Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year

Tonight is a big party night in many parts of the world, we wish everybody a safe and happy new year and hope that anybody going out tonight can avoid being ripped off by outrageous ticket prices or having their unofficial alternatives closed down. Here's some global party policing news from December.

England: Rave returns to Slough area (Slough and Windsor observer, 31.12.07)

‘Patrols have been stepped up around an industrial estate after an illegal rave saw 500 revellers take over an empty warehouse.Police have been forced to beef up their prescience on the Poyle Industrial Estate after they were unable to break up a massive event. The rave in an empty warehouse saw an estimated 500 party goers descend on David Road, Colnbrook on Saturday, December 8. Officers were called to the event but decided it was too established to break it up prefering to monitor the situation safely and help disperse it the following day.

Slough East Neighbourhood Inspector, Andy Boomer, said: “This is the first rave that we have had in a number of years. Officers who were called to the scene estimated that there were some 500 people at the event. On s occasion it was decided to monitor the event rather than break it up. Since the rave we have increased patrols in the area to prevent a reoccurrence.”

India: police plan to stop New Year's Eve parties

'The Mumbai police's cyber crime cell is monitoring the Internet for information on rave parties being planned... The Mumbai Police is hoping that in the city, the Internet will yield information on not just venues but also who's been invited and the source of drugs. Rave parties are normally organized in places like Madh Island, Aksa beach, both in Mumbai, Yeoor Hills in Thane, Lonavala, Sinhagad and Mulshi in Pune are also hotspots. The Pune Police busted a rave party in March this year where 289 youngsters were picked up from a rave party in Sinhagad. The Mumbai police itself had raided a rave party in September 2006 at a Borivali farmhouse and arrested 80 people including 13 drug suppliers and prosecuted them under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act. Now they are hoping to take that a step forward by prosecuting even those who advertise and publicise such events. The Mumbai Crime Cell says that once a rave party invite is found on the Internet on a cellphone, they use IP address and SIM card details to trace the identity of the sender and members of his group. With this pre-emptive measure they hope to bust the party even before it begins' (NDTV, 26 December 2007)

'After hundreds of youngsters were caught with drugs in a rave party, early this year, Pune registered 40 more cases of drug seizure. This is, however, an indicator of how susceptible the student city has become to drug peddlers. Keeping the city away from such unwanted elements, during the biggest party time of the year is a challenge, which the Pune Police is getting ready for... Pune crime branch will coordinate with excise and customs department for information on drug smugglers. Security forces will pair with home guard force to beef up security. City borders, too, will be covered with 13 check posts. Every entry lane to Pune will bear heavy security on the New Year eve. The police here is making sure that no matter how heavy the traffic be, no vehicle will enter the city without a security check.

Event managers are also hit by the tough stance taken by the city police. Last year Pune had twelve major events on the New Year eve, this year only six have managed to pass the necessary license tests. A club owner and event manager says, "After the trans party that really shook the city, this New Year eve is not going to be that big a celebration that it normally is for a lot of event managers."(IBN Live, 30 December 2007)

Australia: police criticised after overdoses (, December 12, 2007)

'A police raid on a dance party at a medieval tourist attraction near Ballarat in central Victoria caused the overdose of 14 young people, a drug users association has claimed. Fourteen people were treated at Ballarat Health Services Base Hospital for drug overdoses at the Ultraworld rave event at Kryal Castle on Saturday, with three of them spending time in intensive care.

The head of drug users organisation VIVAIDS, Damon Brogan, blamed police for the mass overdose, saying rave-goers swallowed their drug stashes rather than risk arrest as police with sniffer dogs entered the party.He told the Herald Sun the arrival of more than 70 police at the rave party was “over-zealous”.

Nigeria: police raid Kuti family 'Shrine' club (AFP, December 16, 2007)

Nigerian police late Saturday raided the New Shrine nightclub in Lagos founded by two of the children of the late Fela Kuti, Nigeria's most reknowned musician, the Kuti family and police said Sunday. "They stole money, they stole drinks and they broke instruments," Fela's daughter, the dancer Yeni Kuti told AFP.

"I can confirm that a raid took place," Lagos state police spokesman Frank Mba told AFP. "It started at 2300 (2200 GMT) and ended at around 0500 and 331 persons were arrested," he said. Mba said the club was suspected of being a "safe haven for criminals" who met there to plan their "nefarious activities." He said he had also received complaints from residents of the area about "Indian hemp (marijuana) and other kinds of illicit drugs" being consumed on the premises. Mba said all of those arrested but found to have no link to any criminal activity were being released.

