They were joined by acts including George Ezra, Rita Ora and Clean Bandit at the inaugural event - set to return in November

Manchester is one of seven cities shortlisted by Channel 4 as a national HQ outside of London, while the BBC - now MediaCity’s principal tenant - also set up its second headquarters here in 2011. Yes, media decentralisation is happening…but slowly, and there’s still a way to go. 

So the launch of Hits Radio Live - the first national commercial radio station to be broadcast out of Manchester - is a step in the right direction. It replaced longstanding Greater Manchester channel Key 103 as part of a multi-million pound rebrand, and launched on 4 June with Take That’s Greatest Day.

But the Mancunian welcome didn’t end there. Last Saturday, the new station showed off its chart-topping prowess with an inaugural concert at Manchester Arena - headlined by Take That themselves. 

The local band weren’t the only chart botherers hitting the bill. DJ Jax Jones got the crowd going with hits like Breathe and You Don’t Know Me - accompanied by carnival dancers in full costume - followed by Years and Years, who performed number one 2015 hits like King alongside tracks from 2018 album Palo Santo.

Rita Ora, who will headline Manchester Pride next month, was up next with a mixture of upbeat tunes like Your Song and a poignant tribute to late Swedish DJ Avicii, with whom she collaborated on Lonely Together. She later returned to perform with Liam Payne on their 50 Shades soundtrack For You.

2018 07 17 Rita Ora Chris Ward
Rita Ora Chris Ward

Hits Radio presenters Gemma Atkinson and Dave ‘Comedy’ Vitty next introduced Clean Bandit, who performed hits like Rather Be and Symphony with talented vocalist Kirsten Joy, and Sigala kicked off part 2 with the up-tempo likes of Sweet Lovin' and Came Here For Love (complete with a surprise John Newman). Finally, George Ezra - whose set span Budapest to Shotgun - was introduced by Sarah Jayne Crawford, who joins Hits Radio for the evening show. 

2018 07 17 George Ezra
George Ezra Chris Ward

Take That - who celebrate their 30th anniversary next year with a Greatest Hits album and tour - ended proceedings with an extended set, spanning nineties to noughties and the more recent likes of These Days; dedicating Never Forget to families affected by the arena bomb and rounding off what was an impressive live debut from Hits Radio.  

Missed it? Fortunately, the new station is doing it all again in November, with what promises to be another (as yet undisclosed) star-studded line-up. Earlybird tickets are now available from £31.10 at

About Hits Radio

Hits Radio is a new national digital radio station, available on DAB Digital radio, Freeview, online and via listen apps. Home to household names including Gethin Jones, Gemma Atkinson, and Sarah Jane Crawford, it promises authentic relatable banter, current hits alongside treasured classics and a strong sense of community at its core. Hits Radio is part of the Hits Radio Network, operated by Bauer Media.

Main image: Chris Pegg