Emerge festival, 28th September
Billed as ‘Glastonbury meets Night at the Museum’ and promising to go until the early hours of the morning, Emerge was an exciting prospect, thought one which I was wary about in terms of execution.
They had somehow persuaded some of the most interesting venues in London to stay open late and host soirees, gatherings, parties and experiences in them. And you could simply hop between venues by purchasing a wristband. Taking place over one weekend, each night of the festival offered a different lineup, ranging from raving to jungle in the Natural History museum to a silent disco on the glass walkway of Tower Bridge.
I suspected things like the above would be a roadblock but had hoped to at least manage to get to three or four places in the evening. None of the venues were particularly close together, necessitating tube travel between them all and I was disappointed to see that all of the activities on the Saturday night, for which I had a ticket, finished by midnight – most by 10 or 11 pm. That really didn’t give you much time to get to places and certainly does not count as the ‘early hours’ by anyone’s standards.
But I created a route and we set out. Success, at first. The Ice Soundscapes at the Canal museum were a moody, yet calming experience, sitting on some beanbags listening to a soundtrack purely created by the sounds that ice make. The place was mainly empty. Then we went to the Hendrix and Handel museum which was getting busier as we left. They had the whole thing open, so you had the actual normal exhibition to explore but they also had live music, some tunes in another room and some psychedelic lighting going on to liven it up. I could have spent much more time in there than I did, but we had other places we wanted to go to get our money’s worth.
Except that we couldn’t. A friend had gone ahead to the chocolate museum where our next destination was, and reported back that it was 1 in 1 out already and the queues were ridiculous. Only eight people at a time could take part in the immersive adventure they promised (which is ludicrous given the number of people with tickets, likely contributing to the wait.) We decided instead to risk seeing what the queues were like at Tower Bridge instead, presuming at least more people could get in at a time. Predictably monstrous – 1.5 hours at least. Ok, we’ll just go to the Old Operating theatre or the Nunnery gallery which should be less popular. Oh wait, no we won’t. By the time we get to the Nunnery, it will be finished for the night, and then a friend tells us that queues for the operating theatre are horrendous. Having lost the motivation to travel much farther to the only other real option available – the one thing that stayed open until midnight, (but who knows at that point, perhaps everyone would have the same idea and we would be met with even more queuing) we instead retired to a pub. Others who had bought tickets joined us, lamenting at the failure of their evenings as well. One couple had only managed to get in one place, something that lasted ten minutes.
I still really like the idea but the scope and execution really needs to be examined. There’s a reason most festivals choose one small area to focus on so that it is genuinely easy to hop between venues. Or, if you are going to be a little more spread out, then things need to go on for a lot longer to ensure you actually have time to get to any alternatives if it turns out the thing you want to go to most is going to take too long. (Or a third way, don’t sell as many tickets but that last one is pie in the sky I’m sure.)
If Emerge returns, I won’t be recommending it unless I can see it’s taken these issues into account. Otherwise they might as well just organise a series of one-off events like the silent disco on the bridge and just charge £25 as that’s kind of what the ‘festival’ turned into, then at least people know they are guaranteed to get in.