Between the 15-24 September 2017, Friendsfest set up camp in London at Clissold Park, the last of its six-city tour. The event kickstarted in back in 2015, just over a decade after the final episode was aired on TV, with tickets selling out in minutes.
Tickets cost £25 and could be bought in a maximum of 2’s making it difficult to organise a group outing. On the day of your tour, you can be onsite at any time, however be aware that when it says: ‘visitors typically spend 1.5 hours here’, they really mean that. Once you’ve popped your umbrella up for the titles shot, grabbed some (overpriced) macaroni cheese and nachos from Monica’s diner and hailed down Phoebe’s cab there’s not really that much left to do.
The event advertises being able to sit back and relax whilst watching episodes of Friends, well, with your friends. That’s great, I think, that will solve my Friends withdrawal (unfortunately I couldn’t smuggle one of our two, yes two, complete box sets with me to London). But, that’s not really the case, you can sit in a deckchair and watch their favourite moments, sure. But not full episodes. This was slightly disappointing I must admit. That said, a rep will jump up on stage every hour and get you singing along to Smelly Cat and you’ll be wishing Chandler and Monica a Happy Hanukkah in no time. If you’re unlucky with the weather, everyone will suddenly flee the beach chairs and dash to Central Perk for a warming drink. Yes, you can sit in the café, but only for a photo. The one you purchase drinks from is just a canopy providing shelter attached to that, and sadly, there is no Gunther.
The tour began with a surprise, obviously I hadn’t done my research beforehand. We walked into an exhibit room hosting costumes of the cast including the Holiday Armadillo, Robot Boy, and Rachel’s 18 page letter (front and back) to Ross. After everyone had walked round these, we moved onto the exciting part- the set. This included Joey and Chandler’s apartment, the hallway, and Monica’s grandmother’s apartment. Whilst I was thrilled to be sitting in one of the lazy boys giving Hugsy a cuddle, I’m conflicted in the same way I was when I visited the Warner Bros. Studio tour, I don’t want the magical illusion to end, I don’t want to believe that the apartment doors are in fact fake and that there is more than just the landing (that doesn’t have real steps) between the two rooms.
Overall, I feel the tour slightly rushed and too many people squeezing in at once. I didn’t know which corner to dash to first. The guides make sure that everyone steps back from the scene to allow us all a photo of the apartments empty, however whilst most people obey, there’s always one couple who will loiter to get that amazing shot of them in the middle of it all without being shadowed by the crowd.
I wouldn’t say it’s in the same league as the Warner Bros. tour. It can’t be as it’s a travelling set. There could be more activities going on to make it more of a day out, rather than an event lasting a couple of hours, but I guess that’s necessary to get the sheer volume of fans in and out. Regardless, it’s always nice with these things to be surrounded by likeminded people, exercising sociability you didn’t know you possessed as you wait in the queues. I was highly amused by a couple who had brought their baby along, questioning whether they’d realise the significance of having been there when they’re older! Silly question, they’re going to grow up with the episodes on repeat.
Don’t miss out! Friends fest will be back in 2018…
Words, Rachel Deakin @RachelSophiexo