Everyone continually moans about health and safety in the UK and yes, some of the rules and regulations can be slightly bizarre and often inconvenient. However France has demonstrated to me just how lost we would be without them and the chaos which would inevitably ensue.
The story starts in the admittedly not obvious setting of a modern art museum. Every so often Strasbourg, to prove how much is loves its students (I have a bag which claims that ‘Strasbourg aime ses étudiants’), opens up one of its museums in the evening for free. The student’s love of anything that is free is universal and this event, with its crowds of people, was no exception. The visit started off fairly averagely, albeit fairly hectic. We looked around the exhibition (which looked at art about ghosts and goblins chronologically) for a couple of hours and after a while we grew tired of the increasingly more modern art and decided to go home. This is where is got interesting.
By around 10pm the museum was about as full as you will ever see a modern art museum. I suspect this has less to do with the art and a lot more to do with the DJ set and other performances. Although this is France, so it could have been the modern art. As we made our way to the exit we faced a crowd enraptured by some kind of dancing. We figured there must be another way out, after all, who would place a performance area directly in the way of an exit? Asking a security guard we realised the organisers of this evening would place a performance area directly in the way of an exit. So we thought we would try sneakily going backwards through another exhibit, when we were faced with a museum attendant blocking our exit (our evening was turning into a bad video game). Somehow we managed to explain to her the inhumanity of the situation and she grudgingly let us through.
So now we found ourselves at the exit, freedom seemed nigh. Alas it was not. The exit was also the entrance and the entrance was filled with inebriated late-comers craving a late-night fix of modern art. There were no orderly queues; just two opposing masses, one trying to get in and one trying to get out. Here I would like to point out that had there been a separate exit and entrance there would have not been a problem. Or, if you must have one doorway functioning as both, divide the entrance and use guide-ropes to from a queue. I, however, presume the majority of my readers are British and do not need such things explained; queuing is in our blood.
We waited and watched as an ever more agitated crowd at the entrance pushed to get in. I could clearly see the potential for injury from my vantage point and our group planned which way to go, should the entrance crowd violently push through. After we had been standing there for a while, bemused and British (there was also an Irish girl and a French girl in the group, but then there would be no alliteration), an attendant yelled at the exit crowd to go to another exit which had presumably just been opened. Finally we were free!
As we left we could see the entrance crowd push through to get to the second set of doors, which had been closed to stop them getting in. They were then literally hammering at the doors; such was their craving for structuralism, post-modernism and neo-expressionism.
From what I know, no-one was hurt. However the situation was ripe for disaster. The security guards and attendants lacked information, simple details like getting in and out were overlooked and many of the students had been drinking. It’s a shame that my memory of the night will not be seeing works by Goya, Goethe or Kandinsky, but witnessing dangerously bad organisation. It’s fair enough that the British are often laughed at for our love of queuing, but it would have prevented the treacherous chaos that I witnessed. But then maybe I’m just too British for my own good?