“So no one told you life was gonna be this way…”
If you know me, then you know it’s not a secret how much I love Friends. It was the first television show that I ever really fell in love with and more than that it was something that actually helped me through a really difficult time in my life.
During my teenage years when I was being bullied and finding it difficult to push myself to see the light at the end of the tunnel, Friends (yes, a tv show) was that light. I would tell myself that if I could just make it to Thursday then I could watch Friends, it was my reward for making it through another week. The show was my comfort blanket, it was my safety net and it still is.
Last year in London ,Comedy Central UK hosted the first FriendsFest which was a celebration of all things friends and it promptly sold out without me even having a chance at a ticket. Thankfully the Central Perk Gods were smiling on me this year and I snagged tickets to the extended FriendsFest at Chiswick Park. And it was…amazing.
The concept is an exhibition/experience style event based around Friends and despite the rather rainy weather the afternoon was really enjoyable (especially with complimentary umbrellas!)
The first stop we made was into Joey and Chandler’s apartment which was combined with the bar area. It was more of an open concept than the rest of the areas which was nice as it allowed for more of a chance to look at things but it wasn’t as complete as the other locations. It was still fun to try out the Lazy-Boy recliners and play a bit of foosball!
The theme of Friends was strong throughout the entire event, the food trucks had some subtle shoutouts to the show with Monica’s Mockolate truck, some New York Ice Cream, the Moondance Cafe and of course coffee from “Central Perk itself”.
Around the event area were smaller (and to be honest less impressive) places to get photos taken like a “las vegas wedding chapel” and a silent disco in the style of the New Years Eve dance-off. These almost seemed like last minute ideas that didn’t quite have the detail put into them but were nice to build out the area a little bit more.
There were two main stages, the first we visited was Central Perk and although the line was rather long it didn’t seem to take too long before we were walking through the doors into what was fairy accurate portrayal of the beloved cafe. There were obviously some inaccuracies but it was quite obvious that this was as close to Central Perk as they could get it and I felt like I never wanted to leave!
Inside the coffee shop were a few spots to stop and take photos, like playing Smelly Cat on the guitar, taking over from Gunther behind the counter serving coffee and of course enjoying a seat on the famous orange sofa (which despite best intentions, was quite obviously NOT the actual one from the show). All things considered it was pretty convincing!
The highlight of the entire experience was definitely the visit to Monica’s apartment, it was probably the most talked about in the buzz up to the event. Just before you entered the apartment you got another chance to sit on the orange sofa, this time recreating the opening sequence of the show.
Stepping into the apartment was a bit surreal, it was VERY close to be identical. If it weren’t for the hundreds of other people crammed into the tiny space it would feel as though you were actually intruding in the actual set of the show. There were subtle details all around the apartment including the pictionary board, some framed photos and even Rachel’s famous trifle in the fridge! Could I BE anymore excited!?
I’m not going to lie, I had a few anxious chills while looking around, it was the setting of not just my favourite show, but something that I’d seen so many times and it brought me out of so many rough moments. I felt like just being in that space, even though it was recreated and filled with other people was quite calming and it made me feel a strange sense of contentment. I almost didn’t want to leave as it was like the show ending all over again!
FriendsFest was, for me at least, a total blast from the past and enjoyable afternoon. There were a lot of comments about the queues, about the timing and how difficult it was to actually enjoy the rooms as you were pushed along rather quickly, but for me, just to see it and enjoy those moments inside my favourite spaces was heartwarming and I can’t wait see it all again one day soon.