BBC Radio 1's Big Weekend captures the endless summer celebrating hot sunny vibes

BBC Radio 1's Big Weekend 2016 review

published: Thu 2nd Jun 2016

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Saturday 28th to Sunday 29th May 2016
Powderham Castle, Exeter, Devon, EX6 8JQ, England MAP
FREE (plus booking fee) - SOLD OUT
daily capacity: 25000
last updated: Wed 27th Apr 2016

I have fond memories of Radio One events, okay it may have been Simon Mayo and Mike Reed last time I went but it wasn't the acts or the DJs I remember it's that feeling of it being part of an endless summer and I wondered whether returning to one this year would have the same vibe.

I have to confess the fact it was on my doorstep made it rather an attractive proposition, although I feared it would reveal to the whole country our micro-climate of hot weather we enjoy on the sand bar and estuary of the Exe. I've not seen the coverage yet but I'm sure they toned down the attractiveness of the deer park estate of Powderham owned by the new Lord Courtney, his father having died a year or so ago, since then there's been a shift to hosting live music events on the flat floodplains. Although I last attended an event here in 2007 when Waveform brought an all night psy-trance weekend here, which caused noise issues for the villages on the other side of the Exe.

It seems these days technology has at least quietened the noise, although my parents in law who live up the road enjoyed a glass of wine whilst listening to Coldplay on their deck so it was clearly audible outside of the fence.

The actual site of the Radio One Big Weekend is a bit further up the valley and close to the Castle itself which makes an impressive feature as we get wristbanded under ancient trees and walk up to the gates for a swift search before entry. The site itself is well broken up - the big arena naturally dissected by tree lines. Coming in the South entrance after a good walk along a shaded lane we can't see the main stage or the giant Ferris wheel.

There's lots of caterers, although the fact the same outlets have more than one stall makes me think there are stylishly garbed mass caterers rather than indie ones. There's not a lot of local caterers, but food portions are generous and prices reasonable.

Already people on the grass going pink in the sun, and the age range is mixed, I'm not the oldest here, although it's mainly youngsters. Their enjoyment is infectious, and once we pass under a huge oak bearing upturned umbrellas like fruit we spot the main stage, it's vast, and the crowd in front of it ecstatic, it's arms in the air, cheers, '"whoop whoops"s, and singalongs for the rest of the day. Radio One events still have that feeling of celebrating hot sunny days and lasting forever.

We discover a lovely real ale bar selling proper local ales and ciders including Silly Cow Scrump, it does a roaring trade the first day, perhaps ales are morse suitable for a Mumfords' crowd, and the large commercial bar selling lager and Bulmers closes up early. I wonder if the better choice of real drinks proved more popular. We opted for a lot of walking around my pedometer says we did 10,000 steps each day, that's around 5 miles.  Good job it was a bank holiday the following day we needed it to recover!

We arrived on Saturday slightly later than planned, not realising the walk from our house just down the road would take so long, in fact we should have taken a bus it would have saved us a lot of time. But we still got to see a load of acts, spending all day on our feet, and enjoying the headlining sets of both Mumford & Sons (main stage), and Bring Me The Horizon (big top), though the best feel good set was from Bastille, with Jess Glynne, Tame Impala, and Jake Bugg also putting smiles on sunglassed faces, we heard Craig David's TS5 proved so popular they had to utilise tent full signs, that didn't happen the rest of the weekend. It wasn't just big hitters that we enjoyed we also sampled rising stars Cortes, Declan McKenna, Louis Berry, and Tiny Folds.

Sunday we took the car (taking hours longer to get home than we did walking the first night) and once parked up got to see much more acts on the BBC Introducing we watched Blossoms, Vital, and Izzy Bizu. In fact we had a lively start from Panic At The Disco. There's always the act that got away in this case was different, not too sure how but regretfully we missed Jack Garratt, instead we saw a pedestrian Catfish & The Bottlemen, although the crowd did all the work enjoying it. Maybe I've seen them too often but they just didn't seem to be as crisp as previous years. That wasn't the case with Wolf Alice, Years And Years, and a crazy performance by The Last Shadow Puppets, brilliantly off kilter I think perhaps Alex Turner has spent too long in the desert. Having made the papers with her recent break up there was much sympathy from the audience for Ellie Goulding who put her feelings on her sleeve in a raw performance.

We also got to see Alesso, and the bizarrely catchy pink stage set of The 1975 (perhaps it was supposed to be purple and a homage to Prince - who they've nicked their sound from?). He got name checked later when Chris Martin showed why people very rarely try imitating guitar solos on piano with a lead weight version of 'Raspberry Beret' - he should have used The 1975's guitar licks. Before all that came a holler along with the 'Wolves Of Winter' Biffy Clyro who delivered an epic set of old and new material ready for a tripped out visual treat by Coldplay, made us all feel amazing, with lasers, flames, and confetti - fabulous.

We also had guest appearances from Take That, Slaves, Paloma Faith, and Baaba Maal on Saturday, and on Sunday just Lethal Bizzle, and Foxes.

All this plus DJ sets from Annie Mac, Daniel P Carter, Gideon Coe, and more. I'm not sure who was playing the Cocktail Bar (didn't buy a programme for £8 per day) but it had my head bobbing everytime. Hats off to the women havin' it large on Saturday who just didn't stop dancing all day, didn't they have families to go to? I imagined there to be a coral of buggies circled up behind the nearby Andy Loos. Talking of which there were long queues for the central loos every day, but a walk to quieter areas meant no queues, so thanks for those standing in the queues it made my loo breaks much quicker.

We missed loads of acts too, Twenty One Pilots, Fetty Wap, Meghan Trainor, Alessia Cara, and Skepta and Stormzy, all of which - we should 'ave been watching bruv - according to the youf of today.

Overall a great weekend, and I'm left with the impression the likes of Creamfields and Gatecrasher have created a legacy, no large scale live event is complete these days without plumes of smoke, confetti cannons, flame blasts, trippy visuals, and lasers. Hats off to them it doesn't half bond a crowd together when all that's flying about over your head. Apparently Chris Martin was conceived 400 yards from the site, fortunately a check on Google maps reveals the beast with two back wasn't in our garden, yuwk!

I saw no trouble in the arena, apart from the car park attendants appeared to desert their post and leave us still in a field for 2 hours! Showsec security was friendly, sound and visuals terrific, food, scrumpy and ale all top notch. Thanks to everyone who makes Radio One's Big Weekend such a great event. I know it's supposed to be nomadic and in a different part of the country each year, but any chance it's found a permanent home? It all worked so well it would be great to have it back. Even our doom mongering neighbours who predicted chaos on the roads were silenced, and that doesn't happen often.

review by: Scott Williams

photos by: Karen Williams / Scott Williams

Saturday 28th to Sunday 29th May 2016
Powderham Castle, Exeter, Devon, EX6 8JQ, England MAP
FREE (plus booking fee) - SOLD OUT
daily capacity: 25000
last updated: Wed 27th Apr 2016

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