9 July 2012
Articles | News

News: Bloc Festival

After police close down the London electronic music event, we ask: what the hell happened?

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CHAOTIC scenes at Bloc Festival this weekend as police were called in to close the event down in the early hours of Saturday (July 7).

The trouble began on Friday afternoon when reports began to emerge of queues of up to two-and-a-half hours to enter the festival site, with site staff abandoning proper ticket and ID checks at one point to alleviate the crush to get in, and some legitimate ticket-holding punters allegedly turned away at the door.

Even some of the artists reportedly struggled to gain entry to the site, with Bristol dubstepper Joker tweeting, “Bloc is a mad ting. Can’t Evan get in”, ahead of his scheduled 12am show.

Once inside, fans tweeted about long queues to access the various stages and in particular the Stubnitz boat which formed the festival’s centrepiece. The site layout also came under fire for its shepherding of large crowds into confined areas.

Reports The Phonograph: “In every other festival we’ve been to, once you’re inside you can walk from tent to tent, dropping in and out of shows. Not at Bloc. They decided to funnel people through tiny gaps into each tent, creating huge queues outside every stage. We found ourselves, like every other Bloc attendee, queuing for another hour to get into the main tent and getting more frustrated by the minute.”

The festival was cancelled early on Saturday, shortly after Snoop Dogg performed a brief soundcheck for his main stage slot — although The Dome stage was reportedly kept open for Mosca’s three-hour set, which helped (inadvertently, perhaps) to stem the flow of people attempting to exit the site. [FACT]

Said one festival-goer, Matt Huntingford: “I left just before 10 after queuing for 2 1/2 hrs as I felt the ‘security’ had lost control of the crowd outside the main gates and it was getting dangerous. At this point there we no more than 10-15 staff to deal with what I’d guess was c. 3,000 people. I spoke to a couple of them to tell they needed to stop people coming onto the site pretty urgently as people were beginning to climb over barriers and a crush was developing, they acknowledged they had lost control and one of them asked me to go and tell the police and other staff outside what was going on as they had no idea what to do.”

Problems continued, however, with many fans complaining that the shuttle-bus service to Liverpool Street set up to compensate for the lack of DLR services in the dead of night was in fact dropping people off in Canning Town over five miles away.

Bloc issued a first statement in the early hours of Saturday, stating that the festival had been closed due to “crowd safety concerns”, and that news about refunds was to follow.

Amid a barrage of online speculation as to what triggered these concerns, info from any of the key players has been disappointingly scant; although the London Met’s press department had this to say to Dummy yesterday:

“The decision to close the venue was the festival organiser’s — though the Met were there to advise on the implications of either staying open or closing.”

“The problem stemmed from rain, and people hiding under cover during the showers, creating huge ‘pinch-points’. [This created the issues], rather than any over-ticketing.”

Disappointed punters remained sceptical, however, with many pointing out that rainfall during the festival was minimal. A further statement from Bloc posted yesterday — during the Wimbledon final, no less! — hardly helped to shine light on the matter (and didn’t exactly strike all the right notes of contrition, either):

“We are currently gathering information about Friday night’s events.

We are also working to ensure that everyone will be refunded for their tickets.

Please bear with us while we do this.

Thanks to all of you, as well as the many artists and crew who travelled across the world to come to Bloc – we are so sorry that we couldn’t deliver the experience we had planned.

And thanks so much to the event control, security, stewards, police and public who worked together to ensure that no one came to harm during the peaceful evacuation.

This is far and away the most important result of the night.

For those of you who are frustrated and angry – we hear you. For those sending love and support – thank you.

More news soon.

The Bloc team x”

Site organisers for the London Pleasure Gardens went one better than that, with a chilling statement that read more like an advert for forthcoming events than any sort of apology:

At 00:45 on Saturday morning, following advice from the Metropolitan Police, Bloc was subject to a controlled shut down due to crowd safety issues. Egress from the site was carefully managed and nobody was harmed throughout the process. By 0200 the site was clear.

The decision to cancel the event’s second day was taken to ensure public safety as a measure against the potential for more overcrowding.

The BT River of Music Africa stage, which will be using a completely different site layout and is not affected by the same issues, will be going ahead as planned on Sat 21 and Sun 22 July. For more information and tickets, please see www.btriverofmusic.com

Other forthcoming events include the Art of Dark Garden Party on July 14th and Carnaval Del Pueblo, Europe’s largest latin festival, on the 18th August, as well as the Last Mile Festival, a programme of special events during the Olympic Games from 28th July – 12th August & 29th August – 8th September.

Garfield Hackett and Debs Armstrong, co-directors of LPG, said: ‘We are hugely disappointed that Bloc Festival had to close early last night and has been cancelled today. We are fully investigating what happened and will provide further information when we are in a position to do so. We thank our staff for dealing with the issue in a manner which ensured that the site was cleared safely.’

All ticket refund requests should be addressed directly to Bloc (www.blocweekend.com )

It’s worth noting that, with Mosca’s set at The Dome, the site would not have been completely cleared until well after 3.30am, as LPG claims here.

There are basic questions that still need answering by organisers here. Was the festival oversold? If so, were organisers properly advised about capacity? What was the problem with the ticketing system? Was the event under-staffed? Will there be full refunds for everyone who bought a ticket, either for the day or the whole shebang? And why did it take until Sunday for Bloc to issue an apology?

One thing’s for sure, an interview with a Bloc booker by the name of Alex published on Skrufff last week looks pretty terrible right now:

Skrufff: Looking at the site plan, it seems VERY difficult to get from the main arena to Millennium Mills (because of the water): how can you prevent bottle necks? Awful crowding?

Bloc (Alex): “There will be horses transporting people between the two points, that have been specially trained to trot on their hind legs only, thus only taking up 1/2 the space on the ground.”

July 9, 7.30pm update: Bloc have posted a new statement, which you can read here

What do you think about the Bloc debacle? Hit up our Facebook to let us know, or if you just need a good shoulder to cry on.

Read our reviewer’s account of what happened here

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