Brick Lane Squat Party
3-4th April 1999

This party took place in what is now a very plush office block known as "Number 1 Brick Lane", but which back in 1999 was standing derelict. It turned out to be one of those "milestone events " which happen from time to time.

I was in London for something of a rave binge - a three day munt - it had been in the planning stage for a while and Doug had come down from Edinburgh where he was at university, over from the USA for a year.

So on Friday, we headed down to London for a Triology party in Trendz club in Hackney (an area of town I was later to get to know very well).

First, we called at a squat I'd been to a couple of weeks before and arranged to crash there between parties - an old pub near Finsbury Park populated mostly by Italians. That was where we went on Saturday after Triology and it was these guys who gave us the location of the party on Saturday night.

Also living in this squat was "K Elly" and "Speedy Paul", two people who I got to know very well over the next couple of years.

I'd been to a squat party the last time I was down in London, Paj had taken me along - that had been my first squat and this one was to be the first I took myself to ....

What happened that night would stay with me for a long time

The Video

The party was near Aldgate East off Brick Lane, a huge blue and white office block on the corner of Brick Lane in the East End.

Loads of people are arriving as we turn up around midnight and boom-boom-boom is coming from inside, so we give the £5 "donation" and in we go.

Posted on the door is a notice explaining that this is a legal squat and that the squatters live there.

Oh Jeeze, this place is huge. Over something like 7 floors (including the cellar), there were rooms and rooms of sound systems. I lost count of how many there were, but it was much more than the 6 promised. There was everything from London Acid Techno to Tech-house, although most of the music was of the hard techno intense psychedelic variety.

Me and Doug start exploring and we find an office with some people inside, we go chat and the first of several strange things happen.

I'm talking to this person about video editing and such (it's my job) and he shows me what's in his bag, a hidden 8mm video camera.

He also has a mobile phone (this is in the early days of mobiles) and so I get him to ring my home phone and leave his mobile number on my answer machine.

Later I get a copy of his tape, which is now on Youtube for the world to enjoy. Of all the parties I've been to, this remains the only one I have a video record of. The pictures of the party are stills from the tape

The venue

The venue - now known as "Number 1 Brick Lane" it doesn't look like this anymore

Socialising in an office

Socialising in an old office.

The Lysergic room

The Lysergic room was intense. With only the light from a UV tube and one strobe, which flashed at the same speed all night without a break, this was a hard acid techno room. Close by was Crossbones, where I collected the flyer.


Crossbones flier

The night was spent either dancing myself silly or wandering around this huge building, constantly finding more and more new areas and different systems. Fair to say I was getting as trashed as the building was.

Ground floor level - the punk room was on the left, jungle beyond All squats have dogs

Dancing

The kitchen with its glass chimney before it got trashed

Another room

More dancing

One thing was clear though, the event was popular, massively popular. Despite there being no advertising and the phone lines not opening 'till 10.00pm, loads of people turned up, and the place was heaving, particularly the stairwell and for a while, it was difficult to get to the ground floor, so I stayed upstairs.

The reason for the popularity is simple, no hassles. This was free land, go mad in an empty office block, no sound level limits (which had ruined the Triology party the night before) and of course no bouncers making sure you don't have too much fun, and loads of drugs.

Anyway, somehow I lost Doug for a while so I continued my wanderings down a second staircase, through the water supply room and into a huge underground room and a system with the most beautiful sounds and a wonderful light rig, but not too many people seemed to know it was there.

I came back up to the first level where the punk band had been, now there was a small area with a PA and a guy with a CD, MD and DAT arrangement playing "home made" music of various types. This guy looked like a real thug, huge he was with deep set eyes. He seemed to know his music though and was treating the CDs with utmost care.

Now I began to see the strength of the underground in London, the brilliance of the music and the two little figures held stiff against the blandness of commercialism, I was enjoying this, but then I noticed the punks, many of whom had been doing a lot of ketamine and some had crashed out, others staggered around. I decided it was a bit scary there, so I wondered off back upstairs.

On one floor there was what had been a restaurant. Although the serving counter had been stripped out, the room still had that air of potted plants and people in suites, it had been a very smart place in its day.

Next to the restaurant was the old kitchen area, with a large glass chimney over what had been the cookers, beyond that more rooms, more corridors.

When I got back to this area the restaurant was full of people standing around silently, it was the tripping room. The sound of breaking glass came from the kitchen.

It was about this time I began to notice the place was developing a "down at heel" look, bottles strewn everywhere, graffiti starting to build up on the walls. Several times I heard the sound of breaking glass as people were having fun trashing the offices.

The party was in full swing and the whole building resonated to the combined sound of the systems which produced a sort of "banging rumble", especially impressive in the stairwell.

More rooms later I find Doug, who seemed to be enjoying his first squat rave, he'd been having an interesting time. I had been worried as to how he would feel about all of this, certainly it was quite unlike anything he had experienced in the US. He seemed happy enough and we went upstairs together to yet another room.

This room was huge. It was daylight by now (had been for some time) and the large "glass wall" windows let the light flood in to show a somewhat trashed open plan office room full of trashed people going mental to banging intense psychedelic techno. After dancing for some time I took a break and sat down for a chill with Speedy Paul.

As we were talking, some bloke on an out of control acid trip introduces himself by slapping me on my head. A short while later and he runs headlong into one of the large windows, crashes through it, swings on the glazing bar, gets pulled back in and thrown into my arms.

Party over.

Suddenly I'm holding a person with a massive cut to his stomach area, I'm covered in blood and we have a full scale emergency on our hands..

He became known as the "window jumper" and was very lucky to survive, I certainly didn't know I could do any kind of first aid, never mind something like that.

Anyway, once the ambulance and police business was done, me and Doug left and went for a cup of tea. I was going into a form of shock - post traumatic stress disorder - which took some time to clear. Thanks to the police and an amazing bit of luck I was able to make contact with Mr Skywalker and I told him the full story, that helped to clear my mind and, it seems, his a lot. He did make a full recovery anyway, but I don't think he went to anymore squat parities. I however, did.

The full story of what happened during the emergency, best as I can remember it can be read here

Back to Alternative NR23

Footnote:

This was the first of two parties held in this building, the second was the week afterwards, but I didn't go to that one.

The picture of the venue was taken a year after the party. The building was boarded up and guarded by private security, but still untouched after the parties.



 

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