F.R.I.E.N.D.S Fest 2017 - Clissold Park, London

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Back in May I bought tickets for Dan & I for F.R.I.E.N.D.S Fest 2017. I'd seen it advertised on the new home of F.R.I.E.N.DS., Comedy Central, and read up on previous years events and knew we had to go! Like most millennials we love F.R.I.E.N.D.S. and I, for one, could watch every episode on repeat. I'm not ashamed to admit I'm one of those people who know most episodes word for word.


I expected it to be something similar to the Warner Bros Harry Potter Studio Tour, but as it is a pop up event in a park I imagined it would be in a make shift studio.
It actually turned out that F.R.I.E.N.D.S Fest was set up just like a festival; there was a big stage in the centre playing clips from the show, surrounded by deck chairs and there were booths with photo opportunities around the edges; Central Perk, Ross and Rachel's Vegas Chapel, the opening titles sofa, Phoebe's grandma's cab and more. Thankfully the weather was dry or it would have been a bit of a washout.

There were also various food carts around; 'My Sandwich' where you could buy the sandwich Ross has a literal break down over (including the famous 'moist maker'), the 'MoonDance Diner' which served burgers, fries and the like, 'Mockolate' - serving mockolate crepes, waffles and more, as well as a pop-up 'Chick and Duck' bar, offering cocktails and mocktails. They were all quite pricey, as expected, but it was a fun touch to have themed food rather than your standard fast food carts.

When you buy your ticket you are also asked to book a studio tour time slot  (this is included in the price of the ticket), I wasn't really sure what this was but 4:40pm was the earliest available so I selected that one and thought I would wait to see what it was all about once we arrived - unfortunately we were severely disappointed.

We were promised 10 minute tours of Joey and Chandlers Apartment as well as the famous hallway and 10 minutes in Monica's apartment in small groups so we could have the chance to explore, test out the sets and snap pictures. It wasn't like that at all. We were pushed into the set - New York apartments of course, so not very big - in a group of around 30 people and it was literally 20 minutes of mad panic trying to push your way onto the lazy boys, or onto Monica's sofa for a crappy photo op with tons of bodies in the background. It was just chaos and we ended up with very few photos that were just mediocre - you'll see from my pictures above. I was so deflated. It was brilliant to see the sets in person but unfortunately most of it was seen through our phone screens as we blindly panicked to get pictures of everything before the ridiculously short time slot ran out.

10 minutes would be plenty of time to look around if the groups were of 10 people, but it just didn't work with such a big crowd and was so disappointing.

We visited Central Perk for a few more photo opportunities and to sit for a coffee. You could pose in front of the coffee shop window, stand behind the counter with various pastries and mugs, sit on the gangs couch and play the guitar that made Smelly Cat a Central Perk sensation. There were staff on hand to snap your pics for you but unfortunately they either hadn't had much training or just couldn't be bothered because once again you were rushed through everything and the photos were shoddy.
Granted the photos were just taken on the phone you handed them but you can see from the couch photo below that they just weren't paying attention - half of the sofa is cut out and there is no background, we could have been sat anywhere, and believe it or not this was our second time round as we thought the first photos we had done were bad. We would have asked for it to be done again but no sooner had your bum hit the couch then you had to be up and out again. I cant imagine what it would be like on a weekend.
I took the photo of Dan on the guitar, and I'm certainly no pro but at least I got a bit of context in it with the Central Perk logo.
It's little things like this that really make a difference, for me anyway. I wanted to be able to look back on these photos and smile, not remember how disappointed I felt.

Although this has seemed like a pretty negative post we did have a fairly nice time. We enjoyed wandering around together and looking at the goodies in the gift shop. We liked sitting in the pop up Central Perk and drinking a coffee. We loved sitting on the deck chairs watching the funniest clips from the show and admiring a rather brilliant Phoebe tribute. It was fun to see people learning 'the routine' and there was a happy atmosphere around. It was a good day, but not one that I would be in a hurry to relive should the event be on next year. 
F.R.I.E.N.D.S Fest had the potential to be brilliant but there were just too many little things that let it down. I would have loved to see more props from the show, and just be allowed more time to enjoy what was on offer rather than it being a one-in-one-out affair.

One thing is for sure, I now need a Hugsy in my life!

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