Sunday, April 29, 2012

1960s Raves

Returning to the historic usages of the term 'rave', here's some examples from the1960s.

At the 'Shoreline Club' in Bognor Regis they were promoting 'All Nite Raves' in 1966. The club described itself as 'The only Beatscene on the South Coast' and had a 'Snuggery open all day free to members' (source: The Untamed)

From Sandown (1964 or '65, presumably on Isle of Wight), 'Rave, big new scene tonight' at 'Sandown Town Hall' (source: The Clique)

1965 'All Nite Rave, Midnight to 6 am' at Club Noreik, Tottenham High Road 
(image from White Fang's Who site):

An advert from 1964 for Leo's Cavern Club at the Olympia Ballroom in Reading. Note that on October 13th they were promoting an 'R & B Rave'.

Source: Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere: The Complete Chronicle of the Who 1958-1978 by Andrew Neill abd Matthew Kent (The High Numbers mentioned in the advert were The Who in an early incarnation)

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Grayson Perry on punk and performance

Grayson Perry's 'Portrait of the Artist as a Young Girl' (2007) is his memoir of the period before he became a successful artist, as related to his friend Wendy Jones.

Perry recalls growing up in 1960s/70s Essex with a taste for dressing up in women's clothes, before moving on to study art in Portsmouth and early 1980s performance art in London. He's a bit older than me, but like me and many others he was first exposed to punk as a paper boy:

'One Sunday morning I was delivering the newspapers when I saw the front cover of a supplement with a photograph of punks at a Sex Pistols concert. I was amazed by it, I though, 'Fucking Hell" This is good!'. I decided there and then I wanted to be a punk rocker'.

He went to see bands like The Vibrators, Boomtown Rats and Crispy Ambulance in Chelmsford, and attended the infamous debacle of the 1977 punk festival at Chelmsford Football Club, headlined by the Damned. The event was a flop with Perry opining that 'the most punk rock thing of the whole day' was when the scaffolder, furious at not being paid, began dismantling the stage while the bands were still playing.

A punk leather jacket included by Perry in his exhibition
last year at Manchester Art Gallery
(photo from

After leaving college in 1982 he moved to London where he was part of the post-New Romantic/Blitz kids scene. He lived in the basement of a squat in Crowndale Road next to the Camden Palace, with Marilyn (soon to be a short-lived popstar) living upstairs. Perry 'used to go to the Taboo nightclub in a black suit with skin-tight Lycra trousers and a jacket two sizes too small... I put sunburn-coloured make-up on my face and left white rings round my eyes, like ski goggle marks... And I had a tail. It was a stiff, furry dog's tail'.

He also got involved with the Neo-Naturists, a performance art troupe who performed naked with paint on their bodies. They played at places like Notre Dame Church Hall (Leicester Square), Heaven, the Camden Palace. the Fridge (Brixton) and an anarchist centre:

'we were booked to do a Neo-Naturist performance in Brixton at the Spanish Anarchists Association, which was similar to a working men's club, an extremely anachronistic place that had become somehow hop because of punk's associations with anarchy. As it was May Fiona though we should do a Communist, May Day-themed cabaret. Cerith [Wyn Evans], Fiona, Jen, Angela and I all had identical Communist uniforms body painted on to us with khaki paint and we decorated oursevles with big red five-pointed stars... There were around a hundred anarchists in the audience as well as some punks and they all hated it, not one of them clapped, the room was dead quiet'.

I think Perry may have got two different places mixed up here - the 121 centre in Brixton opened in 1981, but the Spanish anarchists' place was Centro Iberico (421 Harrow Road), a squatted school where various punk gigs and other events took place (incidentally producer William Orbit started out with a studio here). The Neo-Naturists site mentions them playing a 1982 May Day event at 'Spanish anarchist centre, Harrow Road' so assume this was what Perry remembered (maybe he went to 121 another time).

