Bravery (supporting Linkin Park and Jay Z) (2008)
- Charlotte Church (2005), Coal Chamber (1998), The Cult (1986)
- David Bowie (1983, 1990), Deep Purple (2006), Desmond Dekker (1979), Diamond Head (1993)
- Erasure (1990), Eminem (2003), Enter Shikari (supporting Linkin Park and Jay Z (2008)
- Fear Factory (1998), Foo Fighters (1998)
- Gary Glitter (1984), Genesis (reunion with Peter Gabriel and Steve Hackett) (1982), Geno Washington (1979), Girls Aloud, Green Day (2005), Guns N' Roses (reunion with Izzy Stradlin') (1993)
- Ian Van Dahl
- Jamiroquai (1994), Javine, Journey (2006), Jay Z (2008)
- Linkin Park (2008)
- Marillion (1984 & 86), Marilyn Manson (1999), Mark Owen, McFly (2004, 2005), Megadeth (1993, 2001), Metallica (1993, 1999), Michael Jackson (1988),Ministry (1999) Monsters of Rock (2006)
- Natasha Bedingfield (2004), Nazareth (1984), Nickelback (2006), Nigel Kennedy (1999), N*E*R*D (supporting Linkin Park and Jay Z (2008)
- Oasis (2005), Ozzy Osbourne (1998)
- Pantera (1998), Papa Roach (2001), Phixx, Pitchshifter (1998, 1999), Placebo (1999), The Police (1980), Pendulum (supporting Linkin Park and Jay Z (2008)
- Queen (1982), Queensrÿche (2006)
- Rachel Stevens (2005), R.E.M. (1985, 1995), Robbie Williams (2001, 2006), Ronan Keating (2002, 2003),
- Squeeze (1980), Simple Minds (1986, 1991), Simply Red (2003), Slayer (1998), Soulfly (1998), Status Quo (1984), The Stranglers (1988)
- Take That (2006), Ted Nugent (2006), Terrorvision (1999), The Almighty (1993), The Offspring (2001), Therapy? (1998), Thunder (2006), Thin Lizzy (1981), Tool (2001)
- UB40 (1980, 1994), U2 (1985)
- V, VS
- ZZ Top (1991)
- The 411, 50 Cent
- Green Day (2005)
For the list in date order, see the Bowl article on MKWEB.
- Queen have released a DVD and double CD of their 1982 appearance at the Bowl entitled Queen on Fire - Live at the Bowl.
- Green Day's recently released album Bullet in a Bible, and the accompanying DVD, were recorded at the Bowl in the summer of 2005. The band's two-night stand was supported by Jimmy Eat World, Taking Back Sunday and Hard-Fi
- Status Quo had their End of the Road Concert filmed here in 1984, it was released on 2 VHS tapes, End of the Road, and More from End of the Road, the concert marked there end as a touring band, but later revived in 1985 for the live aid Concert
- Linkin Park are planning to release a CD/DVD combo from their first ever UK Projekt Revolution show that they recorded back in June 2008, Also headlining the show was Jay-Z with supporting acts Pendulum, N.E.R.D., Enter Shikari, The Bravery & Innerpartysystem. This show turned out to be the biggest capacity Projekt Revolution to date. This was the first time the tour was held outside of North America.
2006 Development plans
On 23 January 2006, Gaming International/Live Nation won a further lease in a competitive tender. According to a development summary leaflet on the bowl National Bowl website (see "Backstage"), the consortium plans for
- the Bowl capacity to be increased from 65,000 to 75,000 to become the fourth largest arena in the UK.
- a new arch stage, taller than the existing trees.
- a pavilion for 2,000 people for indoor events all year round,
- permanent (covered) skateboarding park— aimed at providing displays and possibly heats for the 2012 Olympics. The plans declare that it will be "complementary" to SK8MK near Milton Keynes Central railway station).
- a new Milton Keynes Greyhound Stadium with restaurant and bars for 3,500. The planning application proposes a substantial casino element. This stadium will be in the northern corner of the site (currently used for parking) and not at Elfield Park as previously announced. Used car auctions will resume.
- a "significant" improvement to the redway/Sustrans cycle route 51 and the wildlife 'corridor' through the park,
- a children's playground and amenities, such as cafes and permanent toilets,
- a four- or five-star, 120 bedroom, hotel and leisure complex,
- a small sports pavilion for local organisations such as MK Cycling Club (who use the ring-road for time-trials etc.).
These proposals are subject to obtaining planning permission.
Gaming International already owns Elfield Park
, a narrow strip of land on the other side of the A5
from the Bowl, between the A5 and the West Coast Main Line
. They cleared a site for the new greyhound
stadium there, having recently (2005) purchased it from English Partnerships, and evicted the speedway
track and motocross
club that had used it for 20 years. Greyhound racing in Milton Keynes was previously at Ashland
(since 1966): Gaming International owned that too, but sold it to English Partnerships as a brownfield
site for a 350 house development. (The sale of the latter funded the purchase of the former or vice versa). A section of the Elfield park site is designated as an educational nature reserve. Now that the stadium is to go on the main Bowl reserve, the former speedway site is left blank on the planning application for the Bowl redevelopment.
- In 1982 a group calling themselves Six Of The Best for contractual reasons played their only gig at the venue. This band was in fact Genesis performing a one-off reunion concert with original singer Peter Gabriel and legendary guitarist Steve Hackett. The concert was organised in order to help Gabriel pay off debts he incurred after he personally organised the first of the WOMAD events.
- In 1993 Guns N' Roses played one of five reunion gigs with group founder, rhythm guitarist and lead songwriter Izzy Stradlin'.
- Car boot sales are organised in the national bowl every Sunday morning (06:00–12:00).
- Bon Jovi have performed at the bowl more than any other artist