Yeni said the police broke down half of the door to the room where her musician brother Femi Kuti keeps his saxophones. "When you see what they did there, it's terrible," she said. Femi said he and his sister had been cleared of any involvement in robberies but were still at the police station trying to secure the release of more of the club's patrons.

"People are telling us we should be careful -- that they just want to victimize us," Yeni said. The New Shrine is a vast hangar decorated with fairy lights and Fela Kuti memorabilia. Most of the regular Shrine patrons are boys and young men. The atmosphere is friendly and electric with Femi Kuti often playing non-stop for several hours, and the club is something of a Lagos institution. The smell of marijuana there is so strong that visitors joke about it not being necessary to smoke oneself as "just breathing in is enough to get high". But the club has no reputation for hard drugs.

Fela Kuti himself, an outspoken critic of the then government, had several run-ins with the security forces. In the worst of several raids on his home, in 1977 his mother was thrown out of a window and died the following year from the injuries she sustained. His son Femi is also extremely critical but tends to attack Nigeria's political class as a whole rather than individuals'.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Radio anniversary

On this day just over 100 years ago - 24 December 1906 - the first audio radio broadcast of music took place in an experiment by Reginald Fessenden - the inventor of Amplitude Modulation (AM radio). Inevitably the first piece of music broadcast on AM was a Christmas song, with Fessenden playing O Holy Night on the violin and reading a passage, Luke Chapter 2, from the Bible. The transmission from Brant Rock, Massachusetts, was mainly heard by shipboard radio operators along the Atlantic Coast.

Listening to the radio in London today Christmas songs are still going strong, I just wish they didn't just play the obvious ones when there's so much good midwinter music, old and new. For the latter check out the Asthmatic Kitty website where an incredible 600 songs were submitted for the Sufjan Stevens Xmas Song Swap. Or visit Belle and Sebastian's myspace where on Christmas Day only you can download their new song 'Are you coming over for Christmas?'. For older stuff, take a look at the huge amount of material at the Hype Machine or Sir Shambling's great collection of soulful Christmas songs.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Morris Dancers Against the Nazis

Bit of a kerfuffle amongst English folk dance enthusiasts about Observer columnist Jay Rayner's comment that "For some reason, whenever I see Morris dancers I assume a pogrom can't be far behind." Richard at Baggage Reclaim is amongst those rightly miffed by the suggestion that their dancing pleasure has fascist associations. Judging by Richard and others I have met, people in the Morris scene tend more to the left than to the stiff right arm tendency.

As shown by the row about Simone Clarke, 'the BNP Ballerina' at the English National Ballet, present day fascists are to be found in other forms of dancing - but nobody would say that whenever they see a tutu they assume a pogrom can't be far behind.

Incidentally, Surrealdocuments has a good quote from G.F. Foster querying the notion of pure folk culture existing in splendid isolation from other parts of the culture, stating the following in relation to folk dance: 'In the 17th and 18th centuries the Western European dance masters introduced folk dances to social dancing, adapting them to the needs of the courts. English country square dances played a role in the development of the French quadrille, which was then introduced back into London. These folk dances then became the forms around which composers, then and now, created important works. Folk dances, now become court dances, spread from Spain and France to Latin America, and the process began anew whereby little by little they became the property of the folk. The current American rage for square dancing also reflects this process: after a suitable time the folk entertainment of yesteryear becomes the pastime of the artistic avant-garde". The last point is surely relevant to morris dancing, many of whose practitioners are more likely to be slightly aging ex-punks and hippies than right wing rural traditionalists.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Back to the Classics (2): Beowulf

I went to see the new Beowulf movie recently. In 3D at London's Imax cinema it was quite impressive and I do think it captured the feel of an Anglo-Saxon warrior epic, even if it did depart somewhat from the storyline of the poem, composed sometime between the 8th and 11th century - sorry to say the sub-plot of heroes being seduced by an elf-shining Angela Jolie character doesn't feature in the original.
The poem and the film do though both emphasise the centrality of the mead hall, a combination of royal court with drinking, banqueting and music hall. A place of wine, women and song, or mead, maidens and minstrels. We are told that Hrothgar, the king, set his mind on 'a master mead-house, mightier far than ever was seen by the sons of earth'. The hall, 'high, gabled wide' was named Heorot - 'the Hart' or 'Stag', subsequently to be the name of many pubs down to the present day. The monster Grendel was prompted to attack out of jealousy for the pleasures to be had in the mead hall: 'with envy and anger an evil spirit endured the dole in his dark abode, that he heard each day the din of revel high in the hall: there harps rang out, clear song of the singer... So lived the clansmen in cheer and revel a winsome life'. Grendel launches a murderous assault when the Danes after a long night 'outreveled to rest had gone'.
It is probable that an epic like Beowulf was originally recited to music and for the warriors in the poem to pass into the lays of minstrels as heroes was a form of immortality - to be sung about and remembered, as the legendary Beowulf still is over a thousand year of later. But the musicality of Beowulf is not confined to the deeds of harpists and minstrels, but is embedded in its language, especially the kennings - poetic descriptions of the everyday by which, for instance, the sea becomes 'the whale road', 'the swan road' or 'the gannet's bath'. These are the kind of figures that recur in English folk song over the centuries.
Quotes from Francis B. Gummere's translation from the Old English.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Come forth o children

