For The Record: The Real Reason Illegal Raves Are On the Rise.

Words by: Ben Raven
Posted: 15/3/18 17:21

A photo posted to underground crew, Scum Tek's Facebook page.

Dust off your whistles and round up your crew, real raves are back but the reasons run deeper than just club closures.

According to newspapers in the UK illegal raves are back. The number of off-the-grid parties in London has doubled -- according to the Daily Telegraph -- with 133 in 2017, compared to 70 in 2016, despite police claiming they are putting more resources into clamping down on them.

It’s funny how the impact of that kind of story has changed over the decades since rave culture as we know it today began in the late 1980s.

When I first started going to illegal free parties in the early 90s, the same kind of news was greeted by widespread shock and condemnation. Back then raving was a highly sensitive, secret practice sensationalised by tabloid newspaper reporting of drug death casualties that you only divulged to your other friends who were also into raving and when news of illegal raves became the topic of conversation over a meal at home, you pulled a secret, knowing smile.

Of course there is still a very sizeable number of the population tutting and scoffing to hear news of a rise in illegal raves. But now that the first wave of acid house ravers are middle aged parents themselves, it’s highly likely the news will be greeted by a lot more knowing smiles and from the original acid house generation, a look to the ceiling and an offering of thanks that today's young people haven’t completely lost touch with hedonism and rebellion after all.

The millennials have become an often discussed curiosity in recent youth culture debate. Where the 60s had hippies, 70s had punks, the 80s had ravers, the 90s had hip-hop and superclubs, the 2000s had well, more partying again -  a raft of studies agreed that millennials were more interested in spending their weekends going to brunch than clubbing.

For anyone who grew up idolising the ultra hedonism of previous youth culture movements, it was a baffling idea to comprehend. Youth culture had always seemed so driven by rebellion. Yet here was a rebellion of sensibility, like none before it. A rebellion against rebellion.

Praise the Lords of the bassbins then that a new generation are flying the flag of rave. Touch a piece of wood and say a silent prayer of thanks for some evidence that rebellion is still alive and well.

Of course, the lack of venues in London, most recently highlighted by the closures of clubs like Dance Tunnel, Plastic People and the attempted closure of fabric in 2016, seems the most likely culprit for the rise in illegal raves.

Dance Tunnel. Gone but not forgotten

But that flies in the face of the another recent upturn in London clubbing, that suggests the party scene in the UK capital is thriving. There are new clubs and although the nature of clubbing is changing, with the popularity of seasonal or occasional parties trumping the weekly club nights of old, London’s electronic music scene is as vibrant as ever.

The real reason in my mind lies a lot deeper in the human subconscious. At 39, I can safely say having raved for the entirety of my adult life so far (and a good chunk of my early teens as well) I will always be a raver. The driving rod of that identification with rave subculture is of course electronic music.  

But looking back on it now, I can see that in my teenage years, raving was a rejection of normal society and everything that I hated about it. That included political ideologies like Thatcherism. Social classification. The institutional and invisible societal norms of racism, homophobia or gender discrimination. The gravy train of capitalists, politicians and religious leaders who had geared the system for their own ends and to add insult to injury, had the cheek to tell us how we should live our lives.

The iconic trailer for Trainspotting, which summed up the 90s rave generation.

Just as profoundly, I also rejected my place in the rat race that I felt I had been thrust into without consent. The invisible gun to the back that forces us to Go to School. Get a Job. Pay Tax. Have Kids and Die.

Going to a party on a beach or in the woods and listening to music past the 1am curfew of the time and staying up all day to listen to music and hang out with like minded people was a very simple way of saying an epic fuck you to normal society.

Somewhere along the way however, rave became homogenised and would later mutate into big business and integrate into mainstream society. Raves in fields became raves in clubs. Flyers became magazines, which became websites and social media pages. Raving went from being an ideology to a pastime. A hobby. A pursuit engaged in via low budget airlines to Ibiza, Berlin and beyond and now bizarrely, something you can (delicately) discuss with your kids.

Adam Curtis' 2016 documentary about how governments use fake news and modern day media to control the masses.

Despite this, however, the wheels of the gravy train are still turning and the rat race is still running. The pressures of society are even more amplified by today’s media and the unrelenting culture of fake news and hyper normalisation. Go to School. Like. Post a Photo. Get a Job. Like. Post a Photo. Have Kids. Like. Post a Photo. Die. Hope someone Likes. Hope someone Posts a Photo.

It seems to me that there are maybe even more reasons to rave than ever. There are more reason to say fuck you to normality than ever. Thanks to technology, we wear the weight of the world on our shoulders every single day. Opting out of the race, even just for forty eight hours, still seems to me like a sensible thing to do.

For more Ibiza Voice views on the politics of dancing, click here.


Politics Of Dancing
Ralph Lawson