"Look who's just texted me: Domino's. It's like they know. I wonder if they'll deliver here?" says the girl in front of me, in an hour-long queue for pizza in a car park. We're at My Slice Fest, enthusiastically billed as "London's biggest pizza and music festival," but as guests struggle to get even one solitary slice of pizza and the main stage plays host to a Rizzle Kicks-lite duo, it feels like the promoters may have slightly oversold things.
The idea, in theory, was a great one. Host a giant pizza party in north London, where everyone's favourite pizza makers come together to lay on a cheesy carb banquet, soundtracked by a line-up strong enough to rival any other inner-city festival. Fast food, tunes, and vibes. Sounds simple, right?
The first clue that this wasn't quite going to be the urban pizza utopia the crowd had hoped for was the venue. "Wembley Park" gives the impression of an open, grassy space, close to the world-famous football stadium. (Perhaps there would be bunting? Bunting's always at nice food festivals, isn't it?) In reality, My Slice Fest is being held in the car park in the shadow of the iconic white arch, alongside some retail giants. A few empty fairground rides pepper the outskirts of the fest, organised by people unable to comprehend that the last thing anyone wants after stuffing their faces with pizza is to be catapulted into the air with the same G-force as a fighter jet.
Although, that's assuming the party-goers would be fed. Despite the festival's slick promo video declaring there will be 15 of the "UK's finest food vendors," there are about half that amount cooking up pizza in small camper vans or mobile kitchens. There's no sign of Pizza Pilgrims, Voodoo Ray's, Well Kneaded, or anyone else from London's strong pizza crew, who regularly pop up to feed hundreds of hungry festival-goers on the street food circuit. An hour into the event, the long stream of queues begins to form, steadily snaking around the site for the rest of the afternoon, with at one point, people waiting two hours for a slice.
"This is ridiculous. Why have I paid £20 to stand in a queue?" a guy called Shaun says, next to me. "I thought I was going to be eating non-stop pizza all day and I've only had one bit so far—and that one cost me a tenner and it wasn't even properly cooked."
His group of friends agree.
"I literally live around the corner from PizzaExpress," says Jamie. "We should just sack this off and go and get some actual pizza where we don't have to sit on the floor of a car park to eat. And we won't have to pay £6 for a pint of beer too."
Friends George, Brandon, and Zoe are luckier, as they've managed to get a few slices between them and are currently sitting on the concrete carpet and having a pizza picnic. Zoe says: "We came here because we love pizza. It's what you eat when you're high. It's the best food in the world because it has cheese on it."
Reena and Maya are Instagramming their kale pizza partly because #foodporn and partly, I suspect, to prove they're one of the few people who will manage to get a whole pizza to themselves. They say, hopefully, "We'll probably work our way around all the the places in here today."
A few early-arrivers dig into their haul—monster-sized hotdog and chip slices, a Sunday roast pizza, complete with turkey, stuffing, and cranberry, or a sweet banoffee pie pizza (actually pretty delicious)—but they're outweighed by pissed-off girls in floral crowns and even more annoyed boyfriends who are not only hungry, but have been made to have their face painted and their beards glittered.
Still, in one end of the car park, some people are being fed. As the MC on stage shouts out over a Craig David remix, "Who likes pizza?!" eight contenders sit down at a table of eight half-metre long pizzas, piled high with jalapeño peppers and pepperoni. The only way they're going to get more than a sliver of pizza today is if they enter the My Slice Fest man versus pizza competition.
These are people pushed to the edge of desperation by hunger. As they eyeball the giant pies in front of them, 15 minutes to clear the lot seems achievable. But then the clock starts and the chewing begins.
One girl throws in the towel almost immediately. "It's too hot," she complains, while the crowd of a hundred onlookers salivate as she pushes her unwanted pizza away. For God's sake lady, people are starving here!
Further down the table, it's taps aff for one guy who's tearing into his slices, cheered on by his friends. "Pain is only temporary!" they yell at him. He's nailed the equivalent of four whole jalapeños by now and he looks like he's seriously regretting the offer of free pizza.
At the other end of the table, a silent, stealth fox is plowing his way confidently through his Herculean serving of pizza. He's looks like he's in some sort of trance and I notice he's wearing earphones. Is he getting some sort of motivational speech from Paul McKenna? Has Paul released a hypnotic competitive eating podcast recently? Unlikely. Maybe it's just white noise? Whatever his audio tactic is, it looks like it's working. The ripped guy in a vest next to him—who's also making a fair dent in his duvet of dough—keeps shooting worried glances over at the man who's making light work of the plate of 15,000 calories.
One of the other girls competing looks like she's going to be sick. Topless bro next to her goes an alarming shade of red. The crowd step back in case they have to see the pizza for the second time that day. There's just three minutes left and it's easy to see who's going to chomp home to victory—it's the trancey, head-phoned pizza eating-machine.
"Time!" the host yells. As the table gasp with relief that they don't have to take another bite, we have a winner, our very own Bradley Wiggins of the pie: and he's 22-year old Andre Sidorov. "I feel alright, but my jaw is hurting," he tells me afterwards, as he proudly holds his heavyweight belt and 50 drink-token prize. "When I started eating the pizza, that was my biggest issue, I don't feel too full now, but my jaw has totally gone. I didn't think I was going to throw up, but I thought, I can't keep chewing. But I looked over at the other contestants and I was like, I have to keep going, I have to keep pushing myself." Sidorov says he's actually not that much of a pizza fan, that he's more of a meat and veg kind of guy, but it was the challenge of a food-eating contest that attracted him to the event: "I've done quite a few eating challenges around London like burger challenges. I actually won a chicken wing eating competition last week in Tottenham Court Road."
So what's his secret weapon being piped through his earpiece?
"I was listening to metal. It helps to drown everything out."
Remarkably, Sidorov doesn't look like a man who's just ingested a week's worth of carbs in a quarter of an hour, although he adds: "I have to give my body time to recover now. But I'll probably do another challenge in about two weeks or something."
Over on the main stage and the headline act steps up: DJ Luck and MC Neat. Combined with the fact one of Little Mix have turned up, it takes everyone's attention off the lack of food for a few minutes. Handy, as London's biggest pizza festival has officially run out of pizza, five hours after opening the gates.
WATCH: The Pizza Show
As the oblivious social media manager continues to tweet: "Cheers to a great festival! It was amazing!" the online onslaught takes over. "An absolute fucking shambles of an event," writes one festival goer. "A total shitshow." "A day of disappointment…I didn't even get any pizza," tweets another devvoed pizza fan, while numerous people take to the Facebook page to demand a refund.
In the corner of the car park, the topless Man vs. Pizza lad now has his pristine white t-shirt back on. But he's collapsed on the floor, groaning and clutching his stomach.
Well, at least someone today is leaving full of pizza.