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BLOC: Statement From Organisers
The Quietus , September 5th, 2012 04:15

Organisers of Bloc Festival, which was cancelled due to crowd safety concerns, release a written statement and interview with Resident Advisor

Bloc, the electronic music festival that was cancelled midway through its opening night, 6th July, due to crowd safety and potentially dangerous overcrowding, have released a statement about the events that led to its closure.

It's the first direct statement that they have given since the festival was closed and the company behind Bloc, Baselogic Promotions Ltd, subsequently went into administration. The reason for the delay, the statement says, was that any public statements could have affected the work of the administrators.

"The advice we received was to hang back from all public conversations about the festival as they worked in the background to make their enquiries and ascertain the status of refunds," it reads. "Anything we said publicly could have compromised their efforts and made it harder for this to happen. As much as we wanted to reach out to everyone, we were told time and again that ultimately it would only harm this process, so we’ve kept quiet."

The statement goes to run through the problems that the festival encountered during its opening night. It also confirms that, according to the stated capacity of London Pleasure Gardens as agreed with the venue, the venue was not oversold.

"As already confirmed in a statement by Crowdsurge, who retailed tickets for the event, our total sales for Friday 6th July were 15,786. We took tickets off sale two days in advance and it is accepted by all concerned that we did not oversell the event.

"However, we did experience problems with the management of the admission control systems. The area that was set aside for queuing before tickets were checked became overcrowded at around 21:00. This began to put potentially dangerous pressure on the searching lanes leading into the festival.

"At 21:27, following a breach of these lanes, ticket scanning was suspended to ease the pressure. Comprehensive ticket scanning was not properly resumed beyond this point. Knowledge of the suspension of scanning combined with ticket touting enabled people to gain entry to the event without having purchased a ticket from our website. We’ll never know exactly how many people this was."

The rest of the statement deals specifically with the problems that Bloc experienced with London Pleasure Gardens, the venue which has subsequently gone into administration following a number of high profile festivals pulling their events.

The venue was licensed to hold events for a capacity of between 12,000 and 25,000 people. However, severe delays to the building of the venue resulted in non-completion of the site prior to the festival.

"There is no doubt that these delays severely compromised our efforts to deliver a successful production," Bloc's statement says.

"In the run up to Bloc, much of the site remained unfinished, inaccessible or just closed altogether. For instance, the bridge connecting the main gate to the northwest of the site was never built and the grass amphitheatre for our planned Silo D cinema was fenced-off."

The Hub, a 2,800 capacity venue designed to host one of the festival's stages, was not completed, and the large area where it was to be built was also kept closed for the duration of the event, "so that construction works could be completed in time for the Olympic period."

"While failures in admission control contributed to an increase in overall numbers of people at the event," the statement continues, "missing infrastructure and venues meant that much of the festival ended up focused in the northeast corner of the otherwise massive 60,000 square metre site. Most people chose to congregate there causing unanticipated overcrowding which ultimately led to our safety concerns."

In an interview with Resident Advisor today, Bloc organisers Alex Benson and George Hull discuss in more detail their issues with London Pleasure Gardens, and say that problems with the venue were the primary reason for the festival's early closure.

When Bloc first signed their contract with the venue in October 2011, said Benson, "the biggest concerns were definitely not whether it would be built on time, We came on board so early ... The structures that would be in place, we were told did not have a huge lead time to be built."

"It honestly looked incredible," said Hull. "What they planned to do was turn a disused piece of land into a spellbinding extraordinary destination. A venue for the arts. It was autumn of last year, it seemed perfectly plausible that that was possible, we had no reason to believe they wouldn't build it. Then they were loaned £3.3 million pounds to spend on it... I mean, there's always a chance the sun won't rise in the morning, but it wasn't a realistic concern because of the amount of time and the amount of money they had."

One of the major questions asked, when Bloc was shut down, was why the promoters didn't choose to cancel the festival in advance of its opening night, having become aware that the venue was in an unfinished condition. Bloc's statement addresses the issue as follows: "When the extent of the missing infrastructure was revealed, we considered our options. London Pleasure Gardens was clearly a long way from the ‘riverside arts and entertainment destination’ that we had hired but our relatively small company lacked the resources to cover the costs associated with a postponement or cancellation of the festival or a legal action against the venue."

In the Resident Advisor interview, they discuss further why they didn't cancel the festival prior to its opening night. "If we'd been Live Nation or AEG, we could just take a 2 million quid hit," said Hull, "but we were in no position to do that. We wanted to make it work and did everything we could to deliver it."

Bloc's official statement closes with an apology. "The venue had originally seemed like the perfect new home for Bloc so we’re really sorry that everyone was let down. All of you who bought tickets, travelled from afar and have supported us through many years of festivals, and parties and clubs before that, deserved better.

"Following five successful editions of the Bloc festival, this year we could not deliver what we had planned - we cannot stress enough how sorry we are for this. We’ve learned from these experiences and have humbly taken on board the criticisms leveled at us."

They also give a link to the administrators Parker Andrews' website for information around obtaining a refund, which you can read in detail here. As many people have done already, the method they suggest is to claim a refund back from your bank, and they provide the forms you need to fill in.

You can read Bloc's full statement here.

Keep an eye on the Quietus for a full investigation around the problems with London Pleasure Gardens.

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