London’s highest, and most iconic, landmark decided to have a second string of silent discos following the success of the sold-out events last year. Patrick Heardman went to see what all the fuss was about.
In the entrance of The View from the Shard, the interior makes every effort to look expensive. Grey, metal slabs lining the walls of the tunnel-like passageway are parted only by a few screens, all looping a video telling of numerous Shard facts.
It’s all very repetitive, but in a Star Wars, Lando Calrissian’s residence in Cloud City, kind of way. At any moment, Chewy could fumble around the corner with C3P0 strapped to his back, exclaiming ‘arrrrghuhgh’ as he goes. Instead, there’s a generously priced gift shop, just in case you want to buy a scale model of a sharp, pointy building right before you go drinking.
In the lift to the top, the porter assures a guest that because the building is slanted, you have to take two lifts to get there, but among the confused faces, the ascent is marked with an excited anticipation. Stepping out on the 72nd floor is simply breathtaking. This is the highest publically accessible point; even though there are 15 floors above it, and the view from all sides of the building is incredible.
But then I put the headphones on. Flicking between the three available channels I’m confronted by Bon Jovi, Blink 182 and The Mystery Jets. (Each channel changes a light on your headphones to red, blue or green, so you can identify your fellow listeners). The alternative to the cheesy bass-lacking music coming through my headphones is the sound of the crowd of young, inner-city professionals singing three different songs at once. That’s the problem with silent discos- there aren’t speakers.
This isn’t good news. Just like in The Empire Strikes Back, Lando Calrissian’s promising welcome has turned to betrayal; the allure of Cloud City’s heady heights have caught me off guard, and thrust me into a predicament. How can the beauty of the Shard, and this venue, promise so much but deliver so little? As the famous words of Admiral Akbar resonate through my head, I should have known all along, ‘it’s a trap’. Whilst I mull this over, I take a trip to the gentleman’s.
Suddenly the magic is back, windows from ceiling to floor allow the most incredible panoramic views of the capital, all from the comfort of the toilet seat. This feels extra special, as I’m told level 72 is normally closed at 5pm and to see the city at night, from this altitude, is a rarity. I have to say, it was the most impressive place I’ve ever taken a shit.
Being St Patrick’s Day, I fully expected to see a few out of control punters donning those Guinness top-hats, but surprisingly, the atmosphere was very mature and measured. Much to my initial disappointment, the bar didn’t even sell the famed Irish beverage, but I later decided this was a good idea as it removed the night from the, ‘It’s St paddy’s let’s get smashed for no good reason’ culture. Everyone was there to just have a sensible time; probably due to the fact the majority had work at 8am the next morning. Given the 11pm closing, the organisers had clearly anticipated their main demographic.
The View from the Shard is a truly unique experience, and something I’ll never forget, but with prices of £25 just for the view and £35 for the Silent Disco event, it’s well out of any reasonable affordability. This may explain the slow start to business since the attraction opened in 2013, as they struggled to entice the forecasted number of visitors. If these mammoth prices can be addressed and you’re after something more high-brow than hedonistic, then the journey to (nearly) the top of this impressive structure might well be worth it.