Leona Lewis exclusive: Why my Radio 1 Hackney Weekend performance will “have a lot of heart”

Sensational singer Leona Lewis has spoken exclusively to The Gazette in a bid to encourage as many Hackney residents to sign up to the Radio 1 Hackney Weekend on the marshes this June.

Leona, who rose to international stardom after wining the third series of the ITV talent contest The X Factor five years ago, is an ambassador for the biggest concert ever organised by Radio 1 which is being held in her home borough.

“It’s major for us,” said the 26-year old, who returns to Hackney every month to see her nephews, in between performing all over the world.

“We’re going to have the hugest acts in the world coming to Hackney so I think it’s wicked.”

“When Radio 1 told me I was so excited because obviously we’ve had nothing in Hackney this big.

The Bleeding Heart songstress has fond memories of watching her brothers play football on the marshes and “hanging out” there with her friends, and is thrilled she’ll be able to share a performance there with former school friends, as well as her aunties, uncles and cousins who don’t normally get to see her sing.

“To do an event like this so close to home is going to be amazing for me, because not only will my family and friends be there but it’s where I grew up, so it means a lot to me.

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“I think the performance is going to have a lot of heart, it’s going to be emotional.”

Leona admits she is proud to call herself a Hackney girl.

“And you know, anyone else who comes out of here, Idris won a Bafta award, and a Golden Globe, anyone coming out of Hackney and doing well especially in this industry, I’m always rooting for them and spreading the word,” she said.

“Hackney is such a creative community, there is such a lot of talent there,” added Leona who used to go to the same music youth club in the borough as singer songwriter and record producer Labarynth or Timothy McKenzie, who is signed up to Simon Cowell’s record label Syco.

“Just to be among such talented people and know how talented people are, sometimes and very often they don’t get the chance to fulfil that potential so it’s so amazing when people do,” said Leona.

“Also it inspires people in that area and shows them it doesn’t matter where you’re from, you can achieve what you want to achieve.”

Leona, whose most successful single, Bleeding Love, reached number one in over 30 countries globally, and was the best-selling single worldwide in 2008, loves Hackney for its diversity.

“I love that when I grew up there I was able to be introduced to so many different cultures, my best friend was Turkish, one of them was Iranian, one was Chinese, and Asian, it was so eclectic, it’s such a mix there and I’m so glad I grew up in that environment.”

She did her first talent show in the Hackney Empire aged 13, and she believes her Hackney roots help her keep her feet on the ground.

“From that’ I’ve been very grounded, my parents are very grounded people and I’m very thankful that I’m able to do what I can do,” she said.

How does she cope with the pressures of fame?

“Do you know what, I think that there are pressures in every walk of life whoever you are wherever you are from.

“There are things about life that are difficult but you just have to handle it and go forwards, there are things that come out about your private life which is sometimes hard, I think my family and friends are the ones who got me through it and having down to earth friends.”

The best bit for her about her career is that she gets to travel and see different cultures, a dream she nurtured ever since she was a child.

“Performing is amazing, to get out there, for me to just get out there and perform come so naturally to me, I love being able to be creative,” she added.

Leona admits to being nervous when she performed at the last Olympics in Beijing four years ago in front of a crowd of two billion people.

She will not confirm if she is going to sing this year in London, but is sure she will “be involved in some way.”

In the meantime she wants to make sure no one from Hackney misses out on the Hackney Marsh weekened.

“We want to make sure the tickets are going to people in the area, and that people come down and don’t miss out on the opportunity to get the tickets,” she said.

“There are going to be amazing international acts, I know of some that I can’t say but we want to have an amazing event.”

To register your details and upload a photo go to bbc.co.uk/radio1 before 11pm Monday March 19.

For those registered, there will be two opportunities to apply for a ticket - 11am on Sunday March 25 and 4pm on Monday March 26, online or by phone.

Most tickets will be reserved for people from Hackney and the other five Olympic boroughs, with allocation on a first-come, first-served basis.