Diary of a raver

1995 - 2005

The early days at the Waterfront 1995

Goa India New year 1997

Rustler's Valley - South Africa Christmas 1997

Transkei South Africa - New Year 1998

Brick Lane

Brick Lane - London 3rd April 1999
A huge party that ended with a near tragic accident
The traumatic story of the "Window jumper" - it happened right in front of my eyes.
The surpising effect it had on me - I can thank the squat party for giving me the biggest lesson about who I was and what I am capable of when push comes to shove.

Caledonean Road - London 8th May1999

The Pig farm - Norwich 29th May1999

Exodus 1999

Exodus festival - Luton August bank holiday 1999

Trashed and busted and the last Insanity party - London 25th September 1999

M40 devastation

Westway devastation - London 23rd October 1999

Hackney Community College - London December 1999

Millennium Madness - London New year 2000

Time Guard - London January 2000

Golden Triangle - Norwich April 2000

The Penbury - London April 2000

The Fortress - London May 2000

Banana Moon - Petersfield, Hampshire June 2000

Lee Bridge Road - London July 2000

Dutch Teknoval - Gronigen NL August 2000

exodus free sppirit

Exodus "Free Spirit" festival September 2000

The year ended with a couple of London parties and a squat in Norwich in the old Bennetts store - a venue which was to host four parties until the local paper did a "Raves shock horror" story.

2001 started with a multi system bash in South London and then two parties run by HEADFUK under the title "Hardcore convention". Then there was the Panik/Underground sounds double bill - two parties in one day - and another multi-rig bash in a huge warehouse near to Tottenham Hale station.

Eventually, even I needed a break untill ...

Amsterdam Psy-trance party August 2001

And then the Roach Road party happened

Roach road

Roach Road September 2001; a truly humbling and wonderful experience, the free party scene flowered.


Following a small squat party in Norwich early in the year, I took a long break from parties, with the exception of the jubilee weekend in May when a large free party happened near Thetford. It suffered a bit from power problems on the Saturday night, and got closed down with a noise abatement on Sunday, but it was fun - if a bit messy.

Other than that though, I didn't go again till August, when two happened on following weekends, the Elvin Moon Moot near Newbury and Talybont in South Wales

Elvin moon moot

Elvin Moon Moot August 2002

Talybont August 2002

Then nothing until 2003 which started with a massive warehouse multi rigger in west London and was followed by a party near Liverpool Street. But to be honest, I came away from them thinking I'd taken all this as far as it could go and a bit further than it should have, so I knocked it on the head for a while.

In May I was down in London and got word of a big party that night. This would be my last real squat party but summer took me to the Czech Repulic for the Czech Tek

Carpenter's Lane 3rd May 2003

Czech Tek July 2003

so I then I stopped, no more raves.

Well, almost. At the end of 2004 I was tempted to do one more but didn't go, only to drove down to London early on new years day to have one last squat rave, totally sober. I'd always wondered what it would be like to turn up in the morning. It was interesting.

New mills, New year 2005.

My raving phase started in 1994 at age 40, I was a genuine geriatric raver right from the start. This annoying music had been grabbing my attention for some time but it wasn't until I stopped smoking tobacco that I started going out to raves.

What happened was I had tried to cut down smoking several times and it didn't work, so on April 16th 1994 at about 6.30 in the evening I decided to stop and go cold turkey. All hell broke loose.

I couldn't sleep and was so full of energy. Pubs were places where people smoked back then so I couldn't go there, TV became impossible to watch (and still is actually). I was going out for 20 mile bike rides before breakfast and was desperate for something new to fill my time, so I went to a clubnight at the Waterfront here in Norwich.

It was a pretty tame 2.00am finish but I enjoyed it and no-one laughed at my attempt at dancing, so I started going to all-nighters and discovered something wonderful.

Every month the Waterfront held "Milky lunch" clubnights and I became a regular. There were always two rooms at least, sometimes three and upstairs was home to the Offyerface crew

This carried on for some months and then in 1995 the internet arrived and I became a member of UK dance, an e-mailing list. This took me first to clubs in London and then to free parties there.

I went to London because it was easy to get to and from on the train, I didn’t have a car back then and anyway driving to these events probably wasn't a good idea.

The first place was the amazing Tyssen Street studios in Dalston. This place was an old factory which housed various strange things, including psychedlic techno nights. It was at one of these I picked up a flyer for an Aphid Moon party in Tooley Street south of the river in a disused restaurant. Just the Aphid moon rig downstairs in a basement with a chillout upstairs. I was given the "united systems" phone line number here, but didn't make use of it for a while.

In Brixton, down Coldharbour Lane, there are railway arches and it was in these I first encountered the true London freeparty scene. In late 1996 "Hellraiser" parties were advertised on UK dance, so I went along and encountered "acid techno", a sort of hardcore punk version of rave music which was the sound of the London squat party scene.

