Babaji Pide on Shaftsbury Avenue was on the menu on Friday night and it was serving Pide. Described as Turkish pizza, I was initially suspicious and unwilling but after some convincing from my companions, I ordered it. Delightful and unexpected are usually two adjectives that don’t go together but on Friday they matched perfectly. Initially, Babaji had set me up to be a cynic with its no reservation policy, lack of space and the thousands of gawping tourists who passed by the window who I hadn’t invited to dinner. However, the food was delicious, the creamiest hummus I’ve ever eaten and a pizza like a calzone set me up for what could have been a cracking evening. Babaji was the starter and Lumiere London was the main.
I will prefix this review by saying that I am not a total curmudgeon but perhaps when I visited this walking nightmare, I was feeling slightly more cynical than normal. The festival is a walking one, with two hubs of installations orientated around light. I must admit that I did not visit the King's Cross hub so this is an incomplete review and others from the office strongly disagree with my contentious beliefs. Nonetheless, I press on and the brief walk from the restaurant to Piccadilly was totally packed. The crowds were reaching a total mass of people and as a BBC news reports suggests I was not alone. The organisers, Artichoke, had to turn off some installations due to overcrowding on Saturday.
The festival seemed like it had been engineered for the smart phone. You could not walk 5 metres without bumping into someone taking their totally unique and interesting photo of a rather underwhelming installation. The first installation that I saw were giant flying fish coloured orange and blue. They moved in the wind. They were tied to the ground by a piece of rope. They were boring. Moving on and positioned on Air Street was a 3D projection of an elephant. It was at this point I started to question my sanity as others were holding loved ones, taking photos, laughing, “that fake elephant is making real elephant noises!” No one seemed to question why there was elephant in a light festival.
The walk along Regent’s Street to Oxford Circus was lined by a bizarre stick man installation and finished with some sort of fishing netting draped in colour. This exhibit summed up the festival for me. The actual installation looked much better photographed than in real life. Perhaps I’m an 80 year old trapped in a 24 year’s old body but this whole event seemed created to be shared on social media. People sitting at home will go, “Oh that light exhibition looked good last year, let’s go!” but what they won’t see is the mass overcrowding and freezing winds. In the Liberty window was a dress that changed colour, a truly forgettable experience. Carnaby Street was crowded like a train during the morning commute and just off Carnaby, on a side road, was an installation of a stick woman walking. It was breathtaking but only due to the amount of people squeezing into such a small space. We finished at Trafalgar Square where people dispersed and you could move. I decided the festival wasn’t for me and headed home to have my own light festival with the TV.
BBC News article about overcrowding
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