22 June 2012

Leaving an impression

AS Rihanna struts on to the stage at the close of the BBC Radio 1 Hackney Weekend, the event director Jason Carter will feel an overwhelming sense of achievement.

Indeed, the man behind the BBC's most ambitious festival, plus a supporting three week youth arts and media academy, chose to host both events in Hackney because he wanted to leave a lasting legacy for young people in East London.

"This event is really special. It's not just about the live music," he says. "There are two jobs in my mind: the event at the Marshes, and East London, which is so vibrant, culturally diverse and creative. Our ambition is to do something with a legacy for East London."

Hackney Weekend is the first major event in the build-up to the Olympic and Paralympic Games, and is part of the London 2012 Festival, which launched on 21 June and runs until 9 September.

"The Hackney Weekend is a free concert that the BBC is putting on as the official Olympic and Paralympic broadcaster," Jason explains. "This is an event that's reflective of Radio 1 and 1Xtra's music policy with huge worldwide acts and new acts from the East End.

"Jay-Z is doing this concert because he likes the principal behind it. He doesn't do big festivals any more, but he gets the Hackney thing and what it's about."

As editor of BBC Introducing, the station's initiative to support new and unsigned artists and bands, Jason consolidated the Introducing Stage at the festival by sourcing all the acts from East London, which he labels 'musically and culturally a rich place.'

Preceding the festival, the Radio 1 and 1Xtra Academy gave young people in the area the chance to work, and be inspired by, leading people in the entertainment, fashion, media and business industries.

He explains: "The Academy is in line with the legacy element around the Olympic Games. We went for the ambitious approach to make a big impact using the leverage of the radio station to play big artists and bring them to the Academy. We hope to attract young people to be inspired."

The BBC enlisted the help of Hackney-born Leona Lewis and Trevor Nelson, triple Ivor Award-winning Plan B, and triple jump champion Phillips Idowu, who acted as cultural ambassadors and engaged with local young people in the run up to the Games.

"We spent some proper time talking to people in East London. We spent six months with a small team doing research and building connections with schools and youth groups," Jason says.

"Young people felt they didn't have a voice. They also felt there was a negative perception of East London. I wanted to give young people a sense of pride about the area they live in and have more spring in their step for their future career development."

The six month consultation came up with key themes for the Academy, which young people wanted advice on, including music, radio, business, fashion, film, gaming and programming, comedy, journalism and career development.

"If you do learning sessions in other parts of the country, all that young people are interested in is the stars", Jason muses. Adding: "It's the opposite in Hackney I've never seen a more engaged group of young people who are keen to learn. We've been blown away by it. The young people have been really focused."

He concludes: "The Academy and festival are ambitious. This is the BBC's biggest concert and biggest ever line-up. The Academy is bold, we've done it for three weeks, driving powerful content and people. The experience for me has been trying to reach out and engage young people. The more you engage the more results you see."

Curriculum Vitae: Jason Carter

1969    Born in Highbury, North London
1997    Joins Radio 1 as events co-ordinator
2001    Becomes executive producer for Live Music and Events at Radio 1
2007    Appointed editor of BBC Radio 1 and 1Xtra Live Music and Events
2012    Launches the BBC Radio 1 and 1Xtra Academy and organises the Hackney Weekend

Jason Carter is the man behind the BBC Radio 1 Hackney Weekend and Academy

Jason Carter is the man behind the BBC Radio 1 Hackney Weekend and Academy

Jason Carter is the man behind the BBC Radio 1 Hackney Weekend and Academy

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