By: Peter Spence
The Rolling Stones concert in Hyde Park on Saturday 6th July, one of a series events taking place as part of the British Summertime Festival, marked a historic return to the location after the band’s now legendary free gig 44 years ago in the summer of 1969. However, large-scale events production has come a long way since the 1960s when a festival goer would consider themselves lucky if they found so much as a porta-loo!
The people behind British Summertime have clearly put considerable time and effort into creating an event that has a great deal more to offer besides the music programme. Aside from the basics – a wide range of food concessions serving everything from Argentinian steak sandwiches to mushroom burgers, outdoor bars and, crucially, cash points – the arena had been carefully laid out with three set designed areas themed as ‘carnival’, ‘village green’ and ‘piazza’.
The village green included a funfair complete with merry-go-round and ferris wheel, while the piazza provided an impressive choice of English pubs such as The King’s Head and The Vine, as well as a Lanson champagne bar.
Corporate event bars had also joined the party with Barclaycard sponsoring the Unwind Theatre which hosted the likes of up and coming London rockers The Palma Violets and American band The Boxer Rebellion. Meanwhile, raucous punk blues outfit Trigger Finger played the outdoor bandstand stage while Camden’s Tribes gave us anthemic rock in the village hall venue.
Pop-up events also featured with the hilarious Cuban Brothers looking very much at home on the carnival area float surrounded by palm trees and performing their distinctive brand of comedy Latino hip-hop.
However, the most impressive feature of the multi-million pound investment into set design at British Summertime was undoubtedly the Great Oak stage. Described by Mick Jagger as evoking a combination of Wimbledon and a pantomime forest, the enormous set towered above the band, framed by four life size oak trees providing a canopy. Sitting between the oaks were enormous screens where newly commissioned visuals were shown, including an impressive gig opening sequence of footage from the 1969 Hyde Park show.
The sun shone brightly and of course the day belonged to the extraordinary Rolling Stones, still able to deliver a great rock ‘n’ roll show with the combined age of original members now at 277 years. Keith Richards’ riffs would fail to move only the most reluctant of dancers while Mick Jagger is as energetic and engaging as ever, as the band delivered all the classics as well as one or two rarities. And as Mick declared that there is no place on earth better to be at this time of year than England, we could only agree.
Peter Spence, July2013