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Overcrowding closes showcase east London 'pop-up' park

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Police had to shut down the opening of the ‘pop-up’ London Pleasure Gardens at the weekend due to issues over crowd safety

Large crowds, ticketing problems and rain were blamed by the police for creating ‘pinch-points’ at the venue - which was a high-profile GLA-backed meanwhile use competition-winner - leading to the evacuation at 12:45am on Saturday morning of the pop-up park on the development site in the Royal Docks.

In the wake of the problems Baselogic – organisers of the festival featuring Steve Reich and Snoop Dogg –– voluntarily went into administration yesterday (11 July).

The 18,000 capacity event was ‘gruelling’ and suffered from ‘chaotic crowd management’ according to a festival-goer report in the Evening Standard.

Festival ticketing company Crowdsurge said it stopped scanning tickets and searching guests at around 9.30pm at the request of Baselogic and London Pleasure Gardens staff. It said just 15,796 tickets were sold for the opening night.

‘Crowdsurge staff at the venue were given no reason by the security team as to why scanning processes should cease’, the company said in a statement.

Baselogic apologised for ‘frustration and disappointment’ caused by the early closure and asked for time to allow the administrators to carry out a ‘thorough investigation so we can establish the facts’.

London Pleasure Gardens said it was ‘hugely saddened’ by news of the company going into administration but said it was ‘vital’ to prioritise safety, adding: ‘we managed a safe and controlled exit without anyone getting hurt’.

Local authority Newham Council said it was in ‘close dialogue’ with London Pleasure Gardens to ensure future events are ‘managed safely’ but no review of licences was underway.

Greg Lomas of Foster Lomas – which created a ‘hanging gardens’ installation on the site – blamed problems with the venues and ticketing for the disaster.

He said: ‘My wife went down there with her TV production company because they were going to be filming Snoop Dogg.

‘There was a lot overcrowding and people were queuing for two or three hours outside then a security guard let them through and that’s when the place got overcrowded.  They ran out of alcohol at 10pm.’

Lomas claimed unexpected costs linked to denominating the asbestos-strewn site may have contributed to a number of RIBA London and Price and Myers-commission follies not being delivered on the site.

‘The site was covered in asbestos – it was ground up rubbish from the industrial buildings but they had to take that up and bury it,’ he said, adding: ‘Certainly it impacted on the budget for the RIBA elements.’

London Pleasure Gardens art director Kaye Dunnings said six planned follies were abandoned, explaining: ‘They were completely over budget from what they were given by us and they were unable to give us the relevant information on time.’

Among projects not delivered were a £3,500 polystyrene and jesmonite structure by Denizen Works - whose ‘seldge sauna’ was shortlisted for the sustainability award for this year’s AJ Small Projects - and a mirror maze by Mobile Studio.

A ‘frustrated’ Murray Kerr of Denizen Works said: ‘When you design something and it doesn’t happen and you don’t get paid, you are out of pocket because you spent the time designing something.’

RIBA London director Tamsie Thomson rejected London Pleasure Gardens’ claims of a ‘list’ of six projects which failed to be delivered and explained that Denizen Works and Mobile Studio  follies  were stopped because they were unable to be delivered on time and to budget.

She added there was an ‘ambition’ to construct them on the east London waterside plot next year.

Four follies have so far been constructed on the site including an oyster bar by Visitor Studio, a hanging gardens by Foster Lomas, an ornamental pool by Fourks-Lyons and Perspective Folly by Nickolas Kirk Architects. The ‘rainbow folly’ by Studio Squat is also on site but yet to complete.

In March last year, the London Pleasure Gardens temporary events venue concept won a Greater London Authority-run competition, announced by London mayor Boris Johnson at MIPIM, for meanwhile use of the gargantuan Silvertown Quay site which is home to London’s iconic Millennium Mills.

AHMM and Arup are part of a Chelsfield and First Base-led £1.2 billion long-term project to transform the former London Development Agency-owned site into a mix of education facilities, offices, shops and homes.

London Pleasure Gardens will host an ‘Art of Dark Garden Party’ event this weekend.

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