Highway To Hull
As May rolls along, so does another Big Weekend. This year it took place in Hull as part of the city’s ‘UK Capital Of Culture’ celebrations. I travelled down with Dionne and Melissa, both of whom were also part of the AL (Artist Liaison) team. We left from Edinburgh early on Friday morning so we would have enough time to get to site for meetings ahead of day one; but also so we could have a little bit of time to see the City. The moment we arrived into Hull Paragon Interchange the city’s pride about its ‘Capital of Culture’ status was evident.
The logo was ubiquitous, attached to every billboard and sign. There was a ‘culture help-desk’ where you could find out about events taking place across the city, it seemed like a real hive of activity.
However, we arrived and turned the station over trying to find a cash machine - with no luck. The advice we received from a random man we asked was incorrect, so we had to queue in St Peters shopping centre and play a game of cash machine roulette; 'Who gets to use the ATM that isn’t really working.”
A Lot Can Be Learned From A Taxi Driver
Once we dropped our bags off at the hotel we decided to get some food before heading to site.
*before I continue i need to tell you about out taxi drivers and Indeed our taxi fiasco.*
To split the cost of the three taxis we needed to get, we each paid for one journey. The first trip was to the hotel, the driver was decent but spread gloom in a taxi driver kind of way, telling us in detail what he thought was wrong with the event and the city. When I asked what should we see if we’ve any spare time he replied: ’there’s nothing to see.’
The second taxi journey took us back into town so we could grab food. This driver was overtly positive about Hull, the festival and the capital of culture status, he also gave us a plethora of restaurant recommendations.
After food in Hull’s Old Town, we were to get our third and final taxi of the day to take us to site. We called the taxi company: “Nothing available right now”. We called another cab vendor: “Nothing until after 5”. At this point we were confused as it was the first time we’d had any bother booking a car. We asked the man who’s just served our food who told us that this was the ‘Friday Hull Rush Hour’ and we’d be lucky to get anything soon. The decision was made to go out and stand on the side of a main road and hail a taxi. Thankfully I was wearing shorts, this would benefit us twofold. One, the natural allure of my shapely calves. Two, I’m so pale that in the sunlight I effectively become high vis. We managed to flag one down and we set off. Five minutes into the journey, as we were pulling away from a junction the car shunted and began to roll. We had broken down. Far enough away from both the city centre and site that we couldn’t walk to either, nor would it be easy to hail another cab. After a lot of walking, eventually we managed to hail one.
It’s Not As Glamorous As It Sounds
"'Artist Liaison' that sounds glamorous” - It's not. Don't get me wrong, it is cool and fun but ‘glam’ it is not. The role involves looking after an artist performing (in this case) at a music festival. You’re responsible for getting them to and from performance, interviews, press and anything else they’ve agreed to do. You’re also the main point of contact for the event organisers and production teams broadcasting the event. This year my artists were Emile Sande and Shawn Mendes. Both had busy days and both absolutely killed it on the main stage. The only downside was having to wear black in the blistering heat. As a lot of where we had to work was visualised for Radio 1 online and BBC iPlayer, we had to be dressed in black without logo’s as were among the most likely to be caught on camera around the artists.
Why Are You Still Here?
Music festivals are inherently unhealthy, this goes for if you’re either in the crowd or working them. It’s long hours with a lot of time spent on your feet in the sun, not always a chance for decent breaks, you never drink as much water as you should, the food is lush but definitely not WeightWatchers approved and sleep is a commodity not all can be afforded. That said, they are brilliant.
After roughly a 15 hour day on the Saturday, the travel curfew was lifted and we could leave to go back to the hotel. A team of us car shared on the way back. I was tired - falling asleep mid-conversation tired. It was so bad that after one moment nodding off, I woke up abruptly saying the words; ‘Is that the artist car in front’ much to the bemusement of Jordan who was driving, for some reason I thought I was still on site. I resorted to sticking my head out the window at one point just to wake myself up.
One positive thing about having the hotel far away was the McDonalds just outside reception. Once I had brought by head back in from outside the vehicle the chat became an excited discussion about burgers, chips and McNuggets.
Pulling up to the drive through, Jordan rolled down the window:
Drive through attendant: Hi, welcome to McDonald’s
Me: Hi, can we make an order?
Drive through attendant: Sorry we’re closed.
Drive through attendant: Yea, sorry, we closed at 11
Me: It’s 11:45… why are you still here?
Drive through attendant: …
Me: Like really though, go home to your family, stop giving hungry people false hope.
The disappointment at this was felt throughout the car, stepping into the quiet reception of the hotel we decided pizza was the next port of call. Domino’s was still open, a flurry of excitement took over as we ordered. It was done. We stood in the silence of our actions, then the realisation that we now had to wait dawned on us.
After what felt like enough time to have them made and flown from Italy, they came, we began to eat them there in reception, one slice in, we all look at each other and immediately regretted our collective decision. We should have just gone to bed and savoured that extra hour of sleep, but no instead we were doomed to feel bloated as we tried to sleep and suffer the inevitable Domino’s hangover the next day.
A Moment To Remember
Events like Big Weekend have a life of their own. An energy that buzzes constantly and ripples across everyone involved. So when Hull fell silent out of respect for those affected by the events in Manchester the week before, it was all the more poignant.
I don’t quite know how to describe it, at 3 PM on Saturday and Sunday everything just stopped. The stage went silent, the crowd didn’t budge. Backstage people stopped where they were and stood in silence. It was staggering in both it's thoughtfulness and scale. A thoroughly appropriate tribute, followed by life affirming cheers and applause.
I Think You Do It Deliberately
It wouldn't be Big Weekend if I didn't get photographed looking moody behind a pop star, the year before I was strutting angrily behind Mark from Take That. This year, it’s a grumpy- looking me behind Shawn Mendes:
There’s no real reason for me to be writing this bit other than as an intro to the below picture of Lizzie devouring a cupcake. Floating around the dressing rooms were boxes of delicious looking cupcakes with the Big Weekend logo on them. I can’t quite remember why I took the picture, but after I had Izzy said “This better make it into your blog.”
Show Me The Way to Go Home
It’s all over so fast. One minute you’re darting from one end of site to another in a golf buggy that’s travelling at a questionable speed , the next you’re checking out of the hotel and heading home. Dione, Melissa and I were all travelling back separately. I decided to leave it a bit later so I could get a lie in.
Once I hauled my ass out of bed I made my way home. Arguably one of the nicest train journeys in the UK the East Coast main line took me back north, not before a brief stop off in York - a busy but beautiful city.
Weekends like that are a lot of fun, more so in retrospect than in the moment, but what makes it is the people and the music (ok the food too). A hardworking team delivering a seamless event to a crow that doesn’t know half about quite how much work it takes to put a singer on stage in a field in the middle of nowhere, or even, Hull.
A Side Note
On the run up to R1BW in Hull there were a number of programmes focusing around the artists that were performing. Fortunately I was asked to work on one of these programmes, Biffy Clyro, Music By Numbers tells you the story of one of Scotland’s most successful and nicest bands though numbers. It’s really good! Give It a listen if you fancy.