The Secret Garden Party held their first winter event at Battersea Power Station last weekend. It was certainly interesting, but I can't help but feel that it could have benefited from a little better organisation.
Initially the 'Sunday Roast' was supposed to be a dinner from 7pm.. then it changed to a lunch from 3pm.. I got an email from Secret Garden saying I should pick up the tickets at a nearby pub, followed 10mins later by an email from See Tickets telling me that the tickets were available at the venue. Argh.
Half an hour was spent on Sunday morning unsuccessfully trying to get through to See Tickets in order to clarify. Finally, we decided to meet at the pub, and that was lucky as this was indeed the pick-up point for the tickets (otherwise we would have had to trek 15mins from Battersea Power Station to the pub and back again in the freezing drizzle). I could go on, but I think you get the picture..
The venue itself was very impressive though. A sort of huge tent had been erected in the middle of the power station to house a raised terrance of dining table, stages, bars and a variety of workshop rooms. There were also signs to 'hot tubs' and 'ass-trology' which had their own smaller tents.
Having proceeded down the impressive entrance, we sat down at our table and ordered some drinks. On the table was a note: "We will come for you at x o'clock. Be ready, be discreet. /Mr M"
Hmmm. After about 20mins, a couple of Thunderbird style red-uniformed chaps with 'The Trust' badges arrived to 'take us to see Mr M', and ushered us outside the tent into the freezing interior of the power station. We had to replace our shoes with clompy boots, don hard hats and dress in high-visibility vests.
I guess the health & safety aspects of this event must have been a nightmare, but the uniformed chaps managed to make it fun and part of the process of meeting Mr M rather than simply following H&S guidelines.
Then off we went, single file into the station itself with our red-uniformed guides babbling happily about 'the movement' and 'how exciting' it was. Having been exposed to a range of experiential theatre events in the past, I found it surprisingly easy to switch off from the non-sense chatter and instead try and get as many photos as possible while not falling out of the all important single-file format. Proceeding up through a dirty stairwell, past aging exposed girders, graffiti-clad concrete walls and plastic mesh, we were hearded into a tiny windowless room. Again we were treated to a load of non-sense about 'The Trust' movement, how there had apparently been 'victories on both sides' and that 'careless talk costs wives'!
Non-plussed we were escorted into the Machine Room which was impressive indeed. Row upon row of switches, handles, knobs and dials. Very retro-future looking.
Single file please!
A slightly unhinged-seeming lady in a white lab coat asked us to 'trust' before introducing us to Mr M himself in all his frizzy-haired glory.
Mr M talked earnest codswallop for about 5 mins, before the following conversation happened:
Mr M (looking beseechingly at one of our group members): Tell me, what sort of mouse are you?
Group member (looking perplexed): I'm not sure I'm any sort of mouse.
Mr M: You're not sure you're any sort of mouse?
GM (not wanting to disappoint): Maybe...maybe a harvest mouse.
Mr M: A harvest mouse! You are a GOLDEN MOUSE!!
He then made us hold hands and sing along with him: "I'm fine, I'm fine, I'm happy, I'm happy, I'm not angry, I'm a golden pony..(repeat)"
Sing-song with Mr M. (I think the blurred nature of this photo reflects the weirdness of the situation rather well):
Soon after, we left the Machine Room with the unhinged lab coat lady calling after us: "Remember, sometimes 'trust' is spelled with a 'y'!" Scuttling back down the stairs and corridors, I again tried to steal a couple of moments just to look around and wonder at the huge decaying building. It really was quite overwhelming!
Spot the tent!
What was not so overwhelming was the roast dinner which was awaiting our return to the table. It was certainly edible, but not particularly exciting. Lunch was over at about 5pm, and was followed by a couple of rather bizarre floor acts: Dangerous Dave and Jizzum. Dangerous Dave proceeded to swallow a long pink balloon, before pulling a brown balloon animal out of his trousers. A 'poo-dle' apparently. Most amusing.
Jizzum were two ladies dressed as sperms. They erupted out of a large pink tube and proceeded to try to burrow into a large white yoga ball before stepping out of their white 'sperm suits' dressed as babies. All rather bizarre. And then the entertainment stopped.
Jizzum in action:
Wandering around the space it was clear that nothing more was going to happen until later that evening. There were little rooms with maps encouraging you to place a drawing pin and note at the location where you 'lost your love', an unopened stall promising to hand out locks to girls and keys to boys (if the right lock found the right key, there were Secret Garden gig tickets to be won), a cushion-filled room promising love stories etc etc.
Map of lost loves:
Sadly we couldn't be arsed to wait around much longer so decided to call it a day. To be honest, the main attraction was the power station itself and we were happy just to have seen that.
Should The Secret Garden Party decided to put on future events in London (especially in the Battersea Power Station) I would be happy to attend again, but perhaps arrive a little later. And not on a Sunday.
I can't help but think that London should really make more of this current infatuation with derelict spaces and do some proper tours. Could you imagine how much they could make from taking people around old tube stations, neglected historical buildings and the like?