Thursday, April 26, 2007

Matthew Stone

Now on at UNION (London SE1) is 'the first solo exhibition of London based artist Matthew Stone. Emerging from a strongly collaborative South London squat-scene of young artists, actors, writers, musicians, moviemakers and designers, Stone produces chiaroscuro laden photography, dramatically portraying friends and night-time players stripped of context-locating clothing, draped in cheap fabric swatches, and locked in self-absorbed states of romanticised visionary ecstasy'.
At his Optimism as Cultural Rebellion blog, Matthew Stone also documents the artier end of the current London squat party scene (picture is from this blog, of a Squallyoaks party).

As discussed in my previous Nu Rave post, this vaguely art squat linked scene is a real phenomenon. Interestingly it seems to have developed largely outside of the longer running London anarcho-squat/free party scene, which has been going in one form or another since the 1970s -with some continuity in people between 80s anarcho punk and 90s acid techno parties, as well as links through Advisory Service for Squatters with the previous era of 1970s squatters.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Limbo Gateway

"The limbo dance is a well-known feature in the Carnival life of the West Indies today... The limbo dancer moves under a bar which is gradually lowered until a mere slit of space, it seems, remains through which with spread-eagled limbs he passes like a spider.

Limbo was born, it is said, on the slave ships of the Middle Passage. There was so little space that the slaves contorted themselves into human spiders. Limbo, therefore, as Edward Brathwaite, the distinguished Barbadian-born poet, has pointed out, is related to anancy or spider fables. If I may now quote from Islands, the last book in his trilogy:

'drum stick knock / and the darkness is over me /knees spread wide / and the water is hiding me / limbo / limbo like me'

Limbo then reflects a certain kind of gateway or threshold to a new world and the dislocation of a chain of miles... I recall performances I witnessed as a boy in Georgetown, British Guiana, in the early 1930s. Some of the performers danced on high stilts like elongated limbs while others performed spread-eagled on the ground. In this way limbo spider and stilted pole of the gods were related to the drums like grassroots and branches of lightning to the sound of thunder"

From 'History, Fable and Myth in the Caribbean and Guianas' by Wilson Harris (1970)

Monday, April 16, 2007

Police party raid round up

Time for another round up of international police party action - did you know that in some parts of the USA teenagers can be arrested for loitering in a place where alcohol is served even if they're not drinking? Read on:


'After the arrest of more than 100 underage customers of a downtown Hartford nightclub Thursday, many parents were puzzled about why youths were arrested even if they weren't drinking. The club, Temptation on Asylum, advertises an 18-and-over night on Thursdays, when underage patrons can dance on the first floor, where no alcohol is supposed to be served. But in a sting operation Thursday night, Hartford police raided the club, found alcohol where it wasn't supposed to be and arrested 117 people - including 113 youths aged 17-20. On the floor where underage customers were permitted, police said they found a fully stocked bar, tapped kegs from which pitchers of beer were being sold for $2 each and full pitchers throughout the area. Police arrested everyone who was underage, loaded them into police vans and drove them to the department's booking facility, which Sgt. Dave Dufault said was "stacked beyond capacity."

Police could not say Friday how many of the minors arrested actually were drinking. Most were arrested on charges of loitering where alcohol is sold. Some of the youths on Friday maintained they had not been drinking and remained confused about what they had done wrong. It is against the law for anyone under 21 to loiter in an establishment with a permit to sell alcohol'.

Hartford Courant, 24 March 2007


'Five people have been arrested after police in riot gear broke up a three day illegal rave in an ancient woodland in Monmouthshire. Gwent Police drafted in extra help to disperse the estimated 3,000 people and around 1,000 vehicles at the illegal gathering in Wentwood Forest. Officers seized 10 large trucks containing powerful sound equipment. Upwards of 250 police officers were involved in the operation and according to Gwent Police it was the biggest illegal rave in the force's area. Officers were drafted in from Avon and Somerset, Gloucestershire, West Mercia and South Wales Police to help'.

