In a press release this week, the Local Government Association has warned of a ‘Rave Renaissance’ and that 'Illegal raves could sweep the nation again this summer with many taking place around festival days... Raves and free parties first emerged in the UK in the late 1980s and dominated youth culture until the mid-1990s. The last couple of years has seen a rave revival, with 'Nu Rave' music acts growing in popularity among mainstream audiences. Communication via the internet and the ease of mobile phone technology also make illegal raves easier and quicker to organise than back in their heyday when word of mouth was key. Under the Licensing Act 2003 organisers of such events have to apply to their local council for a licence each time they want to stage an event'. The press release helpfully tells us that 'Nu Rave refers to a style of music fusing elements of disco, electronic and punk'.
The LGA, which speaks on behalf of local authorities, states that 'War will be waged against illegal ravers'. It has put together a plan for councils including a mixture of carrot and stick:
'• If an illegal event is being organised help the organisers apply for a temporary event licence on suitable land and within the confines of the law;
• Work with the police and local landowners; set out plans and powers, such as injunctions and seizing of sound equipment;
• Gather intelligence of future events by scanning the internet and by visits to pubs and clubs where messages and event flyers can be found;
• Ask landowners and residents to remain vigilant, particularly around festival days and bank holidays.
• Consider setting up designated ‘free party’ sites to avoid damage to the countryside and a hotline for the residents to call if they have concerns about illegal events taking place'.
All of this effort is justified on the basis that raves 'cause irreparable damage to the countryside and ruin the lives of local residents whilst putting their own lives at risk'. Is this true? Sure these events can be annoying for some, and there are sometimes idiots in attendance who do stupid things. But events often take place in the middle of nowhere with no real damage.
Last weekend for instance 'police were prevented from stopping an 18-hour music event attended by more than 400 people in a forest near Swaffham. Under the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 a rave must involve at least 20 people trespassing on land and playing loud amplified music while causing serious distress to local residents. Norfolk Police said they could not act against the gathering because it was in a remote location and could not meet the criteria of causing any distress to residents' . As for damage, the alleged cleaning bill of £500 for 'a massive rave at the Horsey Gap beauty spot' (also in Norfolk last month) hardly suggests a 'trail of destruction' and certainly nothing like the damage routinely caused by the army on Salisbury Plain and other parts of the countryside, let alone the permanent devastation of green space by council-licensed developers all over the country.