BBC reveals Olympics music plans

As 2012 looms and attention turns to the impending Olympic Games, how will the event effect UK music? M spoke to Jason Carter, event director at the BBC, who is overseeing the London Festival 2012 musical event at Hackney Marshes next June to find out what the corporation has in store.

Anita Awbi
  • By Anita Awbi
  • 27 Dec 2011
  • min read
As 2012 looms and attention turns to the impending Olympic Games, how will the event effect UK music?

M spoke to Jason Carter, event director at the BBC, who is overseeing the London Festival 2012 musical event at Hackney Marshes next June to find out what the corporation has in store.

What are the main goals of the event?
At Radio 1 we believe we can genuinely connect with young people, particularly young people in East London. In some quarters, there is not enough activity that’s really connecting; particularly with the 15-24 year old demographic.

For us, we think building on the principles of the Radio 1 Big Weekend is a real opportunity for us to bring a major music event to an area of London that is under-served with large scale events. We’ll put something on for free where young people in an area where young people might struggle to get a ticket for the Olympics, or struggle to afford a ticket. There will be 50,000 tickets for each day, and we’re going to give the majority of tickets to the young people of East London. It’s not just about a world class two-day music festival with world class musicians, but also we see it as an opportunity to engage with Hackney in particular. So for the three or four weeks leading up to the event we want to do some meaningful things in the local community.

What do you have planned for the build-up?
We want to focus on the whole proposition; we see it as one. There’s the event on Hackney Marshes plus the weeks leading up to that event. It’s about us celebrating young people in East London and across the UK, and there’s not enough of that at the moment. You see so many negative stories about young people; we’re going to be promoting all that’s positive.

We’ve got BBC Learning working with Radio 1. We’re putting on lots of workshops and seminars across lots of subjects such as careers, entrepreneurial skills, the creative side of music and arts. We will be using Radio 1 as a mouthpiece to shout about all that’s good in the area. The intention is for volunteers to engage in the main event. We’ll give tickets away in the local area. The way I look at it is - you’ve got an area of London which is very rich creatively. Just look at all the artists that are relevant to our audience that are coming out of East London. It couldn’t be a better time for the likes of Professor Green, Leona Lewis, Labrinth, Plan B, Dizzee Rascal; it’s a very special area in that respect. And outside of music, it’s a bit of an out-there place. You just have to look at all the arts groups and people that come out of East London; it’s very rich in that respect. We want to promote that on-air.

We’ve done a lot of extensive research over the last six months, talking to young people, setting up focus groups, holding debates, to really get some insight into what young people would like to see from the Radio 1 proposition. There are 16 to 19 year olds that need a bit of guidance in certain areas, such as careers or development.

Our ambassadors are Leona Lewis, Plan B and the triple jump world champion Phillips Idowu and Trevor Nelson. When we finalise our programme of activity, they will go into the area with us. It’s not just about the learning and workshops stuff, we’re also putting together a festival of music across lots of venues in the area. We will be working with lots of local talent, new and established.

Under the BBC Introducing banner?
Some of it will be under that. BBC Introducing will have a stage at the main event. Historically, BBC Introducing is at most of the major festivals that Radio 1 is at, and we tend to allow 20 percent of the line-up over to local talent. But for Hackney, the line-up is going to be 100 percent from East London.

How do artists go about getting involved in that?
What I would say on the Introducing front is two things; there are opportunities both at the main event and we also intend to have BBC Introducing activity in the area in the weeks leading up to the event, although its still early doors. We are going to put a focus on artists in the local area because it’s about shining a light on the broad talent there. The process will be the same, we always select our music from the music that is uploaded via the BBC uploader or through the nearest local radio station, in this case BBC London. The actual policy approach is a bit early days for us to answer.

We want the festival to be designed by young people in the local area, so we’ll be getting schools and local arts colleges involved.

What’s happening on all the different stages?
It’s editorial content for BBC TV and radio, so we’ll be curating it all. The six stages are; an outdoor main stage, a 1 Xtra arena, an In New Music We Trust stage, a BBC Introducing stage, a 10,000 capacity DJ and dance arena and an outdoor stage which is a soundsystem/soundclash type of stage. All the acts will be booked by myself and the music teams at Radio 1 and 1 Xtra.

How do you think that these events will relate back to the Olympic Games?
Our radio station does not cover sports. Our role is to cover all the other aspects of London 2012, which is the Cultural Olympiad. It’s connected because we share a lot of the values. Part of the reason we won the Olympic bid is our Olympic promise to young people. That’s our role in the Olympics. We’re reaching out to 100,000 young people to offer them tickets for a major music event plus we’re offering the rest of the country fantastic content.

There is in the region of 52,000 15-24 year olds who live in the borough and we are committing to give the majority of our tickets for each of those two days to the young people of Hackney. This is the first time in a very long time that Radio 1 has had any kind of significant moment in London. I’ve been at the station for 15 years and we’ve never done a major event in London with young people. This is the biggest event we’ve ever done in our history.

Read our Going for Gold feature on British music at the Olympic Games 2012 here.

To hear from David Arnold, songwriter, film composer and music director for the Olympics closing ceremony, click here.