'Come forth, o children, under the stars, & take your fill of love! I am above you and in you. My ecstasy is in yours. My joy is to see your joy'

(Aleister Crowley, The Book of the Law)

Photo by JaMmCat from an excellent collection documenting rave culture in Canada. This one taken at a Hullabaloo rave in Toronto in July 2007.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

1996: chronology of parties and police

Following the recent 1997 chronology we go back another year to 1996, a time of Reclaim the Streets parties, police raids on gay clubs and, in Algeria, the killing of rai performers . All events below from UK unless otherwise stated. As always I'd be interested in any recollections or reflections on these events


100 police raid Hollywoods club in Romford, Essex. As well as arresting some people for drugs, two women are arrested for assaulting a police officer.

Police bust a Vox Pop/Virus squat party in South London, and people move up to a Hackney venue. When they get there the police steam in making arrests and beating people up.

Police confiscate rig at Immersion Sound System party on the site of the Newbury road protest in Berkshire.

Gay rubber night GUMMI at Club 180 in London is stopped after a visit from the Met’s Vice Squad.

Local council take out injunction against four members of the Exodus Collective in Luton, forbidding them to hold free parties


200 police in riot gear raid the Coliseum nightclub near Stockton-on-Tees, arresting 35 people

On Valentine’s Day hundreds of people dance, drum and bounce on Brighton’s North Street. Police pile in at end of the Reclaim the Streets party and arrest 43 people.

Three people from Black Moon Sound System arrested in Corby at the prevous July’s attempted Mother festival found guilty under Section 63 of the Criminal Justice Act and their £6000 rig confiscated.


Police raid a party at the A.R.T.L.A.B. in Preston with an Environmental Health Officer who removes equipment under noise pollution regulations [Dream Creation, 1996]

Police set up road blocks to search people going to Lost in Paradise at Fantasy Island, Skegness. 11 arrests.

Jury throw out disorderly house charges against Club Whiplash in London, raided by sixty police with dogs in 1994.

Sex Maniacs Ball at the Fridge in Brixton cancelled at the last minute after police pressure. The tenth annual Ball, a charity event, was to be held at Brixton Academy, but they cancelled the booking after the police threatened a raid. Bagley’s at Kings Cross did the same. [Pink Paper 29/3/86] In response the Sexual Freedom Coalition was set up to “combat police inteference in clubs and with publications”, and on April 20th 200 people danced through Soho to Downing Street in protest at police action.

“Four people were arrested on drug possession and sale charges after police crashed a ‘rave’' party at a local nightclub in Danbury [USA]. More than 600 people ranging in age from about 14 to 21 attended the party, staged by an out-of-state production company at the Subzero nightclub on Elm Street”. [News Times, Danbury, March 25, 1996]


Police in Essex board a privately-hired coach taking people clubbing in London and search everybody on board. Several arrests for drugs offences.


Sussex police seize a sound system at a warehouse party in Bevendean.

Mounted police move in at the end of a Leeds Reclaim the Streets party; 12 people arrested

Tribal Gathering festival, Britain’s largest dance event, cancelled after authorities in Oxfordshire refuse it a licence following police objections - despite a successful event last year, months of preparation, and advance ticket sales of 25,000.

50 people arrested in dawn raids on two gay clubs in Santiago, Chile [Pink Paper, 24 May 1996]


100 riot police raid the Zoom Bar in Halle, Germany on the day before the city’s first ever gay pride event. 70 people inside the gay bar are handcuffed and made to lie on the floor during searches for drugs. Some are clubbed to the floor, others strip searched [Pink Paper, 4 July 1996].

On June 9th, several hundred people block the main A6 road into Leicester city centre for a Reclaim the Streets party, with sound system, comfy chairs, children’s paddling pool and fire jugglers. After three hours the police force people off the road, making six arrests.

