FYI: Ministry Of Sound at Thorpe Park will leave you dogged, dazed and dehydrated
Written by Zen Terrelonge
The Merlin Group has revamped itself in recent years, tailoring neighbouring South UK offerings Chessington World of Adventures and Thorpe Park to serve specific purposes.
The former was given a more family-orientated spin, while the latter was designed to cater to thrill-seekers, twinning its northern sister Alton Towers.
And in keeping with its radical image, Thorpe Park has teamed with the Ministry Of Sound ‘for an epic night of rides and tunes exclusively for over 18s’.
Sounds pretty innovative, right? Reeling revellers in with temptation of a summer night, roller coasters in the dark, and alcohol.
So on the basis of the fresh experience on offer, I was sold, booking my ticket and eagerly anticipating a night of fun on Saturday, 4th August.
Now, there’s a few things Thorpe Park clarifies before arrival: The rides are only open from 9pm-11pm, and ‘selected rides’ at that, while the club is open from 10pm-3am.
It wasn’t an issue. I arrived at around 8.30pm and joined the queue with a smile on my face, ready to enter the park. But as I remained an outsider looking in – with sniffer dogs snorting at my ankles – while the clock happily ticked and tocked its way towards 9.15pm, I started to get confused as to why I was shuffling along in a line that wasn’t for SAW The Ride or Colossus.
It turns out the security staff were trying to become something of a ride themselves, dizzying bystanders with their incredibly ferocious searching techniques that went to heights beyond anything ever demonstrated anywhere – except maybe prison.
By that, I mean I (and every other guest) was forced to step through a metal detector, before then opening up my wallet – quite embarrassing when it’s full of moths – for a search, as well as my tin of Aloe Vera Vaseline (possibly in case I had product I wanted to smear into my gums, rather than my lips).
I was also asked to turn my phone on. “I’m sorry?” was my bemused response. “Can you turn your phone on?” So I sheepishly woke up my BlackBerry from its slumber to reveal a shiny wallpaper from my weekend at Global Gathering. “Ok, that’s fine,” was the security woman’s reply, granting me entry to the park past 9.30pm.
I’m not sure what my wallpaper would had to have sported for me to have been carted out the back to get roughed up by the boys. Maybe an image of ecstasy, marijuana, or worse still, rivals Disneyland or Universal Studios.
Like I said, I did my research, so I knew SAW The Ride, Colossus, Rush, Zodiac, Vortex and Quantum were the only rides on offer that night, but they wore thin very quickly.
I have no idea how, (okay, I’ve a little inkling*) but the ride times were under ten minutes each, very nice and slick indeed, pat on the back. Though to really offer a worthwhile experience, it would have been nice to have hopped on board some other numbers such as Stealth, and 2012 debut, The Swarm, for example.
After riding our little hearts out, and eating a hot dog, fries, and drink combo that cost £6.95 each, we marched over to the club itself, which is held in the main entrance dome.
It should be noted that one of the staff members advised some of my latecomer friends that the rides were open to 11.45pm by way of apologising for the supremely sluggish queue to enter the park, though this was nothing more than a cruel deceitful lie (much like the one a staff member told me about Nemesis and The Swarm being open).
Unless of course, you were swinging around on Rush at 11.05pm. As we passed by it was perfectly clear that those strapped in only had to shriek “again, again”, to ride, well, again, again. Meanwhile, us envious peasants were chained outside and refused entry like a merrymaker that yearns to enter a VIP section without a ticket.
One of the bouncers advised that it was incredibly hot inside the dome, so I went to the bar to quench my thirst at about 11.15pm, and it’s here I was treated to an experience of what it would be like to sail aboard The Black Pearl, from The Pirates of the Caribbean.
Aptly, the bar staff were in t-shirts that said ‘crew’, but Drake would be saddened to see there was no ‘love’ here.
My inkling*: All of the non-riders were in the bar from the outset.
The five strong crew looked like tortured souls, glistening in sweat, with cheeks reddened by the overwhelming number of paying customers waving notes in their faces.
My six foot plus stature and furrowed brow was irrelevant here, for I was treated like a ghostly sailor, and the wrestler (and attention-seeking crying child) in me was forced to tag my partner into the ring-like bar to provide the surrounding contenders with a fresh challenge before I walked the plank and submitted.
The service was disgusting, my friend and I very nearly left the queue, but with the time now standing at 00.10am, it would have been a huge waste of time, and we’d become incredibly dry-mouthed by that point.
I went outside to get fresh air, but rather than a crisp summer evening’s breeze, I was gassed with the smell of burning weed, which a savvy bouncer also detected, prompting him to radio through for the sniffer dogs.
My hard-working, cash-spending companion Pete finally found me outside some ten minutes later and rewarded me with a can of Relentless – I was designated driver – and cup of tap water (they had run out of bottles).
If you’re going to run an event like this, having one bar with hundreds of thirsty guests and inexperienced staff is only going to lead to disappointment, frustration, and anger.
Moving on from the nightmarish drink-capturing scene, we entered the dome at last, having missed a number of songs I’d have liked to have shaken a leg to.
I can’t fault the music, as the DJs smashed out a host of electronic mixes of house, dance, pop, and R&B, with a carefree crowd enjoying the sweaty vibe.
This wasn’t enough to redeem the clear faults the venue is riddled with though, and I would implore the company to swab the deck of their rickety tub before someone turns aggressive (I saw one guy shouting a barmaid down before he was pacified), or genuinely dehydrated and ill, easily achievable in the room which boasted tropical temperatures.
Analysis: Thorpe Park after dark is a very seedy place indeed, drugs, dogging, and dehydration are all on the cards. One worker even advised me to urinate in a bush. I’m sure he’d have delighted in throwing me out, had I followed his instruction.
Posted on 05/08/2012, in Events, Zentertainment News and tagged Days Out, Ministry of Sound, Music, opinion, Reviews, The Merlin Group, Thorpe Park, Tourism, Travel. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a Comment.