FRIENDSFEST | fivethreeninety

On Thursday I got married in Vegas, had coffee in Central Perk, counted in the fake new year at Dick Clark’s Rockin’ New Year & hung out in Monica Gellar’s apartment. I went to FriendsFest 2016 & it was amazing.

I bought tickets a couple of months back to take my sister & my cousin, for the latter’s birthday present. My cousin Robyn is the biggest Friends fan I know – her eighteenth birthday party was Friends themed, with a set menu of Moist Makers & Grandma’s Chicken Salad & red plastic cups as party hats & strung out as bunting in true Phoebe style.

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She can quote any episode & knows everything there is to know about the show. And my family loves it too, but nobody can compete with Robyn. With my sister, this does mean there’s three of us girls who are big fans: a Monica, a Rachel & a Phoebe. I love them so much!!

None of us had any idea what to expect at all from the event, but it turned out to be quite like a festival (which does sound stupid saying when it’s literally called FriendsFest). Ours was at Chiswick House & Gardens in London on the second stop of the sold out tour round the country. It was really spacious which made the event seem really relaxed & so easy to enjoy which was great.  All the stands are spaced out in the open air or in tents, & there’s a huge stage with hundreds of deck chairs laid out in front of it to watch stage activities & clips from the show.

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The stage content itself was just a bit of fun, not really fit the humour style of Friends but it was amusing & involving & just nice to see people getting up & really enjoying the day. Some of the games they hosted were really fun – they had a competition to see who could put on the most layers of clothing in one minute in reference to Joey wearing all of Chandler’s clothes in The One Where No One’s Ready. The winners of those games all got to pose with the infamous Gellar Cup. There was also hourly sing alongs of Smelly Cat which sounds like it would have been great, but the ‘Phoebe-ish” lady they had to sing it on stage wasn’t that great & kept getting the words wrong & trying to “mix it up”. We still sang though (it’s Smelly Cat, I’ll always sing).

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The clips on the big iconic framed-screen were the best though, showing a reel of best Friends moments & character snippets – all we wanted was a tent full of beanbags that would just play loads of episodes. We were all laughing so hard every time, quoting along the words & loving having everyone around us doing exactly the same. Friends fans are the best.

We were too excited to wait & made our way to the queue for Central Perk. We had loads of photos taken outside in front of the sign before heading in… (!!!!)

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Central Perk is obviously full of photo ops – we posed on the coffee tables, lay down on the back sofas, served drinks behind the counter, performed renditions of our favourite Phoebe songs with her guitar & song book on the stage & of course, sat & chatted on the infamous orange sofa.

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The attention to detail in all the sets is seriously amazing, & there’s little props for you to have your photo taken with, like apron’s behind the counter so you can spend a few minutes working at Central Perk (& somehow that makes me look like a Bake Off Contestant???)

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Then we went to Joey & Chandler’s apartment, & kicked back in the Lazy Boy armchairs in front of the entertainment unit, watching Friends on a big nineties television.

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They had everything there, including a hockey stick through the handles on the entertainment unit doors from the episode where Joey gets locked in, & the cut in Chandler’s door from when Joey was making the unit. The cushions on the chairs were even printed with photos of a chick & a duck – some of the best pets to ever grace television screens no doubt.

We also had a few games of foosball which I lost at every time (but it was just me against the two others) & a sit down in the canoe which was everything I’d ever dreamed of.

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The lovely lady who took this photo told me that if Robyn & Lucy were Joey & Chandler, then I was the duck. I’ve never felt so honoured.

Also at Joey & Chandler’s was The Chick & Duck Bar, which served a whole array of drinks with names like Pivot! & Bing-A-Ling! They were too expensive to actually get one but oh my I was so tempted, just to order the name.

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One of the nicest touches there was all the food trucks were themed/ related to Friends. There was Central Perk coffee (of course), a mac & cheese van, a ‘Mocklate’ stall & maybe the best of all, the themed diner that Monica worked at where she had to wear glasses, a wig & fake boobs. There were two people there in costume who broke out into the YMCA every hour or so which was AMAZING.

I’m pretty sure the highlight of the day was the only thing you had to book in advance for – Monica’s apartment. Before you go in you get the chance to recreate the title sequence, umbrellas & sofa & all. We even did the little pop of all our umbrellas opening at the same time, & the Rembrandts were playing on repeat just to heighten the excitement that little bit more.

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Monica’s apartment was amazing, & of course we all got a bit emotional. We sat & chatted on the sofa, wrote a message in the book on the desk, posed moodily looking out onto the balcony & sat down for coffee at the kitchen table. IT WAS AMAZING. It all happened so quickly when we all got outside we had to have a big hug & a squeal that it had actually happened. It’s one of the most iconic sets in tv history & it means so much to us & it was PERFECT.

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Though we didn’t really think it would be our cup of tea, we didn’t want to miss anything out, so we headed to the Silent Disco. It was themed to be like Dick Clark’s Rockin’ Eve party, from The One With the Routine. We weren’t expecting that much to be honest here, but we had the GREATEST time. It was sponsored by MTV Trax or something like that & everyone got a set of headphones that had three channels on it: nineties style music, current music & eighties classics. We danced so hard to songs like Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, Take On Me, Walking on Sunshine & The Lion Sleeps Tonight – those were just from the classics channel.

Then we queued for Ross & Rachel’s Vegas Wedding Chapel – which also tied in the episode The One With All the Wedding Dresses. Yes, we all wore wedding dresses & veils & had about a hundred photos taken: photos of us holding bouquets, photos of us posing round the corner, photos of us lifting the dresses up to show a little thigh. Honestly it was everything I’ve ever dreamed of. Unfortunately when I plugged my phone in to charge on the coach home it fried my phone, losing all of these photos! It’s so heartbreaking, & the reason why this summary post took a week to get to you, but Robyn says we’ll just to have a triple wedding to make up for it. Which I think I’m okay with.

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It took us about an hour to get through the queue & get the wedding dresses on & off so then we went back to the silent disco, just in time for I’ll Be There For You to be played on the nineties channel & cause everyone to scream (& do the claps in perfect synchronicity). We danced through so many amazing songs & couldn’t stop laughing, then when it was time to go I’ve Had the Time of My Life sang us out. Silent Disco, you were the surprise favourite of the day & I cannot thank you enough.

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To end our day, we went back to Central Perk. It was now virtually empty so we got to hang out for ages, had more photos on the sofa & flipped through Phoebe’s song book. It just seemed like a really lovely goodbye to a really lovely day.

It’s crazy that a show that finished twelve years ago can still have an ever growing fanbase that this type of event can work. If you are a fan, I really recommend you go next year because there’s no way you won’t love it. And it wouldn’t be put together without all the staff working there, all of which are incredible. They completely go out of their way to talk to you, take photos for you & just laugh with you which makes the day all that lovelier. The website advises that the event takes two to three hours to get round fully, and we were there for nine hours.

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Thank you to my Monica & my Phoebe. You’re my absolute best friends in the whole wide world & I love you so much – could I BE any luckier to have you two?

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