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BBC Radio 1’s Big Weekend - how we helped make it happen

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Holding a festival on a site of environmental and historic importance comes with its challenges. Yet such events - and the showcase they provide - are essential to the continued survival of our historic gems. Our Historic Environment advisor Dr Margaret Nieke explains more.

Over the last year my colleague Fiona Quick and I worked with the BBC, Hull 2017, Historic England, and the Burton Constable Foundation and Estate teams to ensure the Big Weekend event went ahead. 50,000 free tickets were snapped up within 45 minutes of release, and Natural England helped ensure the event ran with the lightest environmental footprint possible.

Festival ready

Burton Constable Hall is a fabulous Elizabethan Hall surrounded by extensive Grade II* registered parkland and gardens. The gardens are full of archaeological earthworks dating back to the Middle Ages, and the main landscape park was designed by Capability Brown in the late 18th century.

Burton Constable. Credit: Margaret Nieke

Natural England has provided grants and advice through our Environmental Stewardship schemes over nearly 20 years, working hard alongside the charitable foundation which runs the site to protect both the historic and ecological interest across the site.

Educating the area

To ensure the site was protected, we advised the BBC’s events team and Hull 2017 on:

  • safe location of access tracks, helipads and temporary parking;
  • protection for parkland trees;
  • relocation of essential current grazing animals; and,
  • broadband access locations.

We helped with a ‘behind the scenes’ tour to help educate local school children and students. The kids were highly enthusiastic and I hope we sowed some seeds of enthusiasm and support for our work with the next generation in East Yorkshire.

Big Weekend. Credit: Margaret Nieke

Post-festival work

Our ‘post event’ site inspection revealed even with the best planning and partnership working the event has inevitably had some impact – mainly compaction and loss of grass along the main access routes used to build and dismantle the event. We have agreed a restoration plan with the site groundsman which will see full repair.

Only a week after the event the site was litter free, and we noted the return of the many brown hares , which help make the site special.

Brown hare. Credit: Allan Drewitt

Hosting Radio 1’s Big Weekend has added to the rich historic tapestry of the estate. Hearing about the event will become part of the experience for future visitors, where people flocked to the site in their tens of thousands on a scale never before seen. The parkland architect Capability Brown himself was a showman and understood how to use landscape as ‘theatre’. We believe he would have approved of the Big Weekend and been first in line for a ticket!

Working with others

Rodrica Straker, Trustee of the Burton Constable Foundation, said:

“It was entirely due to Natural England’s foresight and vision that the Big Weekend could take place at all. In the end it has cemented a network of trusting relationships between every stakeholder involved with Burton Constable, from toddlers at the Big Weekend, to august bodies such as yourselves, Historic England and the BBC, and everybody else in between.”

Chris Clay, Technical & Operations Director, Hull UK City of Culture 2017, said:

“Radio 1’s Big Weekend forms a major part of our music programme and we were delighted to bring the event to the region as part of Hill UK City of Culture. The beautiful surroundings of Burton Constable Hall formed a perfect location for the event, though it was not without its challenges owing to the historic nature of the landscape.

“Staging an event of this scale cannot be achieved without genuine partnership working and we are extremely grateful to Natural England for their help, advice and guidance which enabled 50,000 music lovers to experience a fantastic weekend in a stunning location.”

Capability Brown bridge. Credit: Burton Constable

Find out more here about visiting the site and parkland:

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