'It's a huge boost for artists': Jo Whiley looks ahead to Radio 2's Hyde Park festival

'It's a huge boost for artists': Jo Whiley looks ahead to Radio 2's Hyde Park festival

BBC Radio 2 Live In Hyde Park returns on Sunday (September 15) for another live spectacular. 

As revealed in the latest issue of Music Week, the event has become an increasingly important platform for the music industry and artists releasing Q4 albums.

Headliners Pet Shop Boys will be screened live on BBC Four, following last year's TV airing for Kylie Minogue's performance featuring a reunion with Jason Donovan and a collaboration with Rick Astley.

Other Radio 2 acts on the bill for the 50,000-capacity festival this year include Status Quo, Emeli Sande, Clean Bandit, Bananrama, Westlife, Kelsea Ballerini and Simply Red. Of course, there's comprehensive coverage on the radio network and the red button on TV.

It's also a big day out for the Radio 2 team. Here, presenter Jo Whiley sets the scene for a day of live music in Hyde Park... 

Are you looking forward to the festival?

"God, I've loved the Pet Shop Boys all my life. I'm so happy that they are the headliners. I think it's going to be absolutely brilliant. I like all the massive hits, and then I like some of the more obscure stuff as well - Paninaro, Domino Dancing. I just think they're so great." 

They're not natural performers, but they always create ambitious shows...

"They're just so smart, they're really clever and they're very committed to what they do as an art form. They totally know they're just two guys standing there, and they have to make some kind of spectacle around them. So I'm hopeful that that's what they're going to do this year, because this event has grown. Whereas it just to be a stage and bands playing, now it's much more of a visual [production] with big screens. So Pet Shop Boys will be able to put on quite a show, I imagine."

What do you think of the rest of the line-up, which ranges from Status Quo to Kelsea Ballerini?

"This event is about providing something for everybody. So it's playing to all the strengths that Radio 2 has, including representing country music. Bananarama will go down really, really well because it's that whole nostalgia thing and lots of the audience will have grown up loving Bananarama. Then there are the hardcore Status Quo fans, who will love the fact they are returning to the festival."

What will your Hyde Park duties involve this time? 

"I'm actually doing a radio show this year. In the past I've been presenting on stage a lot, but this year I'm doing a show with Trevor Nelson, so I'll be interviewing a fair few of the bands. All the dressing rooms open up on to each other backstage, so it's quite a friendly atmosphere, we all hang out. Quite often there are bands who haven't seen each other for a long time, so you'll see people chatting in corners and catching up. It's a really big social event for the bands who are playing, and then also for the DJs, because we often don't get to see each other apart from the annual photograph. It's just really nice to catch up and watch the bands from the side of the stage. Jeremy Vine is always unbelievably enthusiastic about everyone. I think he might be introducing Status Quo this year. He'll probably be in double denim as a Status Quo fan."

It's the 10th edition next year. Do you think it's now become an established event? 

"Yeah, it's the last hurrah of the summer. There will be people there who have not managed to get to any of the big festivals, and it's easy for them to do a festival in a day. You just pitch up with your rug and picnic, and you can just have a really good day seeing a whole variety of bands. So it's a really easy way to have a taste of a festival and a taste of what Radio 2 is about. I know it's a really big deal for some people, and I hope we never disappoint."

It's the last hurrah of the summer

Jo Whiley

And Kylie Minogue's headline show last year was a quite a talking point...

"Yeah, I introduced her on stage. She had an amazing dressing room. Then Jason Donovan suddenly appeared. I saw him and said, 'Oh my God, it's true, you are here.'  He said, 'I just had a phone call and I got on my bike and cycled here, and now I'm going on stage!' He was beside himself with excitement. He had literally turned up on his bike and was then on stage with her. It was such a brilliant moment."

Did that take the festival to another level?

"When ELO did Hyde Park [in 2014], that was a turning point. People really took it seriously from that point on. I remember lots of people blagging to get on the side of stage. Kylie, Elton John and Rod Stewart have just carried on that tradition. And Kylie has her own special showbiz stardust that she sprinkles everywhere. But for me out of all of those [headliners], Pet Shop Boys are probably the most exciting." 

And does it help artists on the bill in terms of their releases?

"I think it helps remind people. If artists get exposure on the radio and then if they get on TV as well, it can remind people of how great someone is. It's a huge boost for artists, because you're supported throughout the weeks leading up to it as well on the radio, getting heard a lot. It does people a lot of favours to be on the bill playing at Hyde Park." 

To read the interview with Radio 2 head of music and the festival's booker Jeff Smith, pick up the latest issue - or subscribers can click here.

To subscribe and never miss a big industry story, click here.

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