Bloc Festival organisers issue statement over shutdown

Organisers of the Bloc Festival have issued a statement shedding some light on what caused the overcrowding issues that led to the July event being shutdown during its first night, CMU has reported.

The East London festival site had to be evacuated on its first evening following serious overcrowding concerns, with the cancellation of the second day sending the Bloc company into administration. Subsequent online speculation led to theories of faulty electronic ticketing issues and rumours that the London Pleasure Gardens wasn’t adequately prepared to host an event of such scale. And, in their statement, Bloc organisers have admitted that there were problems with scanning e-tickets, but that the Pleasure Gardens set-up presented bigger issues. The company running the London Pleasure Gardens itself went into liquidation last month.

The statement reads: “We did experience problems with the management of the admission control systems” and that this led to dangerous over-crowding at the gates. Exactly what those problems were has yet to be revealed, although ticketing provider CrowdSurge previously told CMU, “at no point throughout the scanning process did the scanners cease to operate.”.Regardless, the problems meant that e-tickets stopped begin scanned just before 9.30pm (as CrowdSurge previously confirmed), allowing anyone with fake tickets to gain entry.

The Bloc statement also noted: “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 [did this].”

However, Bloc had limited ticket sales to just over 15,000, and with the London Pleasure Gardens site offering a capacity of 25,000, the admission of those with fake tickets is unlikely to account for the substantial overcrowding that followed. Therefore, according to Bloc’s statement, the LPG site ultimately was not ready to host such a large event.

The statement continued: “It is no secret that there were serious delays associated with the building of the London Pleasure Gardens site, leading to non-completion of groundwork, venues and general infrastructure. There is no doubt that these delays severely compromised our efforts to deliver a successful production. 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.

“Despite our frequent requests for an up-to-date build schedule, it was confirmed just two weeks before the festival that ‘The Hub’, a 2800 capacity high-spec venue that we had contracted to host one of our main stages, was not going to be ready for us to use. Furthermore, the large area in the south east of the site where it was to be built remained shut so that construction works could be completed in time for the Olympic period.”

The Bloc organisers also admit that once the number of non-completion issues became clear they considered what action should have been taken, but that as a small organisation, cancellation or legal action didn’t seem like realistic alternatives to going ahead with the event as best they could. They add: “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.”

Meanwhile, the statement essentially confirms that ticket-buyers will not be able to get any kind of refund from the now defunct Bloc company, and that festival-goers will have to apply for a refund from the bank or credit firm who provided the card with which they made payment, under the guarantee schemes such companies offer. Several ticket-buyers have already done this, though for those that haven’t the Bloc company’s administrators have set up a web page explaining the process.

The statement concludes: “Thanks to those of you who have shown love and support, particularly over the last two months, and we hope to be in touch with you again soon.”

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