Friday, December 30, 2016

Acid House in the National Archives

The National Archives has today released Prime Minister’s Office and Cabinet files from 1989 and 1990, including discussions amongst Ministers and officials of how to clamp down on 'Acid House' parties.

A letter from the Home Secretary to Geoffrey Howe from 2 November 1989 reported: 'We understand from the Metropolitan Police that so far this year 223 such parties have taken place in London and the South East, of which 96 were actually stopped after they had begun. A further 95 planned parties have been prevented by pre-emptive action by the police or local authorities' (letter 2 November 1989).

In a hand written comment, Prime Minister Thatcher wrote ‘if this is a new “fashion” we must be prepared for it and preferably prevent such things from lasting’ (6 September 1989).

After reviewing the powers available to the authorities, the Government concluded that the way forward was to increase the fines for existing licensing offences, rather than bring in new powers as such. The result was to be the Entertainments (Increased Penalties) Act 1990 - 'An Act to increase the penalties for certain offences under enactments relating to the licensing of premises or places used for dancing, music or other entertainments of a like kind'. The question was of course to be revisited a few years later when the Government introduced the Criminal Justice Act which gave the police more direct powers to intervene to stop parties.

'Acid House Parties - the Prime Minister has seen the Home Secretary's letter of 2 November to the Lord President. She was content with his proposals to increase the penalites for illegally organising acid house parties and for making the profits from such parties libale to confiscation' (4 November 1989)

In the mean time, the police and local authorities were encouraged to make more assertive use of existing powers. The papers include a press clipping praising Operation Jute, a massive police operation to stop a party in Kent: 'Drug busting police sealed off an entire town twice at the weekend to claim thier first victory over the Acid House cult. Six thousand revellers were turned back from Chatham, Kent in the early hours of yesterday after a specially trained squad of 250 officers outmanoeuvred them across three counties' (Daily Express, 9 October 1989).

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Zadie Smith on jungle and Anokha at the Blue Note

I recently came across an issue of Tate magazine from 2000, a special issue celebrating the opening in that year of Tate Modern. It includes an interesting discussion between Philip Dodd and Zadie Smith, looking back over 1990s London, including the transformation of Shoreditch into Hoxton, the deaths of Stephen Lawrence and Princess Diana, and the fascist bomb attacks on Brixton, Brick Lane and Old Compton Street. One of the things Zadie Smith touches on is the Blue Note Club in Hoxton:

'It was the last of the community clubbing experiences. It was artificial because it was partly to do with fame. You'd have a lot of people in there pretending that they couldn't see Bjork, who was standing right next to them. Yet the whole of the club was in one corner of the room circled around Bjork. It was about fame, but it was these people who did have quite a huge amount of fame who seemed perfectly willing to hang out with you, smoke with you, have a drink. Everybody was having a laugh.

Firstly, I was a Sunday kid, for the jungle, but you went to Anokha, on Monday, to see all that explosion of Asianness. When it first happened it was so exciting. We could see Talvin [Singh] doing so well. Bhangra has been going on in Wembley and Bradford for years. but he just changed it slightly, added a bit more of a western sound to it and everybody loved it. On jungle nights, MCs used to say a lot of cheesy things over the top of it like "black and white unite", but it did feel like that'

(I never went to Anokha at Blue Note, but I did go to the night they put on around that time at The Vibe Bar, called Calcutta Cyber Cafe)