Controller, Ben Cooper, blogs about the Radio 1 Hackney Weekend


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2012 is a special year for the UK with London playing host to the Olympic Games. Here at Radio 1 and 1Xtra we wanted to make sure that we marked this in a fitting way, and in one that would give young people from London and beyond, who might not necessarily be engaged with the games, a chance to celebrate as part of Festival 2012.

The result is that in less than a week Radio 1 will embark on the most ambitious event in its 44-year history, as we put on one of the biggest gigs of the year with Radio 1's Hackney Weekend - a free two day music festival for 100,000 people, headlined by Jay-Z and Rihanna.

Hackney is the perfect fit for us - an Olympic borough with a vibrant music scene and a large young population, many of whom can often be overlooked and disengaged, so exactly the people that we wanted to reach and inspire. I don't think any commercial operator would consider basing themselves in Hackney after the images of social unrest we saw last year and the problems with gangs the area has witnessed. But what could scare others off makes Radio 1 and 1Xtra want to get involved and hopefully encourage others to follow.

The Hackney Weekend will give young people from this corner of East London and beyond, many of whom might otherwise not be able to afford to go to a music festival, a chance to enjoy over 100 UK and international artists and DJs across 6 stages. As well as Swedish House Mafia and Kasabian the performers includes the likes of Jessie J, Jack White, Nas, Wretch 32 and many more - all brought to you by the BBC.

Putting on a show like this is something you don't do alone. From the support of the Metropolitan Police, to the help of the local council on issues such as transport, to our great relationship with the UK music industry to secure all the artists, this is about partnership. All with one aim - to give young people the chance to celebrate in the shadow of the Olympic Park.

We have been working closely with the police and have put security measures in place to make sure the weekend can be enjoyed by everyone there. We've not only taken over the traditional Glastonbury weekend while it takes a year off, but we've also borrowed it's security fence to make sure no one can get into the site without a ticket. And all tickets will have photo ID on them to make sure they cannot be transferred or sold on.

But it isn't all just about the music and mud of a weekend festival. That's a part of what Radio 1 is about, but so too is tackling issues which matter to young people across the country. 2012 will be about athletes realising their dreams of gold, silver or bronze - what we wanted to do was give teenagers a chance to realise their dreams of an exciting job. With close to one million 16-24 year olds not in employment, education or training this is a big issue which we face. It's something we know our young listeners are worried about and something that's particularly pertinent to Hackney. That's why since the 1st June for three weeks we've been running our biggest ever social action programme - the Radio 1 and 1Xtra Academy in partnership with BBC Learning and a host of local London organisations.

The Academy offers young people from Hackney and beyond the chance to gain practical skills, experience and advice in a range of careers including media, business, fashion, film and music. We've had some amazing people through the doors, including Usher, Leona Lewis, Plan B, Labrinth, Noel Clarke, Dizzee Rascal, Levi Roots, Lethal B and Ashley Walters, to speak to young people about how they got started and to offer them advice. And for teenagers across the country videos, tips and advice from the Academy have been posted online for them to access.

So far I've been impressed with the way that the young people attending the Academy have been soaking up the opportunities offered to them and taking charge of their futures. We're proud to be reflecting this positive side of Hackney's younger generation to the rest of the UK.

It's this work along with Radio 1 and 1Xtra's creative ambition that makes both stations stand out from the crowd. I like to think of the stations as being the unofficial party political broadcaster of young UK, giving a voice to young people across the country. Hackney is doing just that - political because we are talking about one of the biggest issues facing them at the moment with youth unemployment and party because the 23 and 24 June is going to be one hell of a show. I hope you can join us.

Ben Cooper is the Controller for Radio 1 and Radio 1Xtra

Discover more about the Radio 1's Hackney Weekend.

Read Interactive Editor (Music Events) Sam Bailey's post about how the Hackney Weekend will be made available online.

Ben Cooper and Saul Nassé introduce Radio 1 & 1Xtra's Hackney Academy

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