Photo from the Kill Your Pet Puppy archive

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Festivals Britannia

Finally got round to watching 'Festivals Britannia' a documentary about the history of the British festival scene first broadcast on BBC4 in late 2010. For anyone familiar with this history there were no great revelations as it trod the familiar path from the Isle of Wight 1969 to Glastonbury to Windsor to Stonehenge to Castlemorton 1992.

What lifted it was the film footage of these events and an excellent range of interviewees including many of the key figures in the different phase of the 20th century counter culture. Jazz ravers Acker Bilk and Kenny Ball recalled the 1950s jazz festivals, the later remembering 'you couldn't have a rave up in a dancefall. You had to walk across a floor and ask a girl to have a waltz or something, but if you were in a field you felt free'.

The Beaulieu jazz festival in Hampshire started out in 1956. In 1960, simmering tensions between modern and trad jazz fans sparked off the so-called Battle of Beaulieu with fans impatient to hear some Acker demolishing a BBC TV tower. A contemporary newspaper reported: 'Jazz succumbs to the Hooligans'.  In the same period the annual Aldermaston 'Ban the Bomb' marches became what free festival veteran Sid Rawle termed 'a festival on the march'.

The late 1960s free concerts in London's Hyde Park were described by Roy Harper as the high point of the hippie moment, a time when 'everything seemed to be bright and in the process of awakening' (Roy Harper).  On the Isle of Wight, the 1970 paying festival famously ended up with those outside storming the fence so that it was opened up for free on the final day. Festival organisers and Mick Farren who was on the fence storming side were interviewed, but the best quote was amongst a selection seemingly from a series of Isle of Wight residents engraged by the 'invasion' of the area by 600,000 mostly young people:  'If you have a festival with all the stops pulled out, kids running around naked, fucking in the bushes, and doing every damn thing that they feel inclined to do I don't know that's particularly good for the body politic' (all delivered in an impeccable upper class accent - I assume this was never broadcast at the time)

Windsor 1974 - 'Hippie PC Flees Pop Fury'
(from the excellent UK Rock Festivals site)

In the early 1970s the first Glastonbury festivals were followed by the emergence of the free festival circuit, most notably the Windor Free Festival. Closed down in a major police operation in 1974, the next year the Government offered a disused air force base at Watchfield in Oxfordshire as an alternative - but a state-sponsored 'free' festival with police on site was not quite the same. Among those recalling this period on the film were Nik Turner and Stacia from Hawkwind and Penny Rimbaud from Crass.

The free festival scene was dealt a severe blow with the mid-1980s crackdown on the Stonehenge Festival and the Convoy - everybody should have to watch the bullying gratuitous violence of the police in the so-called Battle of the Beanfield to understand the state of virtual social war in the mid-1980s, with the Government giving its forces free reign to bash miners, travellers and other 'enemies within' with impunity (sometimes feels like we are heading into a similar period).

The outlaw tribes, disenchanted and disenfranchised needed to find other places to gather, and Glastonbury had relaunched in the 1980s as paying festival raising money for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. Farmer and festival organiser Michael Eavis reflected that 'we were just anti-Tory really, we were on a crusade to take on Maggie and to fight the oppression and it was very effective'. Through much of the 1980s it wasn't that hard to sneak into the festival for free, but increasing pressure from the Council and the police required stronger fences and more security.

By the early 1990s the survivors of the free festival scene were joining up with the new sound system culture, as described by Mark Harrison from Spiral Tribe and Rick Down (Digs) from DIY Sound System. The huge 1992 Castlemorton free party/festival prompted the Government to introduce the Criminal Justice Act to clamp down on 'raves'.

The programme ends with the increasing dominance and prevalence of commercial festivals in the noughties. But there is some evidence that this boom has peaked, with the Guardian asking recently 'Have we fallen out of love with the great British music festival?'. I don't think the desire to gather under the skies with thousands of like-minded music lovers has changed, but more and more of us can't really afford to spend the cost of a holiday on a weekend, especially if that weekend has to be spent in a highly corporate fenced-off enclosure.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Hackney Homeless Festival 1994

In the early/mid 1990s there were some big free festivals in London parks. Not pseudo-free festivals behind big fences with lots of private security, but proper sprawling mildy-chaotic events with sound systems, dance tents and lots of bands. Two of the biggest were the Deptford Urban Free Festival (in Fordham Park, New Cross) and the Hackney Homeless Festival.

