“Free” Radio 1 concert cost Hackney residents £750,000

Jay Z and Rianna performing at BBC Radio 1's Hackney Weekend 2012. Rianna - (C) BBC - Photographer:

Jay Z and Rianna performing at BBC Radio 1's Hackney Weekend 2012. Rianna - (C) BBC - Photographer: Sarah Barney - Credit: BBC

Described by the BBC as the “UK’s biggest free-ticketed event”, 100,000 people paid a £2.50 handling fee to see 100 acts perform at the Hackney Weekend across six stages, with a glittering line-up of the biggest names in pop music including Kanye West, Jay-Z, Rihanna and Nicki Minaj.

»The “free” Radio 1 mega pop concert held on Hackney Marshes last June has been branded an “utter travesty” after figures emerged showing it cost residents at least £750,000.

Radio 1’s website says the Hackney Weekend 2012 event was funded by the BBC licence fee. But figures obtained through the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act by Upper Clapton resident Paul Charman show the council tipped in £365,000 for security and fencing, £234,000 for site assembly, £85,000 for stewarding and traffic management, £35,000 for utilities and medical provision as well as £32,000 ancillary costs – equating to £751,000.

The true figure could however reach nearly a million pounds, if the £195,000 bill for repairing damage to the Marshes in the concert’s aftermath is added on.

Mr Charman requested a separate breakdown for “repair” to be included in his response, but a council spokeswoman said that cost had been included under “site assembly”.

At this stage it is impossible to tell because the council – which should have replied to Mr Charman’s FOI request three months ago – ignored his demand for all reports and accounting statements relating to financing the event, which was signed off by the council’s chief executive.

Leabridge ward Conservative Cllr Linda Kelly and Lib Dem Cazenove ward Cllr Abraham Jacobson were unaware Hackney council tax payers would foot any bill and were not consulted on the plans beforehand.

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With approximately 100,000 households in the borough, each one forked out around £7.50 for the event.

The council claims the benefit of the gig to Hackney residents was £10million, based on “the value of attendees’ tickets and their expected expenditure at the event”.

But Cllr Kelly asked: “What economic benefit did people get out of a bunch of people who sat in a field and listened to music?

“Can you imagine all the jobs they could have kept going, the amount of care homes and youth facilities, can you imagine channelling that money rather than having a knees up in the park? And they justify it for two nights of people destroying the marshes, that is unbelievable.”

She continued: “If the BBC wanted to use the marshes they have paid us, it’s truly an utter travesty.

“In this day and age when people are scrimping and saving, what do we have to show for it? Although it was a good PR exercise for the council’s rag Hackney Today.”

Mr Charman, who made the FOI, said: “It’s like the Olympics, it seems like a desirable thing to have in your area, nobody asks any questions, they think it’s free, the BBC website says it’s funded by licence payers but this is clearly not the case.”

Cllr Jonathan McShane, the cabinet member for health, social care and culture, said the intention was never to make a profit out of the Hackney Weekend and that the associated costs were considered reasonable for an event of this scale.

“The concert, and the associated events for young people, were enjoyed by thousands of local people and put Hackney on the map, bringing many more millions of pounds into the borough.,” he added.

The Radio 1 Xtra Academy, a month-long educational outreach programme for young people preceded the concert at the Hackney Picturehouse, with stars like Leona Lewis, Dizzee Rascal and Plan B giving career advice to young people.

The BBC is exempt from disclosing how much the concert cost licence fee payers under the FOI Act.