4th August 1990: People From Pepperbox Free Party on Pepperbox Hill, Wiltshire

David Stooke wrote us an email about this first Pepperbox party (there seem to have been others prior to this but the series of three parties that David drew the flyers for are the ones that everyone still talks about thirty-odd years later). This is his tale about drawing those flyers (which we would still love to see scans of, we know they’re out there!

I was living in an old bus around Salisbury at the time, knew Oli and Eric very well and we were all totally into the music. This has begun a couple or three years before, when a mutual friend of ours discovered the “Land of Oz” club nights in Heaven, below Charing Cross Station. He was there right at the beginning, going to Shoom and Phuture, in fact he was so ahead of the curve that we all thought he had gone slightly bonkers. We were all saying “Have you heard about Roger? He’s going to Disco’s”! We hadn’t heard of House music, at the time disco music was still uncool, we all thought he’d lost the plot! But he started sending mix CDs down to us in Salisbury, and invited some of us up to the Land of Oz and it wasn’t long before we all knew that something incredible was beginning to stir. Fast forward to the time of the first Pepperbox Free Party and by now it was getting huge. Oli and Eric did most of the organising, there were a couple of others as well, can’t remember them now, they were more peripheral. I was a long established artist, I’d been painting and drawing the free festivals at Stonehenge and the New Age Travellers for getting on for 10 years at that point, so I was used to people wanting posters and flyers designed for gigs, etc.

My bus was parked up a lane between fields about 10 miles out of Salisbury and one night, quite late, and pitch black, Oli and Eric turned up at the bus wanting a flyer designed to advertise the first of the three parties. At later dates I also did the others, but it was always the same scenario, the late night knock at the door, the heartfelt plea, can I design them something, and can they have it there and then? So, no time at all to try and come up with several ideas, it was a case of gathering all the candles together behind my shoulder to get enough light to draw at that time of night. I’d sketch the idea out in pencil lightly, then use a fine liner felt pen to do the more detailed, precise bits, a fatter magic marker to do some less detailed areas, and finally black acrylic paint to fill in the big areas. Usually, when it was too late to change anything, a better idea would spring into my mind but we had to go with that initial first design. They would take them away and get them photocopied on thin paper, they were cheap to produce and looked that way, rough and ready, nothing fancy. Somehow they really caught the vibe of the events, so despite being stressed out at the time, wishing I’d been given a few days notice to play with various ideas, in actual fact they suited the parties perfectly!

another design with Oli and Eric’s faces on, taken from the famous photo by Alan Lodge. I did mention my website, www.davidstooke.co.uk

Where my free festival and New Age Traveller artwork can be seen.

Hope these words and images provide a little more detail on those free parties, on top of that windswept Hill.

David sent in some other images which can be seen on the other Pepperbox posts here.

Harry Harrison, in his book Dreaming in Yellow, suggested that the first People From Pepperbox free party at Pepperbox Hill took place the same weekend as Torpedo Town 1990. However, one of our commenters says there were more before this but that ‘Other parties preceded this one, albeit on a smaller scale, with clubbers coming from Bournemouth and Southampton.’ Thanks Oli!

An anonymous organiser gave us this tipoff. He…

was … involved with the”Pepperbox party’s”under the guise of”People From Pepperbox”,on the first occasion I was the first to arrive on site, where there was a B,B,C, radio transmitter vehicle,that was relaying a recital from Salisbury Cathedral, I made them aware of what was happening that everything,and they wisely decided to re-locate to a layby just down the road on the Southampton side, besides our own D,J,,North& South from Bournemouth, it was for many the first time that that we had the pleasure of”D,I,Y,,… there was no tent,and no admission charge,,, approximately 5,000 people attended according to the local papers (Salisbury Journal),where it made the front page

The second party is here, August 25th Total Recall party is here, the party at Barton Stacey can be found here, and here is the post for the Ley Line Lunatics do.

11th or 18th August 1990: People From Pepperbox Free Party on Pepperbox Hill, Wiltshire

There was a second party at this location on either 11th or 18th August 1990, according to Harry Harrison in his book about DiY sound system’s adventures (we reviewed it here, you can buy it here).

We know pretty much nothing about this one, so if you were there, or have pictures or flyers, please let us know in the comments 🙂

The following images, painted by David Stooke, are, in his words ‘two t-shirt or badge designs for the parties, these weren’t from the time, done a few years later.’ More of David’s art can be found here.

