Thursday, July 27, 2017

Summer Rites 1997: Lesbian and Gay free festival in Brockwell Park

20 years ago - on 2 August 1997 - the second Summer Rites lesbian and gay free festival was held in Brixton's Brockwell Park. Coming just a few week after Pride, which had been held not far away in Clapham Common, the programme declared 'In no way is the event a rival to Pride but rather a compliment, an addition, a festival where London's lesbians and gays can have their own party'. The main organisers were Kim Lucas and Wayne Shires, the latter of whom also ran Substation South, recently opened as a gay club in Brighton Terrace in Brixton.

The first event took place a year earlier in Kennington Park. I don't remember too much about it apart from seeing Gina G - the Australian singer who sang for the UK at the 1996 Eurovision song contest in Oslo. But I did record in my diary:

'August 3rd 1996: Summer Rites in Kennington, a lesbian and gay free festival for London. Drum and bass in the Queer Nation tent, a mixture of pumping house and eurotrash in the Love Muscle tent, one minute it was hard trance and the next it was Gina G ('oo ah just a little bit') with paper confetti raining on the dancers to deflate any techno boy seriousness. The inevitable cheesy cover versions too, including a terrible/wonderful Oasis cover that sounded as if it was off the same production line as Berri’s sunshine after the rain. The DTPM tent was heaving, almost but not quite as frenzied as its effort with Trade at Pride' [I think there had been a DTPM/Trade tent at Pride shortly before]

Front cover of the glossy 36 page programme

Running order on main stage at Summer Rites 1997

In Brockwell Park 1997 the main stage featured live acts such as Jimmy Sommerville, David McAlmont, Ultra Nate and Barbara Tucker, introduced by comperes incuding Amy Lame, Divine David, Rhona Cameron and Graham Norton.

The park also included some big dance tents put on by some of the main LGBT clubs at that time, including Love Muscle (regularly held at the Fridge in Brixton), DTPM (hard house night at The End), Popstarz (the gay indie club held at the Scala in Kings Cross), FIST and Queer Nation (the last two both at Substation South, the former a fetish/techno night and the latter known for its more soulful house and garage sounds).

Brockwell Park site plan
From my diary: 'thousands were partying at Summer Rites. What the 'rite' was for wasn't entirely clear, but it later transpired that William Burroughs and Fela Kuti died on the same day, so we could call it a farewell rite for them. We toured around the various tents dancing to the different sounds. In the Popstarz tent they played Blur 'Song 2'... but we left on hearing the dreadful Meredith Brooks 'I'm a bitch, I'm a lover' dirge. The DTPM tent was big and busy with housey beats, Love Muscle was a cheesefest, but we spent most time in the FIST tent where pumpin' techno was the music of choise'. The programme lists the FIST DJs aas Smalls, Graham D, EJ Doubell and Karim.

We had our young kids with us, aged 10 months and five, the former dancing on our shoulders, the latter 'fascinated by the scantily clad podium dancers - a toplesss woman with netting over her face and a man in a minute metal kilt. 'Why are they showing their bottoms?' he asked'.

Queer Nation after party at SubStation South, with DJs Francesco Simonit, Jeffrey Hinton and Supadon.

Monday, July 17, 2017

The Dance Floor is Packed with Stories

'Feels and Flows' by Paul Maheke at Tate Britain in London is essentially a recreation of aspects of a nightclub space within the gallery, developed in response to the Queer British Art (1861-1967
exhibition currently installed there:

'What does it mean to queer? How might we occupy a space and queer what surrounds us with dance and music? What about this is political? Artist Paul Maheke invites you to take your place on the dancefloor and experiment with movement and fluidity. Gathering together different elements from the dance club like sound, light and moving image, you and your family are invited to hang out, move, chat and explore different ways to turn the Learning Gallery into a space for queer celebration'.

'The Dance Floor is packed with stories.  The Dance Floor could never be a story with one voice'

(you have to pay to view Queer British Art exhibition thouugh- it's worth it)

Friday, June 23, 2017

Datacide at London Radical Bookfair 2017

It's the 2017 London Radical Bookfair tomorrow, Saturday 24 June, at Goldsmiths in New Cross.

Datacide, magazine of noise and politics, has a stall and will be selling the new issue - Number 16. Contents include a critical review article by me on the book 'Angry White People'  about the English Defence Leagure and Luton. 

All the cool cats will be heading to Datacide stall at the London Radical Bookfair

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Two Nights in Hackney: police and free parties 1996

A report on police  raids on two free parties in Hackney in 1996:

'Hackney Police Risk Riot to Kill Joy

Hackney police have twice risked a riot to merely stop people from dancing. In January a Vox Pop party was first busted in south London. As the rig packed up, people loudly arranged to meet at the snooker hall in Hackney, which had just hosted a successful succession of totally havin it! Xmas parties. Soon after people arrived at the snooker hall, police began to descend from all four corners. The building hasn't yet been opened, so around 200 odd party people were milling about outside. As it began to become evident that things were getting seriously on top, people managed to get into the yard, and Kerr drew shut the huge double doors.  The police were now shut outside. This turned out to be a temporary measure though, as the police, hyped up and on one battered the way through, and wielding batons ordered everyone out. More and more police descended, until our bewildered revellers were outnumbered by 3 to 1. 

