We sent two people to fully cover Bloc, one of the best festivals –or at least it used to be– in the UK. But it all ended in a disaster that brought giant queues, an evacuation and ultimately the cancellation of the whole event. Jessica Jordan-Wrench never managed to get it, caught in the mess at the doors.
It became clear that something was up when we changed trains at Canning Town. An announcement was made at the station, stating that the event at London Pleasure Gardens was at full capacity and the gates were now closed. Eoin – who was to be photographing the event – and I opted to continue on our journey, hoping that it did not apply to press. We’d be entering through a different gate, we reasoned, and the press desk should still be open. I texted our contact in the press department, enquiring about the announcement, but got no response. We were soon to discover why that was thoroughly unsurprising.
It was fast approaching midnight when we arrived at Pontoon Dock. We went straight to Gate 2, the press and guest entrance, where there was a high-vis clan blocking the way and around 20 people milling around trying to get in. I spoke to a security guard on the door, who told me that they had been instructed to let absolutely no-one in. He said that was the only information he had been given and suggested we try our luck at the artist’s car-park; the next gate along. At the artist’s car-park there was just one security guard, who was equally polite and equally ill-informed. No-one, it seemed, knew what was going on.
I had been playing a gig in Brighton and had a bass guitar strapped to my back. Consequentially a lot of people assumed I was supposed to be playing. As we arrived back at Gate 2 someone asked if I was scheduled to perform. “Yes” Eoin quipped “she’s Squarepusher’s bassist”. The joke was clearly lost on the bloke, whose saucer-eyes widened, as he yelled “this girl is Squarepusher’s bassist and even she can’t get in!”. The atmosphere had changed at the entrance, with the arrival of riot police in vans and the rumour circulating that Bloc was being shut-down. We spoke to another security guard who informed us that it was very unlikely that the event would be continuing much longer. The guy next to us at the gate claimed to be from the marketing department at Bloc, but was not admitted either. He became very agitated when Eoin began taking photographs. “What’s that going to achieve? What’s that going to achieve” he repeated, to which Eoin responded “well, it doesn’t look like I am going to be able to take photographs inside the venue, so I may as well take a few here”. We began chatting to a group of men, two of which were supposed to be DJing; they were calling their contacts inside the venue to no avail.
"On the tube, the general mood was one of furious disappointment, but the crowd were relatively genial"
By this point – sometime after 12 – people were streaming out of the venue , “anyone want to buy a ticket for tomorrow?” someone shouted. With sirens, a fire engine and the announcement that Bloc was officially being closed down, we made our way back to the station. We spoke to one couple on the platform who had been inside. They told us that they had queued for hours to get into the site and had faced further queues once inside. They added that the venue was clearly not finished and they had walked into one bar, only to find it half built. The pair had travelled from Dublin, Ireland, at considerable cost.
On the tube, the general mood was one of furious disappointment, but the crowd were relatively genial. Some marginally-trolleyed folk, for example, discussed breakfast and the best way to make hollandaise sauce ( “it’s so strange when you think about it – I mean really think about it – eggs benedict is eggs on eggs!” one proffered , to which another emphatically responded “yeah, man. Weird”).
In conclusion: Bloc was an absolute shambles. A mess which suggests supreme incompetence on someone’s part, I will be intrigued to discover whose. Rather than indulging in one of the finest line-ups in years, I was listening to the rambled, egg-related musings of a hyped up raver with nowhere to go. However, despite a palpable potential, it appears there were no serious casualties. Yes, it was a huge disappointment, a logistical abomination, but the tragedy of Love Parade puts things into perspective.
Photos by Eoin Furbank.