Shining a spotlight on Hackney - BBC Radio 1's Hackney Weekend 2012

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Audience at Hackney Weekend 2012

So as the dust settles on the BBC's first major music moment celebrating the Olympics and London Festival 2012 - Radio 1’s Hackney Weekend 2012 - we can now reflect on the success of the two days and feel more than satisfied with the outcome, particularly given the challenges that we faced.

The project had been two years in the planning, with a number of the early ambitions being to reflect positively on Hackney, East London and the young people from the area. Not all young people are bad as is often the perception, in fact quite the contrary.

We wanted to celebrate the fantastic multi-cultural youth talent that seems to seep out of East London, and inspire other young people, perhaps dis-engaged for a number of social and economic reasons. And, of course, to celebrate the arrival of the Olympics.

We also wanted to deliver a major music event, one more ambitious than Radio 1, in its illustrious history, had ever put on; a concert that celebrated youth culture and popular music, both UK- wide and globally.

The plan was a bold one: for 100,000 young people across the two days to attend the concert of a lifetime - for free - and moreover, giving the largest allocation of tickets to the young people of East London, who simply may not be able to afford a show of this calibre.

Following extensive research in the local community - talking to young people across schools, youth centres, and local youth focussed organisations, we set upon a plan. This was to deliver Radio 1's Hackney Weekend, on the 23rd and 24th June on Hackney Marshes, and to open the Radio 1 & 1Xtra Academy (more here and here) for three weeks, in the heart of Hackney, on Mare Street - free and open to any young person in the local community to attend.

With both propositions the challenges were huge. Surely the concert would not be safe, we were told. Isn’t it a given that with gang issues locally and then the very public riot coverage last year, it simply can't work? Would young disenfranchised people behave, or really be interested in learning and starting on a road to planning their futures?

Of course the concert had higher risks than perhaps others of such scale in a different area might - but we the BBC felt, with the right planning we could deliver a safe show, and thus not deprive the majority of good, honest, young people in the area.

Working closely with our partners, Hackney Council and the Metropolitan Police, we set upon a plan. The security planning was like no other for the main event; two security fences (one the Fortress Fence used at Glastonbury), metal detectors, photo tickets for all attendees, and rigorous security checks. Our hope was that the procedure would prevent and dissuade the trouble makers - giving rise to a relaxed celebratory atmosphere.

The Academy had similar security risks.

Due to gang rivalry, how would we get young people from across postcodes on to Mare Street, crossing boundaries many often never pass? How could we reach the unreachable youth - those living locally and disillusioned? From our early research and building of insights, it was clear that the hook was talent - the talent that both Radio 1 & 1Xtra and indeed the BBC come into contact with every day. Let's bring in some role models, people young people look up to - and use those names to draw them in and inspire them.

So, in came a myriad of amazing people to support the project, not just our official ambassadors - Trevor Nelson, Philips Idowu, Leona Lewis and Plan B, but other names across the worlds of music, media, fashion, gaming, and across the BBC.

We wanted to engage as many young people as we could, encouraging schools and youth groups to chaperone young people through the doors, if that protection helped to draw the unreachable in.

Reflecting now, we are delighted to have seen thousands of visits to the Academy over the three weeks it was open, with so many feeding back on what they took away from it all - and many contributing through workshops produced by BBC Learning, to the look and feel of the Hackney Marshes Concert site itself.

You only needed to read the messages of inspiration left by those that attended the academy at the main concert site, to see how inspired they became.

Most of all it pleases me and everyone involved that the BBC shone a positive spotlight on East London, celebrated it's fantastic talent, delivered world class UK and International artists such as Jay-Z, Rihanna, Plan B, Florence & The Machine and Labrinth alongside new local talent, and had the lowest recorded crime in the area for some time, over the weekend of the concert.

It is too early to tell what the legacy of our time in Hackney will be but with so many people having had the time of their lives across the weekend and with so many young people coming through the doors of the Academy we are hopeful that the impact will be long lasting.

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