Bloc 2012. By now, you’ll have heard that it was a disaster. Two of our members were there when it all went wrong: Phil and Rowan share their experience and thoughts on why it went wrong.
Bloc 2012, the most hyped festival in the UK this year, looked like it was going to be an amazing two days. Snoop Doggy Dogg, Orbital, Joker, Kode9, Four Tet, Flying Lotus, Amon Tobin (to name but a few) were all set to play over the weekend. So, feeling pretty hyped about it ourselves, we bought two weekend tickets. Little did we know what was about to happen: ticket breakdowns, poorly designed stages, massive queues and a police shutdown.
From the ground up
We arrive at 9pm on Friday night to encounter a several thousand strong queue outside the London Pleasure Gardens, the site of the festival. Now, we’ve had to queue to get into festivals before, so we took it in our stride and within an hour and a half (by this point missing Amon Tobin), we made it inside.
All pretty standard so far. And when we’re inside, we’re greeted with a fantastic view of the venue. The Soviet Era fishing vessel moored in the central dock, surrounded by tents and warehouses, looked amazing. The one and a half hour wait outside melted away and we were ready to go see DOOM in the main tent.
This is where it began to go seriously wrong. 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.
Its now 11:30 and we catch the end of DOOM’s act. He was pretty good and it was great to finally see our first act after shelling out £100 each for the weekend tickets. Then Twitter starts to go crazy. Rumours abound that Bloc is being shut down due to overcrowding, thousands of people are still queueing to get into the venue, and the police have been called in to control the situation. There is no sign of Snoop, aside from a quick 1-2, 1-2 mic check, and by 00:45 we get the announcement that the entire festival has been cancelled due to overcrowding. We’re not even angry by this point, we’re just disappointed, the entire night had been one wait after another and now we were told that none of it was worth it.
What went wrong?
Despite no official explanation being given as to why the event was overcrowded, there are several indications as to what went wrong.
The Tickets: whilst in the queue outside rumours started to move up and down the queue that the barcode recognition system for tickets had broken down. By the time we got into the venue, they just checked our tickets, ripped them up and gave us wrist bands. No baggage checks, no ID checks, no barcode scanning of tickets. It appears by this point the ticketing company had lost control of how to monitor who had and who hadn’t paid for a ticket.
Layout: the venue was not designed to allow people to move freely. The main tent was surrounded by barriers and shipping containers, the ship had a one-in one-out policy, and all the other tents had single entry/exit points.
Security: personnel were backing people up in huge queues outside of the venue even before there was concerns that it might be getting too full. They were not counting people in or out of the venue or the tents. They did not appear to be in control of the situation.
Why did this go wrong?
This is the big questions and as of yet no official statement has been made explaining why the overcrowding took place. Yet, looking at what went wrong in and around the venue, it is possible to make an educated guess: too many tickets were sold. This explains why the ticketing check process broke-down, the security were attempting to back people up at every point to keep control of the crowds, and why the venue did not appear to be designed for this many people.
Who is responsible?
The big question is whether the organisers knew too many tickets were sold before they went ahead with Friday night or whether they did not. If they knew, it appears they decided to gamble that the event could be pulled off even with serious overcrowding issues. If they did not know or found out at the last minute, then the ticketing company Crowd Surge completely screwed over possibly the biggest festival in Europe this year.
There are lots of rumours that there was violence and that things got out of control, but from the ground it looks like the police handled it really well. They dealt with the huge crowd calmly and professionally, and it was correct for the event to be shut down like it was. Nobody wants a repeat of Love Parade.
Only if they give us a refund.