The latter in Clissold Park, Stoke Newington in May 1994 aimed to raise awareness of homelessness, as the name suggests. The energy behind it came out of the squatting scene, but they did involve a locla street homeless hostel, McNaughton House. Up to 30,000 people attended with acts including The Levellers, Co-Creators, Spannerman, Back to the Planet and Fun Da-Mental. One of the stages was organised by Club Dog.

The police piled in after the festival outside the Robinson Crusoe pub, arresting 30 people as clashes erupted. According to one person present: 'A line of police in riot gear approached the pub, pushing people, telling them to go. That's when the glasses started flying. I saw one guy, who asked why they were doing this, get jabbed with a baton. I saw a woman in a wheelchair, who was obviously very distressed, being wheeled around roughly by a police policeman. It was completely unprovoked' (NME, 14 May 1994 - full article below)

Some interesting video footage of the festival at Spectacle video archive.

For more on Hackney, see Radical History of Hackney:

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

UK Police and free parties update, March 2012

A bank holiday weekend coming up and there are the usual warnings from police forces across the UK of 'zero tolerance' of free parties. Still, 18 years after the anti-'rave' Criminal Justice Act passed into law, the parties still coming - and so are the police.

'Police are set to swoop on raves' (Oxford Times, 2 April 2012)

'Police have extra manpower on standby to deal with any illegal raves over the Easter weekend. Thames Valley Police say Easter is historically a “hot spot” for these gatherings and they are urging members of the public to keep an eye out. Inspector Emma Baillie said: “I encourage land owners and communities in the Thames Valley area to report raves being set up as soon as possible.” '
'Squatters evicted from £4.2m Clifton Wood mansion in Bristol' (This is Bristol, 2 April 2012)
'Squatters have been kicked out of multi-million pound Clifton Wood mansion, leaving it trashed. Once Bristol's most expensive property – on the market for £4.2 million – many of the house's rooms today lay in tatters. In the end, it took more than 50 police officers to clear the building.

Yesterday's eviction came after nearby residents began complaining on Saturday evening about a noisy party at the gated mansion in Clifton Wood Road. The party continued to get louder throughout the evening, with more people seen going into the property, which squatters moved into in February. Officers got into the main room in the house where the party was being held at about 6am yesterday, but were met by a group of around 35 "hostile" revellers. Some of the squatters climbed onto the roof to pelt officers with bottles.

Police arrested four people and continued to monitor the property before returning at 7.30am. A fracas between police and squatters then broke out in the street, believed to have been sparked when further sound equipment was seen being taken into the house. Three officers received minor injuries during the incident.

Dozens more police – around 50 officers in total – arrived at the scene and streets around Clifton Wood Road were closed off for most of yesterday morning. Officers then entered the house and removed the squatters. Eleven people were arrested during the night and are currently helping police with their inquiries. The building has been left strewn with rubbish.The kitchen lies in tatters with graffiti scrawled across the walls and the indoor swimming pool has been partly filled and strewn with rubbish.A private security firm was called in to board up and secure the property to stop further squatters getting inside.

Following an order of possession being granted last week at Bristol County Court in favour of the building's owners, The Bank Of Scotland, bailiffs had been planning to evict the squatters. Some squatters – many who said they moved to the mansion after being evicted from the Occupy Bristol  Camp at College Green – accused the police of brutality and told the Evening Post they had captured the police's "forced entry" on video. The squatters claimed the police did not have a warrant to evict them and that they were simply holding a party for a friend's birthday.

