Page last updated at 16:01 GMT, Saturday, 10 May 2008 17:01 UK

Park bathes in Big Weekend glow

by Robert Leslie
BBC News, Maidstone

Hannah and Adam Charlton
Hannah was looking forward to We Are Scientists and Paramore

Less than a year ago the gaze of the world's media fell on Maidstone when the Tour de France charged through the county town on its way to the Canterbury finish line.

This weekend the town, which is hosting Radio 1's appropriately titled Big Weekend, has again been bathed in the limelight.

The sun shone for the cyclists of the peloton in 2007 and it has not disappointed the 17,000 music fans in Mote Park either.

Those at the front of the queue may have waited for several hours but they still had enough energy to make the 200-metre dash to the main stage as soon as Radio 1 DJ Vernon Kay declared the gates open.

Many intended to wait by the crash barriers for Usher's opening set and even for Madonna eight or nine hours later.

Hannah Charlton, 16, from Ashford, came to the concert, which is her first ever festival, with her brother Adam, 21.

She said: "The wait outside was horrible - so hot! But now I'm in I can't wait to see bands on the In New Music We Trust stage - especially We Are Scientists and Paramore."

Brisk trade

Many of the 17,000 ticket winners, that trooped through Mote Park in their pre-allotted twos, seemed quite overwhelmed by the whole experience.

Some were not sure whether to heed the cries of Radio 1 DJ's Zane Lowe and Scott Mills, or to make for the merchandise stalls or the unusual Introducing tent - a mini wooden concert hall where up and coming bands have attempted to cement reputations.

It was hot - very hot. The beer tent did a brisk trade as did the stands selling suntan lotion and broad-rimmed hats. Shadows cast by trees were also fully occupied.

When the distinctive opening chords of The Hoosiers' hit Cops and Robbers sounded across the park, hundreds of people scurried across the park for the main stage.

Madonna is headlining the Big Weekend at Maidstone's Mote Park

Among them was Simon, 41, and Ruth, 38, from Maidstone.

"We don't really know many of the bands playing this weekend but I know I like this song!" said Ruth.

"It's just great to be able to wander from stage to stage and see what's happening."

The Madonna fans were still in place when I last looked mid afternoon on Saturday, happy in the knowledge that they did not have that long to wait for the event's main attraction.

Last year the cyclists came and went in a matter of minutes. This weekend, Maidstone is being treated to a tent full of stars for a whole weekend - and on the evidence of the first day it is clearly going to love every moment.

Radio 1 unveils Big Weekend venue
15 Feb 08 |  Entertainment


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