The star-studded line-up included Jay-Z, Rihanna and Hackney-grown talents Leona Lewis, Professor Green and Rudimental
(article written for the Hackney Citizen)
In celebration of staging of the 2012 Olympics in Hackney and surrounding boroughs, the BBC’s Radio One hosted a free two-day festival for local residents on Hackney Marshes last weekend.
International popstars and DJs including Jay-Z, Rihanna and Calvin Harris graced the line-up – offering an urban music alternative to the sporting Games. Featuring over 100 acts, performing across six stages, the audience was spoilt for choice.
Walking into the festival was reminiscent of entering Notting Hill Carnival – whistles galore being sold on the street, homemade rum punch for sale and smoke billowing from chicken barbequed under tarpaulins.
The atmosphere inside was similarly enthralling – 100,000 people attended over the weekend.
Hackney-based Rudimental – whose latest release ‘Feel the Love’ shot to number one in the charts mid-June – had driven straight from the muddy Isle of Wight Festival to perform in their home borough.
Hundreds crammed into the In New Music We Trust (INMWT) tent for their late afternoon performance, with vocalist John Newman – the raspy-voiced singer on their aforementioned hit – and a trio of scantily-clad, glittery backing singers and a full brass band augmenting the already high-octane performance.
The Maccabees played the same stage: bashing out their indie-rock hits – old and new – and were followed by north-London born Michael Kiwanuka with his acoustic soul.
Ed Sheeran, alone on the main stage with just his guitar for company, had thousands singing along to his hit ‘The A Team’. There were arms flailing in the air and plenty of people sitting on shoulders to get a better view, in true festival style.
On Saturday the rain held out all day but then started to fall as Jay-Z took to the stage. The magnitude of his performance, however, with guest appearances from MIA, Kanye West and Rihanna, entirely negated poor weather.
On Sunday, Lana Del Rey’s enchanting vocals echoed around the INMWT arena, blowing across the crowd.
Florence + the Machine wowed the crowds with their soft rock sounds on the main stage. Florence Welch floated on in an intricate gold ball gown-cum-mini dress, short hemline at the front but with a trail at the back. Her outfit mirrored her vocals: part seductive, part demure.
Rihanna closed the festival on Sunday accompanied by a spectacular and grandiose firework display as well as a guest-appearance by Jay-Z.
Hackney Weekend was seen by many as a resounding success. Hackney’s mayor Jules Pipe thanked Radio One for their efforts – recognising the success of the event and the fact that the thousands who attended will remember it for a long time to come.
He said the legacy of the event goes beyond just the Weekend: “It’s been much more than a music festival with many local young people gaining unique experience and skills though the Radio One and 1xtra Academy. Games time in Hackney has well and truly begun and the scale and success of this event shows what Hackney is capable of achieving.”