UK's Radio 1 "Big Weekend" closes, sinister plot game continues
Sunday, May 20, 2007
Europe's largest free ticketed music event, Radio 1's Big Weekend, today drew to a close after two days of entertainment and music from some of the UK's largest musical names, including the Scissor Sisters, Razorlight, Mika, and Natasha Bedingfield. Hosted in Preston, Lancashire, the first musical event of the UK season provided 35,500 fans over the two days with a musical treat. The weekend also played host to an alternative reality game, portraying a fictional sinister plot.
Frozen Indigo Angel
Unknown to all but a relative few, the event itself was actually host to a live event as part of an Alternate Reality Game known as Frozen Indigo Angel. The ARG, of which this section is in conjunction with the BBC, is developed by Mind Candy, the same developers as the wildly popular ARG Perplex City, and encompassed a variety of old characters (from Perplex City) and a new character ("sacked" BBC producer, Paul Denchfield) for the players to interact with.
The opposing team, the Third Power, led by a man known as Cyrus Quinton, intended to use a Neural Override device to control the minds of the fans in attendance at the event. During the previous week, players were subject to various online puzzles, which, if solved in time, gave them access to a pair of tickets to the Big Weekend - and a chance to thwart the plans of the Third Power.
Saturday, May 19th
With a group of players on the ground, and tens of others gathering in chatrooms across the internet, neither side had any idea of what to expect. Paul Denchfield informed the players that they had to find "key words" with various colours, shapes, and numbers. These would then form sets which, when put into a private interface (intended for Third Power operatives assisting Cyrus Quinton), gave the players map pieces. Players collaborated for hours on these sets until, finally, the entire map was completed. Players then discovered that small marks on the maps could be joined to create triangles, which showed the locations of the transmitters.
Paul Denchfield was contactable throughout the day, providing updates to the players via his blog, video updates, and a quick update service known as Twitter. Players would send leads to him and the other members of the player team who were at the event, who would then follow these leads and report back with new information. The day closed with the players having located the positions of the transmitters, but Paul informing them that they were not present at the given locations.
Sarah Hunt, who was a member of the ground crew on Saturday, described the day as "hectic". She felt "it was very team building as well, as we had to work together for the entire event." She noted that the music was "off-putting" as they were trying to concentrate on the puzzles, but they enjoyed the music as well as interesting some new players! "They asked questions about what we were doing, thus advertising Perplex City well.".
Sarah described her favourite part of the first day - finding a poster! "It was spotted on the side of a bin that was being taken out of the arena, and two other players ran after it shouting 'STOP WE NEED TO SEE WHAT'S ON THE SIDE!'. It was a brilliant start to the event, and amusing as well. I think they thought we were completely nuts!".
Sunday, May 20th
Players on the ground were given the task of disabling four of the five transmitters that were being put into location throughout the day. This consisted of first finding a rotary padlock combination for the containing box, and then "cutting the red wire" within. The online team worked to relay messages from Paul to the ground team, as he was informing them of when the transmitters were in location (via a link to Perplex City's Violet Kiteway).
Spirits of the players remained higher throughout the day. Players had disabled two of the transmitters by 3:45pm BST, and a video was posted to Paul's blog showing the ground team in action disabling the transmitters at around 4:30pm, just as the update for the next transmitter going live was sent. It took a total of 20 minutes until the online team was notified of it being disabled.
The final transmitters that were required to be disabled were located in the VIP area of the event, which the players were granted access to by Paul. Both were disabled by 6:00pm BST, crippling the Third Power's operations for the day. Paul announced the end of the event with a final Twitter message, reading "WE DID IT! FOUR TRANSMITTERS DOWN, CYRUS RUN OUT OF TOWN, AND THE BIG WEEKEND IS SAFE. NICE WORK AND THANKS! ENJOY THE MUSIC!". Online players had been informed that this was not yet the end of Frozen Indigo Angel - and that the prizes will get bigger yet.
MasterCheese, who was a member of the online team, said that "the whole thing was great fun, there was plenty for us to do online, and it was great to be able to help with such a huge event". He commented on the online team's effectiveness, and how they managed to find the triangles that related to the positions of the transmitters. "To find something that important from something as insignificant as those dots was quite impressive".
One Big Weekend
Apart from the ARG, the more traditional side of the Big Weekend was the music and entertainment provided on-site. With bars located around the event grounds, which covered a third of Moor Park, and the "best portaloos [the BBC] can find!", the event was packed from opening until closing with music fans on both days.
Fans were treated to musical performances by a large number of bands, singers, and other musical talents including Groove Armada, Westwood, Kaiser Chiefs, Klaxons, and Dizzee Rascal. The performances were set across three stages, the Main Stage (pictured left), the In New Music We Trust Stage, and the Outdoor Arena.
Hawk, a Perplex City player, commented that the atmosphere at the event was "very cool". In a message to the online team, he commented that it was "Bright & sunny. Way more people than on Saturday. Occasionally seeing Perplex City players sticking out like sore thumbs!".
Radio 1's Chris Moyles was on site, updating the BBC website with humorous videos of celebrities he met around the site, with crazy challenges such as "how long can he hug Mika for". Jo Whiley joined him in a feature called "Jo Blogs" on the same website, which included short updates and snippets of video.
The 35,500 fans leaving the event over the two days were left buzzing and not ready to go home. With the event getting bigger every year, we are left wondering just what, and where, the BBC will choose to host at the next Big Weekend event.