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CEO Weekly Blog – w/c 27 May

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Radio 1 Big Weekend 2019

Last week I was lucky enough to attend BBC Radio 1’s Big Weekend, which took place in Middlesbrough. It’s the station’s annual music festival, a significant event in the calendar. For anyone that remembers the Radio 1 Roadshows from the 80s and 90s, this is the modern equivalent.

It was a massive coup for the Tees Valley that the event landed in Middlesbrough, and credit to everyone involved in both securing and delivering the event. Over the three days, around 70,000 people attended the event to see high profile acts including Stormzy and Miley Cyrus, with the economic benefit to the area estimated to be in the region of £3.5m.

We often talk about the role culture has in placemaking, and its ability to change perceptions of the area. The Big Weekend has been a brilliant example of that, not least because of the approach the BBC and organisers took to ensuring the festival had a real connection to Middlesbrough.

What I found so impressive about the Big Weekend was how the local cultural scene was integrated into the event, with local musicians and bands invited to play at the festival alongside headline acts. This helped root the event in the local community, giving it a sense of place. Even more exciting has been the BBC’s wraparound coverage of the event, through a series of films under the banner We Are Middlesbrough. It's not often a town like Middlesbrough gets a full week of national – and positive – coverage, but there was a real intent behind the reporting in terms of getting to know the area, and giving local people a national voice.

Not only does this help shift perceptions, but I believe it also lifts local pride. There is something about showing people round ‘your place’ that makes you feel like you belong, whether you are from that area or not. And when you belong to a place, you want to feel proud of it.

We often describe the artists we work with at ARC as being people who connect our communities to the rest of the world, and connect the rest of the world to our communities. We can’t always do this on the scale of the Big Weekend, but we are committed to making sure that culture plays its part in amplifying the voices of people in our communities for others to hear.