Truncheon happy and on a seriously aggressive testosterone tip, the Metropolitan police were out for a fight. As an escaping Virus rig backed out of the venue, the police all began to move towards the reversing van. Loyal party goers instantaneously rushed forward to the defence of their sound system. Violent chaos then blew up, and the Virus rig managed to slip away unhindered. Police charged and began to batter all and sundry. On their first charge two thirds of the party people immediately scattered and left. A hard-core of around 100 remained. Police pushed them round the corner into Well Street, aiming swipes to the backs of legs to those who didn't move fast enough. Police control then idiotically herded the remaining crowd into a nearby housing estate, thereby creating 10 times more disturbance than would have ever occurred before.

Hackney police again went in for the overkill on a party put on by Jiba Jake and Virus in an old dole office on Drysdale Road. The place had been happily partied two weeks previously by the Tofus, was away from any residential, but an inspector McCauley saw fit to put an end to the bank holiday merriments. When he arrived on the scene, Jake's tactic of admitting everything and then hoping that they will all disappear didn't work this time. McCauley responding to one telephone complaint, began to moan on about the rigs stealing electricity and demanded that the fuses be taken out. By this time a number of his PCs were in on the edge of the dancefloor (one was definitely spotted moving rhythmically to tunes being dropped by Manic Josh!) along with around 200 party people already inside. In the end Jake went over to the fuse box and shut off the power to the whole building. Pandemonium broke out. McCauley went mad because his men were now trapped inside a dark building with 200 pissed off party people. The leccy was then turned back on. By now the hard moody bastards in flack jackets had turned up and one of the McCauley's right-hand men was heard to say "right, it's stick time lads!" It was decided to tell the people inside (who were still largely unaware of the situation and were still boogying) that the time had come for them to wisely go. Eventually the building was cleared and the rigs allowed to pack up and go.

When asked why he had decided to stop the party McCauley answered "because I can". When asked what powers he had just used to clear the building, he mumbled ummed and ermed but failed to come up with an answer. He was then asked if he used any law at all in his operations and he answered arrogantly "yes the power of persuasion". While 30 odd of her majesties finest were tied up in this fiasco, and assault on two women crackled in over their radios. A distinct look of shame crossed their faces when they knew we heard'.

Written by 'CRS'. Report from Frontline magazine, number 3, Summer 1996 
(this was a zine that covered 'travellers, parties, protests')

Friday, April 28, 2017

London Nightlife 1983 - Colin Faver on Camden Palace and Heaven

From the Face magazine, February 1983, as part of an overview of the soundtrack to London nightlife at that point, an interview with the late Colin Faver 'One of the Camden Palace's four DJs who also plays Cha-Cha, the one nighter that provides a pansexual sideshow to Heaven's straight night each Tuesday'.

"The Palace on Saturdays is definitely the most upfront disco in England. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays educational, 50-50 disco and electro pop;  Thursday sticks to the no-funk groove; so on Saturdays we mix in funk and disco funk.

A lot of bands that have come out of the Palace initially as cult groups are now soft pop, like ABC, Culture Club. George proudly brought his first single to us and a whole new dancestyle developed from the girls in the Culture Club outfits, probably because they're so hard to dance in.

But the reaction has been a return to heavier underground sounds: Iggy,  Theatre of Hate, Lou Reed, Passenger. A lot of people don't like funk and we get asked for Killing Joke now which normally rarely gets played in discos. I reckon it's due to the influence of the Batcave and bands like Sex Gang Children and Bauhaus.

When the Palace opened we were almost totally electronic –  Visage, Soft Cell – but the most noticeable difference has been towards an acceptance of disco which was once a dirty word, particularly since electronic funk like Whodini and Man Parrish. Saturdays are good because people will dance to what's played. We've tried gay disco like Patrick Cowley and Roni Griffith and people to listen. Hard New York disco funk for sure came into its own last year on three labels in particular: Prélude, West End and Salsoul. For me this is the underground music. It's just like the days of punk because it revolves around small labels. D-train and Peach Boys really began the move.

I do get pissed off by NME not giving space to disco. If ever they do get round to reviewing it the records are so old. And then it's only a mention just to sound hip. Yet I'm sure there's a market judging by the numbers of people who ask in clubs.

We can get as ahead as we like at Cha-Cha so long as we include Simple Minds. I made a point of introducing a 50% funk policy over the past year because I get bored with the pompous futurists like Ultravox. A lot of people haven't heard Gil Scott-Heron and there is no way they can't dance to James Brown.

The quintessential Cha-Cha sound sound is Patrick Cowley's 'Mind Warp'. Heaven on a Saturday is basically very very fast 130bpm wild dancing but these days more gays complain that it's too fast. Where gay music once led trends, the interesting crossover has Yazoo's two singles which they now play in Heaven. The gay market wouldn't normally touch them but the German mix of 'The Anvil' and the ABC remix have crossed too.

In fact there's never been more choice than we have now: excellent imports and so many brilliant British bands. Those two Blancmange singles must have been last year's best. And listen for Set The Tone's first single, it's gifted. And small English one-offs like Animal Nightlife and Shriek Back are going to do well"

State of the Dance:

Yello - Heavy Whispers (acetate, electro funk)
Divine - Kick your Butt (gay disco)
Vaughan Mason - You can do it (hard funk)
Members - Go West (English dance music)
Set The Tone - Dance Sucker (Scottish dance music)

The interview was written by David Johnson who now runs the Shapers of the 80s website, which includes a wealth of information about London clubbing in that period, in particular the so-called Blitz Kids/New Romantics scene, which as he notes nobody actually in that scene called themselves! He discusses this article in the context of what else was going on in 1983 here.