Saturday, 7 July 2012

Bloc 2012 Flops: What's Next?

In its first year at London's Pleasure Gardens, Bloc Festival has crumbled and had its organisers pull the plug (amidst a shower of angry and somewhat witty puns on major social netoworking sites) before the first night had neared its planned closing time of 6am. As you've doubtless already seen, if you've been anywhere near Twitter or Bloc's Facebook page today, the PR and press team at Baselogic cancelled the festival last night "due to crowd safety concerns". According to the email circulated to the press this morning and offical statement on the Bloc site, both the ticket vending company Crowdsurge and Baselogic are "absolutely devastated that this has happened" but failed to initially release an apology or details on refunds for those with Saturday and weekend tickets. 

In short, Bloc started off with the best intentions (coming from the team behind Glastonbury's Shangri-La area) but turned into a bit of a PR disaster for the organisers and worryingly for the Pleasure Gardens as a whole. From my own experience at the festival last night, it was a mixed bag. On the one hand, I got in early at about 6pm and had no problem getting into shows and aboard the MS Stubnitz (where some of the biggest crowd crushes and security control problems later emerged) with my press wristband. However, even as running onto the site to catch Steve Reich's mindblowing set at the Resident Advisor Hub I passed a queue that was already snaking out of the only entrance that seemed to be processing standard day passes. Within hours punters were subjected to two-hour waits to get in, and when I spoke to a friend of mine with a weekend pass later it seemed she'd been rushed in without having her ticket scanned and hadn't received a wristband. 

I'm still waiting on a statement from one of the sound technician's working on the RA Hub and moving from one stage to the next, but it seemed that all venues had reached capacity by about 10:30pm, and two soundsytems blown by 11pm. For what it's worth, Amon Tobin's lightshow installation was awesome and Nicolas Jaar put on a pretty good show, but those were pretty much the only acts we were able to see before the relatively confused security became unable to handle the amount of people trying to push into each arena. 

The Metropolitan police were called in because of the threat of a riot breaking out, not because one in fact did. Once they arrived, the officers I encountered were calm and easy to talk to: they simply said they'd been called by the organisers because the private security onsite could no longer handle the amount of people needing to be moved off the site (after a huge surge allegedly jumped the barriers and streamed onto the festival site when they'd had enough of standing in line for hours). 

I'll be most interested to see what happens to Baselogic, Crowdsurge and the festival logistical organisers in the wake of this glaring capacity oversight, and whether Bloc will be able to recover and attempt a return in the summer of 2013. For now at least, venues like XOYO, Rhythm Factory and The Bussey Building (in association with the lovely people at Plex London) are pulling together for a string of #notbloc parties around the city. With the exception of XOYO, most look like they'll be free for Bloc wristband- and ticket-holders, so find out more about that on Twitter here and here. There's also a Google map being updated here with info on other parties going on in the city. 

Fingers crossed people get their money back and that everyone who'd set tonight aside for the festival still has a great one.

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