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Producing the Radio 1 Teen Awards

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11 November 2013

What it’s like putting on a show for 9,000 young teenagers? The organiser of this month's BBC Radio 1’s Teen Awards explains the challenges involved.

Radio 1's first foray with a major music event focussed on our teenage audience back in 2008. Called BBC Switch Live, it was hosted at London's Hammersmith Apollo.

In 2010 the show grew to include Katy Perry headlining and the BBC incorporating an awards element. We also re-named the show the "Radio 1 Teen Awards". This new format had live music, celebrity awards, as well as three special nominations celebrating inspirational teenagers - The Teen Heroes.

In 2011 due to the massive demand for tickets the event had to be moved to Wembley Arena, with an attendance capacity of nine thousand 14-17 year olds. This unlocked the capability for even more ambitious stage sets and production. One recent highlight of our show production was One Direction in 2012, floating across the arena floor, from front stage, across to the very back, and just 30 feet from the audience below, for so many - frustratingly near, but yet so far!

The calibre of artists has also grown to include world class artists Katy Perry, Taylor Swift, One Direction, Ed Sheeran, Rizzle Kicks, Fall Out Boy, Jessie J and a whole lot more.

In terms of the planning for such an event, it takes several months, but the conversations with record labels regarding artist bookings start much earlier. The show this year was produced 'in-house' by the BBC Popular Music Live Events team, and the roles range from managing the ticket distribution, external venue security plans and artist liaison, through to the whole creative look and feel of the concert, and its staging in the venue.

We commissioned Remedy Productions to produce the TV output. The brief for Remedy is to deliver the on-stage show management, and flow of proceedings, and also the booking of celebrity award winners that are accepting awards. This year the programme was full to the brim with guests who included Russell Brand, Britney Spears, Miley Cyrus, One Direction, Andy Murray - and a whole lot more. 


This is a truly unique BBC public service event, setting the bar high from the start with a blanket 'no parents or guardians welcome' philosophy, but of course as a result, our duty of care and child welfare operation is huge, and sometimes challenging. 


Have you thought about what this entails? Nine thousand unaccompanied 14-17 year- olds, travelling to London from all across the UK, attending a show just with friends - or a thought for the nervous parents waiting outside. 

As a result much effort is put into  clear event information from the moment they secure a ticket, to their arrival at all of the London transport hubs, with chaperones all the way, through to the 'customer experience' inside the venue, and of course on their departure home. 


We want a pleasant experience for those that attend, and crucially parents and guardians feeling they have complete piece of mind that their children are in safe hands. It has thankfully, year on year, run ever so smoothly.


Teenagers do not always get the best press, and are often seen as the 'hoody' generation that are generally badly behaved. This moment is the antidote to that viewpoint, with its young on-stage talent, the wonderful celebration of exceptional young unsung heroes from across the UK, and a live audience of positive teens delighted to be part of the show - it is clear that on the whole, some public perceptions of the 'youth generation', are often so very wrong.


Thus far the ambition, scale, and complexity of such an event has been delivered without incident, and make no bones about it, this event that has the potential for high risks - but in a sense the fact that we take it on, is what makes it so special.  


Judging by the sheer noise in the arena, and the glowing smiles on every teen that left the venue last Sunday, it seems they had a truly delightful experience. And for many it will have been their first gig so they would have felt independent and a little more grown up. A concert they will never forget. 


I am sure we all have our first live music experience etched as a memory for the rest of our lives – and now they do too.



Jason Carter, 
Head Of Live Music & Events, Popular Music, 
Radio 1: Radio 2: 6Music: 1Xtra: BBC Introducing 


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