Police told Evening Post they cleared the building using powers to stop raves under the Criminal Justice Act and no warrant was needed. Traveller Dexter Josephs, 19, said: "We were just having a party for a friend's birthday and we were not making a noise." Fellow squatter Raoul Duke, 22, said: "The police have treated us quite horribly. All the neighbours have been fine with us. The police asked us to turn down the music, which we did. They were outside in the riot vans and then kicked in the doors and pushed through the metal gates. We locked what doors we could inside to slow them down, but they continued to boot in the doors. They put my arm behind my back and pushed me out. We don't feel we have done anything wrong. Essentially, this course of action has just left around 35 people homeless."....

[nb - this wasn't somebody's home that had been squatted, the owners are a bank which presumably means that it was repossessed at some point and then left empty. Video footage has emerged showing police making some violent arrests during the eviction]

'Easter rave warning from police after 13 arrests at Burnham Market' (EDP, 2 April 2012)

'A fresh warning against raves has been issued by the police after 13 people were arrested early on Sunday morning from farmland in Burnham Market. The rave was held close to Old Sussex Farm Road in the North Norfolk village and involved about 500 people and 150 cars. Out of the 13 arrests made yesterday, 10 of them were for people who ignored a legal order to leave the area. The other three were arrested on suspicion of possession of drugs.

Most of the people at the rave left peacefully after a number of the legal orders were made.The people who were arrested have been bailed until the middle of this month. Sound equipment, including power generators, were also seized and three vehicles were impounded. Several fixed penalty notices were also issued for road related offences, including seat belt and speeding offences. In the lead up to Easter, officers have warned that there will be a zero tolerance approach to raves across the county.

Chief Supt Nick Dean said: “The event at the weekend at Burnham Market is a timely reminder of the action that we will take with regards to raves. We will intervene and, where necessary, not hesitate to make arrests and seize equipment. It’s important to remind people that we will continue to work with the organisers of licensed musical events.Unlicensed musical events or raves are unsafe and disruptive to our local communities...'

'Illegal rave in Norwich shut down after complaints' (BBC, 18 March 2012)

'Police were called to shut down an illegal rave in Norwich after complaints from nearby residents. A large crowd of more than 150 people gathered under the A146 flyover off a field in White Horse Lane in Trowse just after midnight. Members of the public complained to police about amplified music, which was switched off at about 09:15 GMT.

One person was arrested on suspicion of possession of drugs, a Norfolk police spokesman said.Supt Mike Fawcett said: "It has been an exceptionally challenging night for police resources across the county and we have had to take this into account in assessing our response to this event, as well as work within the powers granted to police under current legislation.

"Officers have been working throughout the night to identify key participants and negotiate to bring this illegal event to an end as quickly and safely as possible for all concerned.We acknowledge that local residents have been disturbed by the amplified music and we will seek to take further action against those involved."'

'Cops' actions at illegal rave defended after being branded 'brutal'' (Milton Keynes News, 8 March 2012)

'Ninety police officers that closed down an illegal rave have been criticised for their ‘brutal’ and ‘heavy handed’ tactics. CS gas and batons were used against some of the 200 revellers who had turned up to an Old Wolverton warehouse in the early hours of Sunday.The force helicopter was also deployed as police faced a barrage of bottles, coins and pieces of wooden pallets as they struggled for two-and-a-half hours to shut down the party. Some officers even had a car driven at them ‘at speed’.

But now some of those who were at the event have hit out at Thames Valley Police, saying the force used was over the top compared to the trouble they were facing. One man who wanted to remain anonymous said: “The police came in full riot gear – we were not there in riot gear, we were trying to have fun not riot. The police were shouting and threatening young lads who were just trying to see what was going on – 90 police officers in riot gear and a helicopter is excessive for a group of youths having fun, the police were trying to cause a fight with the heavy handed way they stormed in.”

A barrage of comments have also been sent to MK NEWS following the incident. One reads: “I saw many armed officers brutally attacking unarmed men and women with truncheons and pepper spray.” Another claims a woman walked over to a fallen officer to see if he was alright when she was hit with batons...'