BBC News, 9 April 2007


'A police crackdown in Zimbabwe moved into well-to-do residential suburbs in the nation's capital where scores of teenagers were detained in a raid on a popular disco, witnesses said on Sunday. Some of the teenagers - both blacks and whites - were hit with riot batons and slapped by paramilitary police who said they were clamping down on alleged underage drinking, witnesses said. Others were not carrying identity cards required under security laws. Several of the youths were treated for shock after at least 100 were taken in two police buses to the feared downtown central police station from the "Glow" nightclub in Harare's affluent Borrowdale district in the early hours of Saturday. The raid came after police shut down bars and beer halls in impoverished townships in an undeclared curfew during a surge in political tension since police violently stopped an opposition-led prayer meeting in western Harare on March 11'.

News24, 1 April 2007


'Police may now seek the assistance of the military to raid those nightclubs in the Central Division, who are opening after 1am. Assistant Commissioner of Police Operations SSP Jahir Khan said that after the military coup last year all the nightclub owners were closing the nightclubs on time [but] they are breaking the law again over the past weekends. ACP Khan also warned the nightclub owners that they will request the Commissioner Central not to renew the license of those nightclub owners who will be caught in the illegal act'.

Fiji Village new, 31 March 2007

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Hampstead Heath Rave 1955

Steve Fletcher has sent this great photo of himself and then girlfriend at a jazz 'rave' on Hampstead Heath in 1955.

According to Steve, The Ken Colyer Band played at this event. Ken Colyer was a key figure in the 'New Orleans' infuenced English jazz scene in the 1950s, with regular all nighters at his club at Studio 51 in Great Newport Street, London WC1. The Ken Colyer Club also provided a platform for the emerging British R'n'B scene in the early 1960s, with The Rolling Stones playing there regularly.

The 1950s trad and revivalist jazz scenes interest me as a largely unwritten chapter in the history of English youth cultures. Most people assume that it all started with rock'n'roll, but as discussed elsewhere on this site jazz raves were being held from the early 50s.

There is something very timeless about this photo - with his stripy top and glasses Steve could have been a member of Orange Juice in the early 1980s or maybe The Long Blondes today.

More posts on 1950s jazz raves here.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Haunted Folk

The Montague Arms in New Cross on a Friday, a night jointly presented by White Noise (linked to Battered Ornaments records) and Spinning Jenny. On the stage, Pete Hedley of Beneath Smoke and Fire is singing accompanying himself on a fiddle. The sound is not so much Seth Lakeman, but something more spectral. There are echoes and noises off, bursts of electronic beats underpinning the haunting melodies.

Folk music has always been concerned with ghosts and spookiness, and not just in the form of supernatural ballads like Tamlin or the Elfin Knight. Since Cecil Sharp began collecting songs in the early 20th century and defining a specific ‘folk music’ in opposition to other popular musics, folk revivals have invoked the spirits of gypsies, agricultural workers and miners against the evils of modernity or capitalism, depending on political perspective.

The difference between the various current folkisms (twisted, neo, acid, psychedelic, folktronica etc) and the earlier ‘traditional folk’ revivals is that the latter were only unconsciously hauntological. The ideology of authenticity disguised the fact the old songs were not simply a direct testimony from the past but were being reframed and understood according to contemporary needs. For instance the need to believe in an unbroken oral transmission of song led to a downplaying of the historic role of literacy and printed sources such as ‘broadside ballads’ (something well documented by more thoughtful revivalists such as A.L. Lloyd). Like all ghosts, ‘folk songs’ are neither of the past or the present but partake of both – central to the meaning of Hauntology as coined by Derrida, and more lately applied to music by Simon Reynolds, K-Punk and Bethan Cole.

