Alternative NR23

Free Festivals, Free Parties and Squat Raves

Free Festivals

Norfolk festival 1987

Free festivals
Travellers, camp fires, bands and real people.

Raving 1995 - 2004


Diary of a raver
An amazing time of my life which taught me a lot about myself. Sometimes traumatic, but mostly fun.

Altered States

Altered states

Altered States
Photos from London squat party raves by Luis

Travellers - Life on the road

goat eat the door

Life on the road
Photos and videos of Mary O'Brien

My audio and video recordings

Recordings from independent gigs mostly around Norwich, events, campaigns, place etc

Recordings archive



NR23 Home

"We want to be free - to do what we want to do"

Squat party!

Most of my life has been pretty conventional sadly, I had always worked full time, bought a house, paid into a pension scheme and all that. But everyone has free time and just going up the pub and watching TV left me cold. Out there was a much more interesting way to have fun.

What's on offer from events like Glastonbury or "the nighttime economy" of commerical nightclubs now is a pale imitation of the free festival / free party scene. Basically they found a way to sell us something we used to have for free.

Free festivals had their roots in the 1960's, events like Windsor or Weeley. Free festivals were mostly smaller gatherings, but the idea was the same, a free space away from the establishment.

As someone described it "There were no tickets, no wristbands and no security, you could turn up when you wanted and stay as long as you wanted". Sometimes a small charge was made but if they weren't actually free to get in, while you were there you were free of rules and establishment hierarchy.

During the late 70's and erly 80's the Stonehenge festival grew to an enormous size. I could never go to that because I couldn't take enough time off from work, I had other things I wanted to do with my limited spare time. But we had Glastonbury which back then was almost a free festival, better organised and you had to pay, but it was cheap and you were just as "free" when you were there.

In 1985 the Thatcher government ended the Stonehenge gathering with a violent attack on the convoy known a the Battle of the bean field.

But by then, something else was about to errupt, Acid house; raves.

The big problem was caused by the war on drugs which ensured all this stayed out of the established mainstream and the profit motive was gifted to organised crime. It needn't have been like that and it shouldn't have been like that.

Throughout the late 80's and 90's rave culture exploded. The government did the only thing governments seem capable of doing, it cracked down again with ever more darconian laws. But this time it was harder, rave was everywhere. The 'underground culture' of illegal raves - known as "free parties" or "squat parties" - carried on the tradition of the free festivals with powerful sound systems playing techno and other forms of dance music.

Also, wound up with all of this was a vibrant community of "New Age Travellers" - hippies to some - people who lived in old buses and lorries.

But it wasn't just the free festivals and parties, this country had a vibrant music culture based around DIY gigs. It was easy to hire a venue and put a gig on and there was a wonderful local music scene totally unconnected with the commercial pap you heard on the radio. The alternative culture of punk mutated during the 80's into something that touched every corner of the country and the local band scene threw up an amazing range of musical styles, some better than others, but that's how it goes.

I borrowed video cameras and lugged tape decks aorund local gigs and made a small record of what was going down in the 80's and early 90's, a culture I was very much a part of.

This section is a diary of my involvement with the alternative culture. It was mostly a lot of fun, I wouldn't have missed it for the world.

Since the early 2000's it's become harder to organise this sort of event - mostly because of the Blair government - and now you have to pay, be supervised and go home early.

In truth, modern life is crap.

Free party!