We went to Butlins on the UK coast for Bloc Weekender – here's what we learned
Ask most people in Britain about Butlins and they'd most likely reference Cliff Richard and Redcoats, but to our generation Butlins represents something different - playgrounds to get fucked up in, a forgotten bastion of British culture that we're too young to remember, a place to dance to techno. ATP held events there for years, but that was always more plaid and pose than party.
On the other hand, Bloc has always played host to the full gamut of gurners, a hedonistic journey held in surreal surroundings. Bloc famously failed itself and punters when it moved from Butlins to London in 2012 and lost the trust it had built up over the years, amid claims of poor organisation and difficulties obtaining refunds post-disaster. This year marked not only a return to Butlins, but Bloc's return as a festival. We took a chalet – here's what we figured out.
GET SOME WOMEN IN YOUR LINEUP
Festivals are coming in for heavy criticism for ignoring gender equality and to be honest, rightly so. Bloc were called out for it prior to opening at Butlins and whoever's in charge of their Twitter account didn't handle it too brilliantly. There are a lot of names that could have been booked to even the disparity up – Cooly G, Magda, Laurel Halo, Hannah Sawtell, Eclair Fifi, Steffi - to name but six. If any of these acts were included on the bill it would have made total sense musically, making the fact that only three women appeared on the lineup pretty inexcusable.
Also lads, remember – sausagefests should happen accidentally - like you asked girls to come but they didn't show up. Organising one on purpose just ain't on. As promoters that loosely represent some kind of underground, Bloc has a responsibility to push things forward, stay contemporary and remain aware of what's going on. Next year, more women on the bill.
OK THE LINEUP WAS PRETTY GOOD
Despite the aforementioned lack of women on the lineup, there were at least loads and loads of good men to go and watch, more or less all the time. Whether it was Karenn at 3am, Perc getting heavy on the Plex stage or Hudson Mohawke valiantly battling with sound bleeds, Bloc had put together a remarkable collection of fellas.
SECURITY WERE AGGRESSIVE WASTEMEN INTENT ON ABSOLUTELY KILLING VIBE
On the way down we heard that Bloc had put really tight security on the door, with sniffer dogs too. We sailed through without incident, but saw other cars being ripped apart - a total buzzkill when you're arriving on a Friday night. I'm not saying that Bloc will have demanded security this tight, 'cause they won't have done, but they will have known about it. My feeling is that they should have warned punters on the website in advance.
The security wasn't any chiller inside either. I was hanging out at the World Unknown stage at about 8am with my friends. 90% of me was having a great time, while the other 10% was dedicated to disappointment at watching meatheads leap over the barriers in a bid to catch anyone they thought had just taken a pill out of their pockets. I saw them getting it wrong too, which was just plain weird. Besides that, the atmosphere in there was great, so leave it like that. Step in if you see someone attempting to kick the shit out of someone else, 'cause that's bad for vibe. It's well documented that the war on drugs has been lost, not just in the world, but in Butlins too.
PUT SOMETHING ELSE ON BLOC TV OTHER THAN GROUNDHOG DAY
Right, fuck off. Groundhog Day is a completely overrated film as it is, but Bloc decided to put it on constant rotation, you know, 'cause Groundhog Day is all about the same day happening over and over again. I get it. I'm at a techno festival in my chalet looking for an opportunity to relax, I don't need a crash course in meta. Archived episodes of 120 Minutes would have been nice, or even a trilogy, but spare me the same "classic" film on repeat. I reckon my distaste for the film meant I saw a lot more music though.
TAKE A BREAK FROM TECHNO AND DO SOME GO KARTING
You can't go to Fabric and go go-karting. I don't recall hitting Hydra and stopping for a game of laser quest. You're at Butlins, which means you can do these things. So make sure you stumble down to the games areas in a state that would shame your grandma and demand a go on the go karts. It's 3 quid and will prove to be the highlight of your weekend, no matter how much you tell everyone when you get home that it was actually Vessel at 4pm, cause "no-one was there, so you could properly listen". Hit up the child inside, he's still your best mate and he's always available.
WATCHING ROBERT HOOD DJ IS A TRULY SPIRITUAL EXPERIENCE
OK OK, I know what you're thinking - spare me the "last night a DJ saved my life" and "Bloc is like a church maaaan" bullshit, but I felt so alive watching Robert Hood throw down his unique mix of gospel-infused techno. No-one takes it so hard to the heavens like the Detroit DJ and he seems like he's having such a good time too. He's a religious man who takes it to work with him and seemingly for all the right reasons. Best set of the weekend by some distance.
The only problems at Bloc were the lack of women on the bill and security. Hopefully both things will be sorted out for next year. Overall, this was a triumphant return for Bloc - a fabulous atmosphere, with no reports of violence, stealing or someone going too far on the narcs - all common reports from any UK festival. The music went on until 10am and they let everyone take in speakers for the chalets, which guaranteed a 24 hour party. It can't really be regarded as anything else but a success.