Big Weekend: How Luton bagged BBC's biggest music festival of the year

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Luton can lay claim to becoming a music festival town, after successfully staging BBC Radio 1’s Big Weekend in Stockwood Park and generating an estimated £4m for the local economy.

More than 100,000 were attracted to the town for the three-day event, during the Bank Holiday weekend. But how did it all come about?

The BBC first approached the council in August 2023, according to the borough council. A visited was arranged to Stockwood Park as part of the broadcaster’s search for potential locations to host the event.

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The council explained: “Luton was in the spotlight like never before with Luton Town FC having been promoted to the Premier League after winning the Championship play-off final at Wembley.

Main Stage at the Big Weekend in Stockwood ParkMain Stage at the Big Weekend in Stockwood Park
Main Stage at the Big Weekend in Stockwood Park

“But we also know that the BBC was drawn to the town because of its young and diverse population, and its can-do spirit, namely ‘if you can dream it, you must do it’.

“The BBC also took into account our transport connections, including London Luton Airport, our proximity to the capital, and the broadcaster’s penchant for supporting up-and-coming places.”

Festival Republic (on behalf of the BBC) submitted the licence application in December, which was approved by the council’s licensing sub-committee in January, explained LBC.

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“BBC Radio 1 and Greg James officially launched Big Weekend in Luton on January 29. A steering group was formed to support the delivery of the event. The BBC and Festival Republic were responsible for anything in the arena.

“This meant the council was in charge of everything else, such as traffic management, ‘zone ex’ (including cleansing of that external zone), communications, marketing and place activation.

“We also led the Luton Rising festival makers programme, with 240 volunteers welcoming those 100,000 plus visitors to Luton.

“The time, energy, and resources spent organising an event of this scale has allowed us to show people across the UK and beyond that Luton is the perfect stage for world-class events.”

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Among the headline acts were music giants Coldplay, who rounded off the event, as well as RAYE, Sabrina Carpenter, and Chase and Status.