On the 6th July, 2012 DLTM were on our way to Pontoon Dock on the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) to attend the Bloc. festival, which was taking place at a brand new venue called the Royal Pleasure Gardens. On the way there we started to receive text messages from friends who’d already made their way saying that it was a bit of a mess; massive queues outside and inside, lots of issues with the flow of people from one stage to another and generally not quite as organised at Bloc. normally was. By the time we got to Poplar, one friend simply messaged, “Go back, it’s not worth it”. That night, the festival was halted by the authorities, thousands of people were left disappointed and, in the months that followed, Bloc. went into administration. Last year the owners, Alex Benson and George Hull, brought the event back to its original home at Butlin’s in Minehead and it was a resounding success. This year, with a super club and music conference in development, they decided to call time on the festival. DLTM headed down to Minehead to join in the festivities as they saw out the very last Bloc. Weekender.
It had always been a dream of ours to visit Butlin’s as a wide-eyed child, though the experience we had at Bloc. was probably about as far removed from the one we envisaged between the ages of five to seven. The Bloc. Weekender is a techno-fueled holiday camp full of inebriated ravers of all ages. The Butlin’s location adds to its appeal. In case you’ve never been, it’s an old British style holiday camp with fairground rides, arcades and rows and rows of back-to-basics chalets where all manner of naughty rave-related antics take place. The hilarious juxtaposition between the location and the music policy was not lost on anyone.
The line-up this year was potent, with Thom Yorke, Four Tet, Jeff Mills, Carl Craig, Ben Klock, Nina Kraviz, Floating Points, Rødhåd and his Dystopian gang, Daniel Avery, Objekt and many many more cutting edge artists from the techno underground. Former snooker champion Steve Davis was also on the bill, which may have seemed like a novelty booking – however, Steve is an avid techno lover and threw down a quality set.
Over the course of three days and nights, Butlin’s in Minehead became a playground for mischievous adults and DJs alike. In the swimming pool a DJ booth was installed so selectors such as the mighty Egyptian Lover could throw down electro while we swam around the rapids and zipped down the water slides. Utterly bizarre, but equally enjoyable. Elsewhere, Daniel Avery, Ø [Phase], Objekt and Thom Yorke in particular were absolutely spot on with their performances.
Somehow though, it felt less about the music and more about the experience, despite the calibre of artists on the bill. From the Spar and it’s lack of fruit and vegetables (unless you count the tinned variety), to the fast food joints, the art deco hotel, the paper thin walls of the chalets, the sticky carpets inside the music venues and the cheesy fairground attractions, Bloc. felt like another planet at times. With the beach just across the road and the British weather actually turning out to be pretty decent, it was the perfect place to party all day and night, and, quite surprisingly, to relax, too… if you wanted to.
Make no mistake, everyone we spoke to there was blown away by the DJs and live performers, but how many techno festivals can boast of having a wedding on-site? Yep, on the Sunday afternoon DLTM were among several guests at the ‘techno wedding’, outside a small church inside the holiday camp. Spoilsport security guards told everyone to get out of the church and conduct the ceremony outside on its doorstep, which was a bit of a shame, but it worked out splendidly in the end with the sun shining down on what became quite an emotional event.
Overall, a great way to end the Weekender – a whimsical and very British event that epitomises why festivals in the UK are so much fun. No matter what the weather or location give us some good music, a load of booze and all the weird and wonderful characters who occupy this diverse and welcoming nation of ours, and we’ll party for as long as we can.