Station bosses Helen Thomas and Jeff Smith have previewed the imminent return of BBC Radio 2 In The Park alongside star DJ Jo Whiley.
Headlined by Kylie Minogue and Tears For Fears, the expanded two-day event returns for the first time since 2019 later this month.
Set for Leicester’s Victoria Park from September 16-17, it will be the station’s biggest ever gathering held outside London (last year’s scheduled Live In Leeds was cancelled as a mark of respect following the death of the Queen).
“It’s our flagship live music event, so we can’t wait," said Radio 2's head of station Thomas, speaking in the current issue of Music Week. "This is like year one for us really, because we got so close with Leeds last year, which would have been our first two-day event. It couldn’t be more important because it’s a chance for us to see our listeners face to face and for all our presenters to come together."
Other artists will include Bananarama, Texas, James Blunt, Deacon Blue, Beverley Knight, Busted, Soft Cell, Pretenders, Shalamar, Rick Astley, Jessie Ware, Lemar, Sam Ryder and Simply Red. While Radio 2 was down 7.4% year-on-year to 13.46m in the Q2 2023 RAJARs, it remains comfortably the most popular radio station in the country.
“No other radio station could put that bill on, because it is an authentic reflection of what we do at Radio 2,” added Thomas. “To have everyone from Tears For Fears to Jessie Ware, who has also presented on Radio 2, is such a brilliant statement of our music policy made real.”
Bringing in that lineup, that breadth and range, and showing the massive range of music we play on Radio 2
The British public responded in kind, with all of the 70,000 tickets selling out in under eight hours.
“We achieved an awful lot with our festival in a day, so it’s brilliant to be able to have two days and also take it around the UK,” added Jeff Smith, Radio 2's head of music. “Bringing in that lineup, that breadth and range, and showing the massive range of music we play on Radio 2 – both in terms of genres and eras – is very exciting. We saw with Glastonbury and the response to Elton that there is such an appetite for live music, and I think we’re going to see that again.
"We're proud and pleased to be able to bring some of the artists back who were going to be with us last year, but also adding people like Kylie to the mix. There’s going to be a real excitement about her performance."
Presenters will also be introducing artists on stage and broadcasting from Radio 2 in the Park across the weekend, with shows and sets available live plus on demand on BBC Sounds and BBC iPlayer across the weekend and for 30 days afterwards.
New faces at the station since the 2019 event include Scott Mills, who came on board in 2022, and DJ Spoony, who also joined permanently last year. Vernon Kay, meanwhile, succeeded Ken Bruce on the mid-morning show earlier this year.
The family has grown, so we have new children and new siblings and we all get to be together, which is going to be lovely
"I'm really looking forward to it because it's been a while since we've all been together," Jo Whiley, who joined R2 from Radio 1 in 2011, told Music Week. "The family has grown, so we have new children and new siblings and we all get to be together, which is going to be lovely. We had a gathering a few months ago, just before Vernon announced that he'd be joining us, and the energy in the room was like nothing I'd seen before since I'd been at Radio 2. It was really exciting and I think that's going to be amplified when we get to Radio 2 In The Park.
"It's going to be a great reunion and I'm happy that it's going to be in Leicester. Leicester is not far from where I live in the Midlands, and I've had messages from people who live in Leicester saying that it means a lot and they can't wait for us to be there. And I think the line-up is going to thrill a lot of people."
Radio 2 In The Park will also feature the Radio 2 DJ Stage, with sets including Dermot O’Leary’s Alternative Sounds Of The 90s, DJ Spoony’s Good Groove, Gary Davies’ Sounds Of The 80s, Jo Whiley’s Shiny Happy Playlist, Michelle Visage’s Handbag Hits, Owain Wyn Evans’ Airdrum Anthems, Rob Beckett’s Beck In The Day Disco, Romesh Ranganathan: For The Love of Hip Hop, Rylan’s Ibiza Anthems, Sara Cox’s Wower Hour, Tony Blackburn’s Golden Hour, Trevor Nelson’s Rhythm Nation and Vernon Kay’s Dance Sounds Of The 90s.
Davies will also play an additional Sounds Of The 80s set on the main stage before Tears For Fears' Saturday headline slot, with Rylan and Scott Mills performing an exclusive DJ set together on the main stage before Minogue headlines the Sunday night.
"Our presenters are so excited to be pulling together their sets," added Thomas. "And for those people not in the park, it’s all available on iPlayer, BBC Sounds and, of course, on Radio 2 as well. So it’s a hugely significant live music moment for us."
Subscribers can read the full Radio 2 feature here.