The Radio 1 Hackney Weekend festival was fabulously well organised, loads of fun, and passed off with only three arrests.1 Booking the tickets a month or two ago had turned out to be easy (we sat with multiple browsers and phones as the SeeTickets site crumpled, but in fact it was no trouble at all after we left it for a while). Being local residents helped, as half the tickets were for Hackney households.
It was a free show, so there were restrictions; most notably that you could only book for one of the two days, and only two tickets per person. We were doing it for the kids; and the kids in this family (to say nothing of most of their friends) favoured the Sunday lineup; so that’s the one we went for.
The lineup leaned heavily to the various dance subgenres: (modern) R&B, dubstep, and so on. Not forgetting hip-hop, of course; not only did Jay-Z headline the first night, he guested with Rihanna on the second.
For me the highlight of the day was Jessie J; though I was mildly disappointed that she censored herself in my favourite of her songs, ‘Do it Like a Dude’.2
Tinie Tempah was also good, though since I’ve subsequently been listening to Enter Shikari, I’m slightly disappointed to have missed them as they clashed with Tinie.
There was great secrecy and much speculation over who the “Special Guest” was to be. They managed to keep it hidden until the day, which, while impressive in its way, had me worried. I thought that, depending on who it was, there could be a disaster. In particular, if it had been Justin Bieber, as some kids were speculating, there would have been a vast, simultaneous, two-way flow, from and to the stage (my kids would have been running away from the stage; there are no Beliebers at Devilgate Towers).
Not long before the guest’s time I heard on good authority that it was going to be Beyoncé. Believable, as her hubbie was there, and she was said to be “in the house”. But I doubted it: isn’t she a bigger name than Rihanna? And anyway, I get the sense that she’d be too much of a diva to go on second on the bill.
Anyway, in the end it was Dizzee Rascal, which with hindsight made total sense, what with him being a local boy and all.
As we wandered through the stages and the day, we heard snatches of Rihanna’s ‘We Found Love’ seven times (I started keeping count at the third) from various between-act DJs and stalls. So by the time it closed the night, I was thoroughly ready to hear it properly. And a damn fine ending it was, too (though the fireworks were a tad tame).
I was hugely impressed with the organisation of the thing. We got there nice and early, and there was hardly any queueing, despite the airport-style security. The staff were all lovely and friendly, and – get this – there was hardly ever a queue for the toilets!
I would strongly support any moves to make it a regular thing. Radio 1’s event moves around the country, so it couldn’t stay free, but I could easily see it working as a commercial festival in the future.