London is not always welcoming to tourists. The Houses of Parliament are ringed by noisy roads and designed for the pleasure of the politicians within, not for viewing from without. The financial district isn’t the vertiginous castle of money that Wall street has to offer, while St Paul’s just isn’t Notre Dame or La Sagrada familiar. Oxford Street sure as hell isn’t the Champs Elysée.
But the Southbank is the city’s concession to holiday makers. It might be extruded in brutal concrete, but the skate boarders, buskers, and arts institutions and their enormous bars all open their arms to the tribe of the camera and baseball cap.
All this passed through my mind as I stood on the balcony of the National Theatre, watching Addictive TV project their creative output onto the side of the building. It’s an annual event, held every summer, and it works pretty well.
When you’re already in the landscape of the tourist, with all its artifice and showmanship, having a televisual experience on a screen the size of a house is somehow appropriate. I was half expecting the Millennium wheel to roll of down the Thames and blocks of flats to synchronise their lighting with the party’s pulse.
On at least two occasions the video exactly reflected what was actually taking place. While watching a group of people pass an oversized wrap of coke around with complete nonchalance a coke snorting scene from Pulp Fiction was chopped and cut in time with the music. We cheered on a guy who clambered on to a roof underneath the screen with his pants around his ankles, only to be confronted moments later with grainy footage of football streakers.
As the evening progressed the media types seemed to melt away, and to my surprise they were replaced with the kind of people who have three festival wrist bands as tokens of their summer achievements. Passing spliffs, trampling through the wheat that was incongruously planted on the roof and drinking cans of beer. I don’t know why I didn’t expect there to be a “party” contingent, its just that it’s a bit too, well, authentic, for this kind event.
The night did have the feel of a promotional event, which I suppose it was in a sense for Addictive TV, and certainly was for the films and equipment manufactures whose footage and names made their way into the show. At the same time there was a definite twist of anarchy and a festival mentality, we even asked for “one more” at the end. It had that subcultural edge that comes whenever there are long haired young people taking drugs.
Perhaps these kids were hooked on Addictive TV, as well as the Friday night coke-athon. Perhaps that’s the worst pun ever. Either way, I enjoyed myself.