The music promoted at clubs like White Noise might occupy a similar sonic territory to traditional folk music (give or take electronic treatments) but the aesthetic is less concerned with authenticity than with the past as a slightly spooky storehouse of half remembered melodies and uncanny phrases.

Jane Weaver's softly sung moments of beauty on the same night remind us of another thread of current acoustic musics. There is a fey element (cf Joanna Newsom) but this is not fey in the sense of vaguely ‘girly’ and lacking in presence. This is fey in its original meaning, as in like the fairies, but not fairies in their diminutive Victorian chocolate box version. In older fairy tales, the Good People might have been beautiful and alluring, but were also powerful and not to be messed with. Tales like the Legend of Knockgrafton, in which a man who responds correctly to the enchanting songs of the fairies is rewarded by being cured of his disability, while another who responds rudely has his troubles doubled. Similarly behind some of the fey melodies of folk old and new lie sentiments of passion, jealousy, murder and bewitching. This is feycore.

With its stuffed animal heads, bones and maritime bric a brac, the Montague Arms is the perfect setting for a club like this (more Battered Ornaments than you can shake a stick at). Over the past few years, many an art punk hopeful has played in this pub (and indeed art punk originals The Gang of Four played their first gig in 20 years here). That a folk-tinged club can draw a respectable crowd here is perhaps a healthy sign of diversification away from a more or less exclusive musical palate of boys and guitars.

Next White Noise is on April 27th, 'a monthly South London gathering with Doug Shipton (Finders Keepers/Delay 68/Battered Ornaments) and Luke Insect (The Laughing Windows) pulling strings left, righ tand centre to deliver some of the best in off-kilter independent music as well as a host of firebrand guest DJs spinning a mixed bag of soft psych, acidik folk, radiophonic anomalies and fuzz-ridden-break-heavy psychedelic platters of yesteryear on the last Friday of every month'.

Stone Age Dancefloors?

Last week I visited Nine Ladies Stone Circle on Stanton Moor in Derbyshire (pictured). This is one of many such sites in England to which is attached the legend that the stones are dancers, petrified ‘by a divine punishment because they have broken the rules of Sunday observance’ by dancing on the Sabbath. Similar stories have been told of the Merry Maidens and the Nine Stones in Cornwall, among other places.

These stories postdate the building of these monuments by thousands of years, and are a testimony to the fact that for the Church authorities dancing ‘was suspect because it encouraged sexual attraction, and became yet more wicked if it diverted people from their religious duties’ (Westwood and Simpson).

Nevertheless the notion that ‘standing stones are petrified motion, frozen music, arrested dancers’ (Stewart) may have some validity outside of later Christian folklore. It has been noted that stories may have arisen because ‘throughout the Medieval period people danced in a ring, so the visual analogy with a stone circle was striking’ (Westwood and Simpson), but ring dancing is a basic dance form that goes back much further. It is certainly possible that the creators of some stone circles were consciously seeking to represent dancers, perhaps to create a kind of permanent dance to reflect cosmic cycles of movement: ‘many such sites are aligned to stellar patterns and sightings, thus the dance of the stones reflects upon a geometric ground plan the dance of the stars’ (Stewart).

The circles may also have been specifically created as places for music and dance, as well as other purposes. There is some evidence from the emerging science of ‘acoustic archaeology’ of ‘resonance and echo effects in caves and megalithic monuments’ and that these may have been deliberately used or even designed by the people who made them: ‘in the light of the long prehistory of human interaction with sound, it becomes unreasonably conservative to doubt that there would be important acoustic aspects to megalithic monuments, or that the dramatic resonance of caves would have been ignored by Stone Age people’ (Deveraux)

It is generally presumed that stone circles would have been used for magico-ritual purposes, but this does not necessarily just mean solemn processions of druid-like priests. It is just as likely that all kinds of community seasonal festivities took place in such spaces, with the music and dancing associated with such rites in almost all known human cultures. So circles like Nine Ladies may be our oldest surviving dancefloors.


