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Bloc Weekend to return in 2015, founders discuss rebuilding the festival

By | Published on Thursday 16 October 2014

Bloc Weekend

The Bloc Weekend festival has announced its return to Butlins in Minehead next year, three years on from the ill-fated London version of the event. Taking place in March, the first wave of artists have been announced – including Jeff Mills, Modeselektor and Hudson Mohawke – with the festival returning to the holiday camp format it previously ran successfully for a number of years.

As you may remember, Bloc’s 2012 event in London was shut down by organisers mid-way through its first night due to overcrowding at the London Pleasure Gardens complex where it was taking place. People seemingly managing to gain entry without tickets exacerbated existing problems caused by the Pleasure Gardens site not being completed on schedule and therefore not being fully ready to receive visitors. The complex was put into administration just weeks after the Bloc cancellation as other promoters lost confidence in it.

The debacle forced the company behind Bloc into administration too, though its founders returned less than a year later with a series of parties, and opened a permanent venue in East London.

And on 13-15 Mar next year, founders Alex Benson and George Hull will relaunch the Bloc festival, back at the site it previously occupied from 2009 to 2011. So far confirmed to play are Jeff Mills, Ben Klock, Marcel Dettmann, Modeselektor, ESG, Carl Craig, Hudson Mohawke, Jackmaster, Omar S, Robert Hood, Karenn, Hessle Audio, and Moritz Von Oswald Trio.

Discussing the process of rebuilding Bloc back up to a large-scale event, Benson told CMU: “We had to restore ourselves personally and professionally. We built a venue in an ex-furniture factory, got a permanent licence and the correct planning permission, and processed over a thousand people on a busy weekend. We then relaunched Bloc as an internal promotion at that venue last year, rebuilding all of our relationships and starting to consistently sell it out. That operation, coupled with our past history delivering weekenders, restored a lot of confidence”.

“The actual reasons for the failure of the [London] event were well known in the industry”, he added, talking about the support his company has received from fans and the music business over the last two years. “We have found many people we worked with in the past to be very sympathetic, especially given our history prior to the London event. We weren’t the only organisation to be badly burned by the whole thing – but we were perhaps the most high profile”.

Throughout all of this, it’s notable that Bloc has remained independent. With a brand strong enough to survive what happened in London, and large companies currently in acquisition mode in the dance festival market, there must have been a temptation to try to partner with an SFX or Live Nation.

“Yes, we considered everything that could possibly bring Bloc back to its previous position, and have talked seriously about these kind of deals many times before”, he agreed. “But it’s not like you’re walking down the street and Live Nation are driving behind you slowly calling out the window, ‘C’mere you little festival, we want to gobble you up…’ To make it work for everyone you have to both want a deal, and sometimes the situation just isn’t right”.

And, he continued: “Being independent is great because it makes you more agile and responsive. We feel like we know the people who go to Bloc better than anyone and not having any buffer between us and them helps us reach them better”.

Asked what he and Hull had learned from the fall out of the 2012 event, Benson concluded: “To choose your partners very, very carefully. And that Butlins is an organisation you can depend on”.

More information and tickets for the 2015 event are available here.

Here’s a short video to set the mood: