I’m officially a festival head. Throughout the years I’ve never understood the appeal, but after Prince stole my soul last year on a balmy night in Kent, I’m happy to admit that I’m a full convert. This summer is especially exciting for festival lovers. Literally every weekend there’s an event scheduled to happen, the established, high profile ones such as V Festival and Wireless, competing against some of the newer ones.
One of the most hotly anticipated festivals was Hackney Weekend which took place at the weekend. The event was designed to give local residents a chance to celebrate the imminent Olympic Games, as well as provide outreach initiatives such as Project Hackney, which encourages young Hackney residents to use creativity as a tool to express the challenges they face in their lives.
But back to the show. Inviting some of the biggest names in music to perform such as Jay Z, Rihanna, Jessie J and Florence and The Machine, it was always going to be a popular event. Whereas tickets for festivals tend to range from £60 and upwards, this event was absolutely free which made it even more appealing. Implementing a ‘golden ticket’ system, local residents (as well as rest of the UK) were invited to request tickets online.
Initially I wasn’t that bothered whether I attended or not, but after it was announced that Nas would be headlining the BBC1Xtra stage on the Sunday, I was sold, and asked the universe to work with me, as by then the tickets were all allocated. Enter my girl Buks who has been working for 1Xtra for ages and gave me and Rich a couple of guest passes. After having a bit of ‘mare sorting out babysitters (special shout outs to my sis in law and nephew) we were off.
The heavy rain made it a bit difficult to get into full festival vibes but by the time we arrived at Hackney Marshes it had cleared to make way for the sunshine and the atmosphere in the park was pulsating. We entered just as Jessie J was finishing her set which was a shame as I wouldn’t have minded seeing her. So instead, we decided to head to the 1Xtra stage and just as well, because girl of the moment Azealia Banks was tearing up the stage with her raucous, but totally hypnotic brand of house-rap. I heart her. And so did the rest of the crowd who practically lifted the roof when she dropped her breakthrough hit, 212, the audience reciting every potty mouthed lyric as if their lives depended on it.
There were so many more highlights for me:
- The unexpected reggae and soca hits played by Robbo Ranx and others on the DJ stand.
- Seeing Nas perform live for the first time who didn’t disappoint, firing off hit after hit from his prolific, long-standing career.
- B.O.B – WHO KNEW he was so fine and so talented?
- Glimpsing around 2 minutes of Lana Del Rey’s performance who intrigued with her haunting voice and Stepford Wives quaint demeanour. (Unfortunately, Rich dragged me away mid-way through her first song, according to him Lana D and festivals is kind of an oxymoron. Fair point).
- The jerk chicken with special jerk sauce. Nuff said…
- Sprinting across the field with thousands of others from Nas’s set to the last 15 minutes of Rihanna’s. Disclaimer: Despite what viewers felt watching at home, in the park, among the masses – she was awesome. The fireworks helped too. I’m a sucker for a good fireworks display.
I had an incredible night. I really felt like I re-lived my carefree, youthful days and for six hours or so the toughest decision I had to make was Rihanna or Nas? Big respect to the organisers for putting on such a well-planned, brilliantly executed event. Despite the 50,000 crowd, I never once felt claustrophobic, and the journey home was seamless, with no more traffic on the way home than usual. I know we obviously won’t be staging the Olympics next year, but here’s hoping for a repeat performance of Hackney Weekend.