A woman in Melbourne, Australia, wins compensation from the police after being stripsearched in a raid on the city’s Tasty nightclub in 1994. During the drugs raid, 465 were stripsearched, many of whom now claim compensation [Pink Paper14 June 1996]

The Tunnel and Limelight clubs in New York are raided and closed down, and the owners charged with conspiracy to sell ecstasy.


On the biggest Reclaim the Streets action so far, 8000 people party on the M41 motorway in West London. There are no arrests on the day, although in the aftermath police raid the RTS office and an activist’s home and charge one person with conspiracy to cause criminal damage to the M41, parts of which were dug up during the party.

Royal Ulster Constabulary and British Army crack down on Irish nationalists in Derry (N.Ireland), blocking off the streets in the city centre as people leave pubs and clubs. 900 plastic bullets are fired. 41 people suffer injuries including a fractured skull, broken jaw, and a broken leg. 18-year-old Michael McEleny, on the way home from Henry J’s disco with his sister, is hit in the face with a plastic bullet which tears away his cheek leaving him with a broken palate and cheekbone. According to his sister “Bullets just flew everywhere. Every two seconds there was another one. You couldn’t stand up. Every time I tired to get up and run, another bullet was fired. Anyone who stood up was hit”. 16 year-old Kevin McCafferty is left unconscious and critically injured after being shot in the chest and head with plastic bullets on the way home from Squires disco. Rioting spreads throughout Derry in the following days, and Dermot McShane iss killed after being run over by a British army vehicle. [An Phoblact/Republican News, 18 July 1996].

350 CRS police close down the Bordeaux Arts Festival in France, searching 600 people and making 23 arrests. Although the dance music festival had the permission of the landowner, the French Interior Minister Jean-Louis Debre declared it an illegal event. [Wax, August 1996, Muzik September 1996]


Big police operation against Smokey Bears legalise cannabis picnic in Portsmouth - sound systems stopped from entering the area

Riot police baton charge revellers at Maidstone River Festival in Kent.

10 people arrested at Reclaim the Streets party in Birmingham on.17 August. On the same day there is a five hour RTS party in Bath. The following week, 80 people are arrested as police mobilise to stop a Brighton Reclaim the Streets party.

Sussex police use a helicopter to break up a party near Brighton.


95 police raid the Living Room club, the Marlowes, Hemel Hempstead. 250 clubbers are evacuated, and 18 arrested, mostly on drugs charges.

100 police stage a drugs raid on I Spy, a gay night at Leeds club Nato. 19 people arrested. Police clear the club with people being met on the streets by at least 25 vans of police [Mixmag, Nov 1996]

Reclaim the Streets activists take part in the Reclaim the Future events in Liverpool in support of striking dockers. A march of 10,000 people is livened up with sound system, and a docks building squatted for a free party. On the Monday 600 people picket the docks and there are 44 arrests.

In Barnsley a planned gay night at the local Hedon Rock bar is blocked after a local hompohopic campiagn by the so-called Campaign Against Homosexual Equality [Pink Paper27/9/96]

The popular Rai singer Boudjema Bechiri, 28 (known as Cheb Aziz) is killed by Islamic militants. He is the fourth Rai star to be killed, since Rai songs which are often about sex and drink have been declared blashpemous and banned in areas dominated by Islamic fundamentalists [Observer, 22 Sept 1996]


Police raid on Love Muscle gay club at the Fridge, Brixton, London.

Reclaim the Streets Halloween Party in Oxford- over a thousand people dance on the road and on bus shelters with music from Virus Sound System, Desert Storm, Rinky Dink and some bagpipers. Police escort sound systems out of Oxford as they attempt to set up an after party-party. There is also an RTS party in Cambridge.

Reclaim the Streets party in Manchester with free music and free food. No arrests, but one van is impounded

Taliban seize power in Afghanistan: “Women are barred from work, men ordered to grow beards... They snatch music cassettes from cars and smash them with rocks by the roadside” [Guardian 9.10.96]

Riot cops evict squatted social centres in Madrid and Barcelona. Armed riot cops storm a squatted cinema firing hundreds of rubber bullets. Riots follow as people marched on the police station to demand the freeing of the 48 people nicked. The centre has been used for films, gigs, exhibitions and debates as well as huge parties to raise money for the Zapatistas and other causes.


100 police raid Jubilee pub in Camden, north London and arrest 23 people

Riot police with dogs bust a party in a tunnel in Beddgelert, North Wales


Adrenalin Village, London fined for opening beyond their 2 am limit [South London Press, 13.12.96]

London gay sex pub/club the Anvil loses its licence; police had raided the pub (also known as the Shipwright’s Arms) in Tooley Street following reports of sex in the upstairs bar [Pink Paper, 29.11.96]

Heaven events in Motherwell cancelled after police pressure