Christmas/New year I did my annual world trip, this time to South Africa where raving was a big thing. In particular I had a three day party in the legendary Rustler's Valley - a sort of cross between a hippy commune and a south of England country club, followed by a two day party in transkei on the wild coast.

Throughout 1997 and into 98 I went to ever more events in London, mostly at Tyssen Street and later at Trendz in Hackney where I first met the HEADFUK and Tribe of munt collectives. Milky Lunches at the Waterfront continued, Offyerface started nights in Zoom nightclub and UK dance organised three nights under the banner "Triology" in London.

It's fair to say the bug had bitten and deeper was the only way to go. Clubnights were OK, they were fun, but at the end of the 90's the drug prohibiton laws were ramped up under Tony Blair's "new Labour" government. This created door searches which I found unacceptable and degrading, whereas the free party scene was a whole different thing. There were no door searches, events were totally lacking in pretence and on the whole free party ravers are the most friendly and accepting people you will ever meet. It's all "underground", you have to know people to find the parties, it's not hard to do and it's this shared love of the scene that keeps it all together, The UK dance mailing list opened the door to it all.

It was in 1998 I met up with Paj and early 1999, through an extraordinary series of coincidences, we met a group of squatters - Italians - in the Finsbury Park area of London (where I used to live) and through them we found the London squat party scene.

Now free parties happened all over the place and still do, usually far out in the sticks. Squat parties are a similar idea only urban and take place in liberated derelict buildings. As such squat parties have an added degree of illegality, well a few layers of added illegality actually. This of course all adds to the fun and you can never be sure when or how the party would finish. It really isn't the done thing to take a camera to these events, so sadly I have no photos of most of these parties. later I did take a small cheap camera.

In the coming months we went to a lot of parties with the italians and I began to notice they were mostly on a line between Finsbury Park and Hackney Wick, the route of the 236 bus. I later discovered this was the route of the scrapped North Cross Route of the "motorway box" plan from the 1960's, the derelict buildings being a legacy of planning blight.

This was all a real eye-opener and something I followed on an almost weekly basis for the next two or three years.

The big and frankly unforgivable hole in my rave record concerns the Waterden Road parties. I went to so many of these genuine free parties during 1999 but didn't keep a record of them in any form. Paj had got hold of a flyer shortly after the Brick Lane party and so we went along. Quite what the old place had been was never really discovered, some said a sweet factory, others an abattoir, it could have been either frankly.

Party after wonderful party happened there, never any trouble it and became known as the "free space" by the HEADUK collective, a group I got to know really well. It was a wonderful place which was sadly missed. It eventually became the site of the press centre of the 2012 Olympics.

For many years the night started in the bar at Liverpool Street station, meeting people from around the country and beyond, from where we phoned the party info lines.

This was followed by a taxi ride to some strange part of town few people went to at night, The mini cab firm near Liverpool Street were used to it though and always got us there.

Parties happened in all sorts of places, mostly old warehouses in the dark streets of Hackney Wick, sometimes in disused office blocks and well, anywhere.

I have to say that office block parties were my favourite, although the health and safety fairies would have had a fit had they known about them. Sometimes a large derelict office block several stories high would be filled up with rigs and ravers and a form of chaos which has to be experienced to understand would descend on the place. They're  strange buildings, often a very basic in design not unlike a warehouse with rooms built of fibre board and suspended ceilings, it's all very delicate and doesn't last long when a party happens in it.

I became friends with a couple of the systems - first HEADFUK and later Panik! and for a while it almost became an alternative parallel life to my everyday existence in Norwich.

But Norwich had a nice scene as well, far more civilised and, well just nicer than London had to offer. Parties up here were less extreme but friendly. I mostly kept to underground club nights in the city but did venture out into the country a few times for parties in pig farms and remote rural places, as well as a couple of parties on the ridgeway, in Wales and abroad.

The London squat parties in particular were the really interesting experience which taught me a lot about myself. Wonderful as all this was, it did come with problems, not everyone can handle real freedom and others are only too happy to exploit it. It was all very "in your face" and at times you did need to be careful.

But what was really happening? There is a genuine desire to gather together with like minded people and the music is an important driving force. It is a real culture, but it is also illegal because it challenges the government's drug prohibition policy.

Because of this free parties and especially the squat scene are akin to the speakeasies that sprung up during American alcohol prohibition of the 1920's. The result is much the same; a dymanic, exciting but hidden culture that spreads essentially by word of mouth. When governments criminalise social behaviour, people just become devious and do it anyway. Prohibition always creates this sort of thing and always leads to ever more repressive laws.

Yes, illegal raves and especially the squat parties are dangerous, but that's not the full story. As I discovered at the Brick Lane party the people did come together to help someone who was in serious trouble without being asked and this can teach you a hell of a lot about yourself.

More: What is a free party?