The UK illegal rave scene.

Tuesday 11th June 2013 | jim

Every weekend, while most of us head off to a safe hipster bar in Dalston or a grimy loft in Peckham, there are a few hundred people who set off north deep into the outskirts of London to put on huge raves in disused warehouses. Squat raves have been round for ages and trying to suggest that this something new, and that no one knows about them, is bullshit. There have been hundreds of films about them and whole lifestyles and cultures based on them. The police know that every weekend they are happening but they still go on.

Growing up and hearing about these legendary raves, my vision of them was some secluded field, where you didn’t have to pay to get in, everyone was an acid sucking freak covered in tie-die and free love was plentiful. It seems though that these parties have evolved into something completely different. The parties still happen in the country, but the police having nothing better to do, unless another Raul Moat appears, love playing the game of trying to shut them down. ‘The police love pushing their power, trying to show their crime rates are good etc.’

Today urban parties are just as big if not bigger. Taking around four weeks to prepare for and consisting of up to 20 rigs each playing their own sound, with hundreds of people from all age ranges and class, these parties are huge and its surprising that more people don’t make the journey to go.

Unlike the clubs closer to the centre, that revolve around forward pushing music with each DJ and clubber getting hyped over the newest songs being dropped, these parties are all about dancing. From looking at the posters it would appear the nights are only drum and bass, trance, techno, house, dubstep… Actually yeah that is all the genres of music.  Each party seems to revolve around a different genre, and at each one a different crowd.  ‘The techno crowd, generally speaking are older and have been going to parties for year. The new younger parties, like Drum and Bass are younger and more middle-class’.

With a new generation moving in though, the veterans of the scene welcome them with open arms. ‘Everyone just wants a good party, and when you have more people coming to have a good time, then your going to have a good party.’

However, as the parties have moved in they have also attracted some of the wrong people. Like foxes, some of the urban ones tend to be proper pricks and go around emptying bins and eating cats, some of the people see the parties as an opportunity to fuck things up. This is probably how the parties have been getting a bad reputation. Some people turn up with the direct intention to steal stuff and start fights.

Not only have the parties moved into the city, but it seems that now bouncers are a necessary part of the event. ‘Every party we play, we will employ bouncers without fail. Depending on the size of the party we might have 20 or even 30 bouncers. These guys are there to only stop dickheads getting in, who decide to bring some attitude along, but there is no body search for other stuff, only like knives and weapons.’

The bouncers are a new thing, but the violence is not. We started hiring bouncers because when we started the parties were shit. The violence had come with the city venue, and we would rather have a good party with some security than without. A lot of the older guys and the techno crews said we didn’t need it, and they would be the security, but it doesn’t work. We wont even do a party now unless there is security.

With the police still keen to bring the party down, and most Joe Public don’t want a fuck off big group of pill-heads raving in their garden, so finding the right location is essential. “We don’t tend to use the same location over and over, people get pissed off. Finding the location is probably the worst part about it. I never do it myself, that’s the sketchy part. We know people who are prepared to take the risk and break and enter and secure locations, but sometimes they fall through and we are still looking for one a few hours before it starts.”

Inevitably though the police do sometime shut it down, as long as they get there before the first couple hundred then the systems are going to get confiscated. We had one taken off us once, but the police were pretty good about it all. We just went to the station the next day and they gave it back to us and we drove off to do another party. It was a bank holiday so obviously we had a two-day party.


But the real thing, which seems to be conflicting with my initial thoughts of what the parties would be like is that despite being labelled as ‘free-parties’ they are not. Each party has an entry fee ranging from five quid upwards. Why then would you choose one of these parties that you have to travel an hour or two to zone four of north London that may have been shut down, that you have to phone a party line at around 11.30pm just to find out where it is, and has no known people playing? Well it seems that the real pull is the freedom, despite the bouncers on the doors, they are there only as safety, everyone inside is more-than likely to be doing drugs, and this environment offers somewhere you can pull a baggie out without having to look round to see if security is standing over your shoulder, like some beady eyed crow. Laughing gas is sold out of the big cylinders, you can bring alcohol in with you, and the cans themselves at the bar are only a quid a can. What’s not to love? Oh yeah it costs money and is super far away. 


Written by Jim Roberts