Millennium madness

Albany House, Shorditch High Street, London E1
New years 2000

I decided to go to London for the millennium, not that I wanted to go to the Dome, or get crushed in massive crowds of drunken tourists, but because that was the place most likely to find a decent free party. Anyway, I had the chance to live in a squat for a week, something I'd never done before. So after Christmas with relatives I head down to London to live in a squatted pub near to Dalston.

Eventually, the new year arrives and the night starts with a small squat party in the old pub, we entirely miss the fireworks and general hype, only realising the new millennium has happened because I set the alarm on my mobile, anyway no-one is in much of a state to really care! There had been a lot of hype about the "millennium bug" which was going to cause power cuts and the end of civilisation as we knew it, but, sadly, it didn't happen.

So around 2.30 or so, we hike off to the squat party, in an old office block unused since 1981 (I found a calendar), the offices upstairs full of 1970's computer technology. Getting in was a problem, although I more or less walked straight in everyone I went with was locked out. It seems I was one of the last in, and the place was crowded.

I don't know what I was expecting for the millennium squat party, but I guess I was expecting a really big one, what we got was actually something totally unexpected, by me at any rate, although it was fairly big. There were (I think) six systems including Cross Bones (who have been at some of the best parties of 1999), Pendulum, Skalywags and Stinky Pink. Pendulum on the ground floor was the best though, a nice sound and good lights. The only bad part of the venue was the one and only narrow staircase which became dangerously crowded at times.

I suppose it was obvious that with all the commercial raves going on that night,
most of the "ordinary" people who go to these things would be catered for. Although there was more or less the usual mix of dodgey geezers and squat party regulars, this time there was a different "feel" to the party.

It was strange. I noticed something was different by the way quite a lot of the people were behaving - sitting down in groups and talking, there was soup available and bread rolls, there were even family groups. Then it became clear a lot of the people there had made a real effort to dress up, ragged they may have been but this was a big night.

Albany House, Shorditch
Albany House, unused for 19 years before the squat party

A lot of the people in the party were homeless people or squatters, a far higher proportion than normal from what I could tell, although I did see a couple of the software-engineer-type regulars.

I think it was this that gave the party such a different "vibe". Often at these events there is a darkside, I didn't see it at this one. Nothing got trashed, perhaps squatters have a better regard for the buildings they occupy than the average weekend squat raver.

At one point I was looking out through filthy windows at the financial district of London - The "City" - less than 1/4 mile away, the hi-tech buildings bathed in brilliant floodlighting whilst in our squalid building ragged, thin people danced and laughed.

1999 threw a lot of things at me, but I never in all my wildest dreams imagined I'd spend the start of the new millennium with the homeless but that is what happened.

Anyway, around 9.00 am or so, I wonder down stairs and come face to face with some gentlemen from the Met police force, who are "chatting" to the organisers, quite a lot of them actually. They don't seem too upset by my presence though and eventually they leave, but the party winds down after this visit.

One memory sticks in my mind of all the things that happened that night, a young kid of maybe 17 or 18, ragged filthy clothes and matted hair hugged me and wished me a happy new millennium. I hugged him back, but there was almost nothing to hug, just skin and bones.

Welcome to the new millennium.


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