Paul Deveraux (2001), Stone Age Soundtracks: the Acoustic Archaeology of Ancient Sites

R.J. Stewart (1990), Music, Power, Harmony: a workbook of music and inner forces.

Jennifer Westwood and Jacqueline Simpson (2005), The Lore of the Land: a guide to England’s Legends.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Bruno Social Centre Evicted in Trento

There have protests, street blockades and barricades in the Italian city of Trento following the eviction by riot police of the Bruno Social Centre on March 21st 2007.

A demonstration has been called in Trento on April 21st in defence of occupied social centres. The call states: '"We believe that social spaces are not only made by physical walls, but they are also places in where the growth of political participation is formed, opportunities for alternative lifestyles and places of innovation and the construction of new social relations. Everywhere Social Centres represent the prototypes of the 'Other City', the city of welcome and inclusion, the city of rights, dignity and new citizenship... A Social Centre represents the melting pot of struggles and dreams, the forge of radicalism and new ways of fighting, a machine that is self-managing and self-producing. We want the 21st of April to be an important day of mobilization and fighting to affirm with great determination the movements’ autonomy, represented for us by the bear “Bruno” that travels free throughout the Italian and the European territory, independently managing its time, its life and its dreams".

A friend who visited the centre reports that as well as hosting various political initiatives, the space was widely used for parties, with drum and bass being very popular (a recent programme also shows northern soul, disco, rare groove and dancehall DJs). I was particularly intrigued by his report of a night featuring Gli Orsi delle Alpi (Bears of the Alps), an anti-fascist scooter club playing northern soul and related sounds.

Montreal Metro Party

Party on the Montreal Metro last week (30 March)arranged by Newmindpace (see:

Looks interesting, though as somebody commented on YouTube 'That was a great party, but there were as many people documenting it as there were partiers!'

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Dancing Flash Mob

From the London Evening Standard, 5 April 2007:

More than 4,000 clubbers danced through the rush hour at Victoria station in Britain's biggest flash mob stunt. Revellers responded to e-bulletins urging them to "dance like you've never danced before" at 6.53pm.

There were knowing looks and giggles among the casually dressed crowd that gathered from 6.30pm, wearing earphones. A deafening 10-second countdown startled station staff and commuters before the concourse erupted in whoops and cheers. MP3 players and iPods emerged and the crowd danced wildly to their soundtracks in silence - for two hours.

University of London student Lucy Dent, 20, was among the flash mobbers. She said: "It was my first flash mob and I'm hooked. I've been dancing non-stop since we began. I didn't even notice the commuters. When you get into the dancing you're oblivious to them and forget you're at a railway station."

Chris Gale, 39, brought his daughter Sophia, three, and son Jacob, six. Mr Gale, a property entrepreneur from Bromley, said: "The children were a bit bewildered at first but then had fantastic fun. Some of the commuters are only interested in their trains and had to weave round us to the platforms. But most of them stood and stared, finding it hugely entertaining - and some even joined in. I saw the straightestlooking guy in a suit with his briefcase doing the freakiest dance moves."

Last night's flash mob ended when four vanloads of police dispersed the dancers. The event was staged by clubbing website mobileclubbing. Invitation emails and texts went out a week in advance. One commuter failed to see the funny side: "I was trying to get my train home but the whole concourse was filled with students dancing and I couldn't get through. The last thing I wanted after a hard day at work was to miss my train because of the idiots."

Flash mobs, groups of people brought together via the internet who perform a bizarre act together before disappearing, took off in America in 2003.

Photo of dancers in Victoria Station from

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Reclaim the Future in London

A Reclaim the Future event went ahead in a squatted building in North London's Holloway Road last weekend, with various radical workshops from No Borders and others in the daytime and a party with sound systems later on.

However, several people were arrested as riot police sealed off the road and prevented people (including some of the bands due to play) from getting into the venue -even though hundreds were already partying inside.

Further reports at Wombles and Indymedia