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Festival cultures conference comes to UEA ahead of Radio 1 Big Weekend in Norwich

Leading names in the UK’s festival scene will gather at the University of East Anglia on the eve of Radio 1’s Big Weekend in Norwich, to look at the UK’s ever-growing festival culture.

Guests including Controller of BBC Radio 2 and BBC 6 Music Bob Shennan, and Kendal Calling festival director Ben Robinson, are coming to UEA on Friday (22 May) to mark the arrival of the UK’s biggest free ticketed festival in Norwich at the weekend (23-24 May).

The industry and academic symposium will feature academic speakers from media studies and popular music studies, guests from industry and the media, and from festival organisations, tackling issues such as popular music and the festival, BBC as a promoter and festivals on multimedia platforms.

The event is the idea of UEA's Prof George McKay, in collaboration with the Arts and Humanities Research Council. Prof McKay's new book, published by Bloomsbury this summer, is The Pop Festival: History, Music, Media, Culture.

Prof McKay said: “Many don’t think of Britain as a festival nation but actually, since the Festival of Britain in 1951, whether it’s Glastonbury, The Proms, Glyndebourne, Notting Hill or the big music festivals, they are all around us.

“And now the BBC is not only covering these festivals and broadcasting them to a wider audience, they are hosting and promoting their own. With one of the biggest festivals in the UK right on UEA’s doorstep this weekend, this is an ideal opportunity to take a closer look at festivals in the UK as part of our culture.”

Sixty guests will come to the Thomas Paine Study Centre on UEA’s Norwich Campus, which sits side by side with the Big Weekend venue Earlham Park, for a packed one-day schedule.

Prof Tim Wall from Birmingham City University will discuss how the BBC has tried to create a 'festival spirit' with live music events ever since the Radio 1 Roadshows of the 1970s, before a session on research on festivals featuring two up-and-coming academics whose first books are on British festival culture.

After lunch, which features an exhibition of East Anglian Fairs Archive - presenting photographs, posters and memorabilia from the fairs in 1974-1985 – festival directors will talk about how a festival reflects its environment. Speakers are John Cumming, Director of EFG London Jazz Festival, William Galinsky, Artistic Director of the Norfolk & Norwich Festival and Ben Robinson, Director of Kendal Calling.

Bob Shennan will bring the day to a close with a conversation with Prof Tim Wall about the BBC’s perspectives on all things festival.