Early on Friday morning, members of the UEA Media Collective gathered outside City Hall, close to Norwich marketplace. As students, 07:30 was a time we had merely heard of in tales, or which had been seen on the walk home from a particularly heavy night out, or of course, the library. But armed with coffee and an infamous market-made bacon sandwich, we waited for an announcement which we’d been told we “wouldn’t want to miss”.
The first glimpse we got of something exciting happening was the sudden appearance of the town crier in full red and gold regalia, who greeted us with a cheery “good morning” from the other side of the road. It being Norwich, the home of the puppet man and a cracking owl sanctuary, this could be a regular occurrence, but the next arrival wasn’t: the return of Norwich’s prodigal son, Greg James!
The announcement we’d been waiting for was that Radio 1’s annual music festival, the Big Weekend, would be held in Norwich’s Earlham Park; the first headline act to be announced was Taylor Swift. The festival, held in a different UK location every year, will take place in Norwich on 23rd and 24th May 2015.
The announcement coincided with the unveiling of the location on the Radio 1 Breakfast Show with Nick Grimshaw. Grimshaw said that the Big Weekend always has a “dream line-up”. He added: “I can’t wait to see Swifty in Norwich!”. Speaking to Concrete later on Friday morning, he said that he was “really looking forward” to the event. “The Big Weekend always takes over the host city, and it’s great to spend some time somewhere new. I’ve been to Norwich before, but only to do DJ gigs and club nights”. He also said that he: “absolutely loved Bob”, the city’s town crier who announced the location, and said that he wants to see more of him at the festival.
Greg James, who had spent the day in Norwich checking in with various Radio 1 shows at different points in the city, returned to his old stomping ground of UEA in the afternoon to take a tour of the media facilities. He saw the new studios that Livewire 1350 – of which he was Station Manager during his time at UEA – are now broadcasting from, and the Media Centre. James graduated from UEA in 2007, having previously won Best Male Presenter at the 2005 Student Radio Awards while he was here.
James and his team then started his daily drive-time show from Unio in Union House, attracting quite a crowd, before rushing over to the library to start a classic chant of “UEA is wonderful!” to perplexed studiers – quickly realising the lyrics beyond the first few lines probably weren’t suitable for national radio. The remainder of the show was conducted from the BBC Radio Norfolk studios, which are located in the Forum, with eight guests from the Media Collective going along to join in for the last hour of Dance Anthems.
The promotion of the festival was a success for UEA, as the university and students’ union got brilliant coverage throughout the day, and there will surely be plenty more opportunities for students as May draws closer.
Local residents are particularly pleased, as tickets to the festival are famously free. This was confirmed again for 2015 with Ben Cooper, Controller of Radio 1 and 1Xtra commenting that: “Radio 1’s Big Weekend is the first big festival of the year, this is where summer begins and it’s going to be amazing. You have got to love the BBC and Radio 1 for bringing you Taylor Swift and some of the biggest names on the planet to Norwich for free!”
For 2014’s Big Weekend, held in Glasgow, 50% of tickets were reserved for those who live within the boundaries of Glasgow City Council. This continues the BBC’s tradition of aiming to reserve the majority of tickets to those who live in the host city. Lucy Finnie, a UEA graduate and teacher in Norwich, said: “I’m so excited that the Big Weekend has finally made it’s way to the East of England! We’ve waited so long and I can’t believe it’s still free – thank you Radio 1, Norwich loves you!”
In the lead up to the Big Weekend, for the fourth year running, Radio 1 and BBC Learning will also embark on a special week of local engagement and face-to-face activity in the area – opening the doors to Radio 1’s Academy. During the week, Radio 1 hopes to inspire local 16–9 year olds to take the next step in their careers by inviting them to attend a series of radio shows, masterclasses and Q&As.
Councillor Brenda Arthur, Leader of Norwich City Council said: “This is great news for Norwich and will give us the chance to show off this amazing city at its best. We are very proud to be hosting this prestigious national event and the Radio 1 Academy. The Academy will be working with local young people in the run up to the festival to give them an experience of a lifetime. We very much look forward to working with the BBC in the coming months and other partners”.
Let the countdown begin!