The Bloc 2012 catastrophe has been widely documented, speculated to high heaven by bloggers, journalists and hordes of self-appointed pundits on Twitter, but the actual reasons for the event's failure – which resulted in a mass evacuation of the site before 11pm on the festival's first day – remain a little unclear to most.
An interview on djmag.com with a booker for The London Pleasure Gardens, the day the site filed for liquidation, revealed launch delays and constricted funding brought about LGP's eventual closure. Meanwhile, ticketholders were left out of pocket by Bloc's premature closure and it wasn't clear where blame for its chaotic demise might lay. DJ Mag is yet to hear an explanation from the mouths of the event makers themselves. Until now.
With the event making a brave return to the city with a series of events at a specially licenced East London venue, launching on Saturday 9th March with Model 500, we sat down with Bloc's George Hull to hear their version of the story and more about the upcoming events...
To say the last Bloc event didn't go to plan would be an understatement. What was the general feeling in the initial aftermath of the event?
“A whole mixed bag of emotions. A really horrible feeling of having let everyone down was pretty overpowering – we felt especially bad for those who had travelled a long way. We were also thankful to our team that the evacuation had gone so smoothly.”
Rather than abandoning the Bloc brand completely, you've chosen to pursue it. What makes you think the brand is strong enough to withstand the negativity surrounding the last event?
“It's not a brand, it's our name. We've been putting on parties as Bloc since we were teenagers. We're not industry types with other business interests and various brand concepts to dip in and out of – I genuinely wouldn't know how to appear in public as anything else. At the risk of sounding pretentious we don't really see Bloc as a brand as such – it's our whole lives, it's what we do and we don't feel ashamed for wanting to carry on with that just as it is.
“And I guess the fact that we've launched and are on sale with our new series demonstrates there is still plenty of support out there. A decade of successful festivals and shows prior to 2012 counts for a lot.”
What explanations can you give for the event's closure?
“I'll be frank. We were let down by the venue we had hired for the festival (London Pleasure Gardens) in the most brutal way imaginable and despite our best efforts, the chaos which ensued made it impossible for us to deliver the festival.
“We were kept completely in the dark about the delays to their build schedule and only at the last minute were we presented with the reality of the missing infrastructure on the site – among other things our second stage just hadn't been built. It was left up to us to fix this and our team moved heaven and earth in an attempt to re-provide what was missing and complete the works. As it turned out, the issues were insurmountable and our efforts were in vain but no one had anticipated that.
“Shortly after Bloc, the venue themselves went bust (losing £3.6 million pound of public money loaned by Newham Council) and the site remains closed. Because they disappeared without a trace, we were denied an opportunity to take them to court over it which I would have gladly done.
“We've been doing this ten years and produced hundreds of shows, always delivered, always paid our bills. Until we got into bed with this organisation, not once had our competence as event producers been called into question.
“Of course it was our party, so the buck stops here and we have been fully prepared to apologise and accept all of the anger and criticism levelled against us. But to be honest, I'm sick and tired of taking the blame for other people's dishonesty and incompetence.”
Have you refunded money to those with tickets?
“It's probably the worst thing that's come of the whole affair that our company was not able to offer refunds immediately. The reason for that has been widely publicised – as with many independent festivals, the company had spent the money from ticket sales on producing the event.
“If you used a card from the UK and some countries in Europe, you could claim a refund via the chargeback scheme. We published a form where you filled out your name and address and if you sent it off, you got a refund. If you came from certain countries outside of the UK, then this method wasn't available, which is gutting, and people have a right to be annoyed about it. But the vast majority of ticketholders filled out the form and got their money back.”
Read the full report to creditors and ticketholders HERE
Are you planning another Bloc Festival? If so, when/where?
“At the moment, we're concentrating on the task in hand and making sure that every last detail for our new series is bang on. We have our own venue now so our minds are focused on making it perfect.”
What about the new series of events launching on 9th March, how do these events reflect/extend the Bloc ethos?
“We've booked a lot of acts who have given performances at Bloc that kind of went to define the festival. There is a heavy focus on underground electro and techno. Since Bloc started a lot has changed in dance music. We're just going back to our own roots and showcasing the music which got us here in the first place."
Will you be using only one venue or touring it?
“They will all be held in our own venue which we have leased specifically for this purpose. It means that we're not relying on anyone else to deliver the shows which is a great feeling.”
Can you tells about the venue?
“Sure, it's a 500 capacity studio space by the river in Hackney Wick. It's right next to the Olympic Park and there are great views of the stadium and ArcelorMittal Orbit from behind the DJ booth.
“For sound, we're using this incredible L'acoustics Kara system which we've flown from four points around the room. A proper Rolls Royce touring PA that has been designed for the space. Its crisp, clear and heavy.”
What about the music policy; the thinking behind the programming?
“There are a lot of house and techno nights in London at the moment so we wanted to do something slightly different by not booking the obvious circuit DJs but instead some unusual appearances and decent live acts.”
Why have you booked the DJs you have?
“They're our personal favourites and many of them are friends too. We also thought it would be fun seeing some of the bigger names play an intimate studio type show.”
Who are you most looking forward to seeing?
“I like electro. I'm really up for Model 500 live, Egyptian Lover and Man Parrish.”