Well you don’t need us to issue an exclusive report about how Bloc, ‘the most important festival in Britain this year’ as stated by us, was a complete disaster. If you are a regular reader of ourselves you would have noticed that we’ve been involved in the coverage of Bloc as both punters and ‘reporters’ (of sorts), so you may be able to understand how disappointed we are. Maybe it’s something we will look back on one day and laugh, but I imagine that it will be a while before we get to that stage.
A number of people have told about the enormous queues upon entry, whether the people in those queues managed to gain entry into the festival or not. However, we entered the festival relatively early so managed to see what was the calm before the storm, and the comparisons between the light hearted conversations with security staff at 4pm, to the pandemonium at 1am.
Obviously everything that is said is all in speculation until an official statement is released alongside a full investigation (that will undoubtedly require a lengthy conversation between the Bloc promoters and men/women in suits and wigs), but after much deliberation between ourselves at 7am Saturday morning we came up with a few reasons as to why this happened. None of these are definitive, but a combination of factors.
This one is obvious, after all the police didn’t turn up because not enough people were there. A lot of this may be down to the layout of the festival. It’s hard to say but across the whole festival the site could have probably accommodated the 15,000 ticket holders, however a large portion of the festival space was left baron. Basically, the arenas were simply too close together. At some points you could hear music coming out of 3 different stages, meaning that the queues for each stage were basically merging into one huge crowd of confused ravers not raving.
Overcrowding aside, the combined capacity of all stages was only 8000 people, meaning that just under half of the entire festival would be left outside at all times. Comparing it to much larger festivals such as Glasto (which can accommodate half of its festival on the main stage alone), it simply could not work.
Even though Snoop Dogg would have made for a great performance anticipated by all, it was simply unnecessary to have an artist that big play a festival of this size. The main arena only housed 4000 people, which for a performer like Snoop Dogg was simply not enough. The sheer amount of people who came for Snoop alone was made apparent when after a spokesperson came onstage to tell the crowd that Snoop wouldn’t be performing (a job that no one would ever want), the main stage literally emptied immediately. At this point no one was aware of what was happening outside of the arena or that the festival would eventually shut down, so the sheer amount of people that came for that one artist would have undoubtedly played a huge part in the festivals closure.
CORRECTION 10/07: Since publishing this article I have learnt that the spokesperson announced that there would be no more artists performing on the main stage, not just Snoop Dogg. This would obviously be the reason why the arena emptied so suddenly, but with 2 hours waiting time until the following performer (Richie Hawtin, one of the highlights of the festival for us) the majority of people in the arena would have been there for Snoop.
Sound and lighting
Housing a music festival in the middle of a major city will always create problems when addressing the issue of sound and lighting. For one, the festival was situated right next to London City airport, meaning that all lights, strobes, lasers etc coming from inside the festival had to be completely covered so that they wouldn’t interfere with flights going to/from the airport. This meant that all arenas had one entrance and one exit, creating bottlenecks and thus, lengthy queues.
Now I’m not sure what the procedures are for inner city festivals and sound levels, but the site was located in a residential area, so there must have been some strict guidelines that Bloc had to adhere to in order to comply with noise pollution regulations. This they did by installing sound barriers inside the main arenas, however they also addressed this issue by placing shipping containers around the arenas, making for very awkward walkways and again, more bottlenecks upon entry into the arenas.
This is the part where we thought “this is too good to be true”. Beforehand the thought of seeing artists such as Joy Orbison, Richie Hawtin and Jackmaster on a boat was a very appealing one. However, upon arrival to the site you realised that the arenas were not fit to cater to the amount of people these artists would attract. For starters, when we first boarded the Stubnitz at the start of the day we realised that it was much, MUCH smaller than what we first thought. The official capacity of the boat is 700 people, something that simply wasn’t fit to accommodate some of the biggest DJs out there at the moment.
For the other stages, the Carhaart dome was far too small to house artists like Jamie Jones and Art Department, and the Resident Advisor stage was impractical in both layout and location.
The main issue that we came up with on this matter is that although all the stages were exciting and original, they were all chosen more for their novelty, without care taken to ensure whether they were practical enough to play host to a major festival.
Now those are just a few of the reasons that we came up with as to why the event was such a disaster. Whether these factors really did play a part in the festivals closure is a different matter, and something that will be addressed in the future. With so much hype surrounding Bloc the demise of the festival has already been covered extensively. You also have to think about the knock on effect it will have on the sponsors of the festival, the city of London pre-Olympics, The Pleasure Gardens itself and the future of Bloc (although whether there is still a future for Bloc remains very doubtful).
You have to think though what this means for festivals like this in the future. This will obviously dent the confidence of those thinking of organising a festival such as this in the future. This may be for the best, but Bloc was a landmark festival in it’s ability to create something that was so important and healthy for the British electronic music scene, which is why it’s such a shame that this had to happen.
Never the less, this post is not just about the disappointments of the weekend, but also the triumphs. As the dust began to settle on Saturday, Twitter was rife with talk of free parties being held all across London in an attempt to make a totally shitty situation better. Across the city Flying Lotus, Bok Bok, Actress, Theo Parrish, Jacques Greene, Martyn and of course, AGT Rave Cru all featured on line ups organised by some very hard working promoters at the very last minute, something that was great to see and made for a very exciting night to be in London. Even though we didn’t make it into any parties because the queues for each party were fucking huge, it was great to see.
Anyway, as we left the site on that Saturday morning we looked upon a sign that read “WE WANTED TO BE THE SKY”. At that moment we couldn’t help but think about the story of Icarus, who also wanted to be the sky but then flew too close to the sun and came hurtling towards the ground, dying a horrible death. Seems very relevant now.
By Jack Needham