Festival 2012 comes into focus
It's always been a tough job to link the London Olympics with culture. The Cultural Olympiad remains a mystery to most people in the UK, in contrast to the excitement building among sport fans as we head towards 2012.
Partly that's because the practice of awarding medals for art, architecture and music ended decades ago - with the London Games of 1948 the last time you could win a gold for painting. Partly it's because the Cultural Olympiad here, which started after Beijing with high ideals, was initially woolly and diffuse.
Judging by the claimed attendance rates versus the national awareness polls, many people attended a Cultural Olympiad event without knowing that's what it was.
But there's been a sharpened focus of late with the idea of Festival 2012 marking the culmination of the Cultural Olympiad; and as the commissions become known there's a better chance of enthusing the nation about 2012's culture as well as its cycling.
Hackney Weekend will be one of the key events bringing 2012 to young people. Picture: Getty Images.
And today the BBC, as part of its partnership with Festival 2012, is announcing the biggest music event we've ever staged. Fresh from the triumph of presenting Lady Gaga to Carlisle, Radio 1 is coming to the Olympic boroughs with their Hackney Weekend 2012 in association with Hackney Council.
Some of the key facts:
- There will be six BBC stages on June 23rd and 24th 2012 at Hackney Marshes
- 100,000 people will be able to attend for free across the two days
- Artists already confirmed are Leona Lewis and Plan B, with the aim that they'll be joined by over 80 international and UK artists, bands and DJs
- There will be extensive television coverage on BBC Three
- Radio 1 is describing it as "the most ambitious event in the station's 44-year history"
But it's not just about music. This morning at the launch event, Leona was accompanied by her fellow Hackney star Phillips Idowu to make sure sport is high on the agenda, and our hope is that young people in the Olympic boroughs who may not have been able to afford or obtain tickets for the Games will be able to get to the concerts instead.
There'll be a programme of local engagement too - with Radio 1 and 1Xtra linking to schools, colleges and community organisations in Hackney and the surrounding boroughs.
This supplements what we're doing in the BBC London 2012 project with our apprenticeship schemes, work experience and youth reporting. Some of these are spreading across the country - and Radio 1 does, of course, have a strong record of taking the Big Weekend all over the UK including Dundee, Derry, Bangor and Sunderland.
I first wrote about the Cultural Olympiad and music almost 2 years ago, and it's cheering to see that ideas are now becoming reality, especially on such a grand scale.
Next from us you can expect to hear about some classical music events UK-wide, and then a range of TV and radio programmes that will complement the main Festival. The message should be getting clearer that the Olympic year will offer something for everyone.