The other Pepperbox Hill parties can be found on the blog here, here, and here. The same organisers also put on this one at Barton Stacey later in the year.

1st September 1990: People From Pepperbox’s Ley Line Lunatics Free Party at Pepperbox Hill, Wiltshire

We think this photo is from this party. It’s from David Stooke (thank you again David), who told us it was ‘a colour photo of my bus (the one at the front), taken the morning after the last of the three parties. I love the casualty lying unconscious in the wet, dewy grass! ‘ See his paintings here.

Dreaming in Yellow has the September 1st party as Earth Magyck but the flyer we’ve seen has Ley Line Lunatics printed on the front.

The People From Pepperbox joined forces with DiY’s DJs for this, the fourth (?) and final Pepperbox Hill party.

The following quote is from the brilliant Dreaming in Yellow, reviewed here.

Drawn by Simon’s tales [about Total Recall, the previous party at Pepperbox Hill], we all headed down in separate cars to the next Pepperbox party, named Earth Magyck, the following weekend, Saturday 1 September 1990. Rick, Pete, Barbara and I went via another big Raindance event, the last big pay party we would attend as punters. It had proved enjoyable but would be nothing compared to the free event, which we drove fast through the night to reach. With the car parked, we walked up to the party site, neckingthe tablets we had brought with us. In the darkness, we could hear the muffled bass kick, which will be instantly familiar to anyone who has ever searched for a free party in the dark night.

As we entered the circle of several hundred dancers loosely gathered around the decks, it became apparent just what a diverse group this was. In the shadows, some travellers’ vehicles were parked up, people climbing in and out of these crazily painted and eccentric machines. There was one strip of lights behind the DJ table, splashing vivid blocks of colour across the trees and occasionally highlighting the old monument itself. Jack was playing, locking the dancers further into the groove as Simon, backed by his guardian Damian, was going through his records; obviously, he would be playing some soon. And as the ecstasy kicked in, the whole scene reminded me of something imagined from the sixties, a communal ritual under the stars, a congregation free to dance, to talk, to wander off. Freedom made reality. All the wild freedom so promised by early acid house and now so absent from events like the one we had just driven from.

I wondered who had organised such a breathtakingly magical yet brazenly illicit event. In the dawn, as Simon took to his own decks (previously they had been using standard belt-drive turntables) for what would turn into a marathon set in the Wiltshire sunshine, we would find out. Chilly Phil was there, plus several of his travelling companions we had met at Glastonbury: Boysie, Emma, Roger, Gav. Other travellers we didn’t know had come over from the nearby site, plus some from Stroud, including a chirpy young chap whose name seemed to be Moffball. A contingent from Bournemouth were dancing
together, including Justin and Nige, who DJed together as North and South (one being from Manchester, the other local), Mark Darby, who would later set up Mighty Force Records in Exeter, Hammy, and some other townies.

Then there was a group of Scousers, identifiable by their tracksuits, a group of whom had moved to the south coast of Hampshire to ‘graft’. Clearly, the leader of this contingent was a square-jawed bloke resplendent in a gold jumpsuit and headband who would be introduced to us as Rory. Completing the eclectic gathering were the local Salisbury crowd, particularly their main organisers, two seemingly inseparable young men named Oli and Eric. Together they had arranged these parties, and although they were communal affairs where you brought what you could contribute, these two had sorted out the business end: decks, mixer, lights and, most importantly, the sound system. The generator had probably come from the travellers, as they needed them for their way of life. Ingeniously, Oli and Eric had started a club event in the back of a Salisbury pub called the Barron of Beef, ostensibly hiring a PA for this licensed venue but then taking it up to Pepperbox at the end and returning it to the pub before the owners came to pick it up.

As the sun climbed slowly into the sky, Simon would continue to play for hours. He had a different set of records to the other local DJs, as we had musically come of age immersed in the northern club scene. Additionally, he was being supplied with quality American imports, which probably didn’t make it down to the south-west. Either way, from the start, he acquired a legendary status that would never leave him. As the party continued past 9am, visitors arrived at the popular beauty spot and, inevitably, the police were not far behind. Initially fairly friendly, their attitude hardened as we all collectively ignored their requests.

Witnessing this ongoing game of cat-and-mouse negotiation, as support for our comrade we stood behind Simon on the decks. Demanding to know who the organisers were, a question with which we would become wearily familiar, they understandably honed in on Simon, the only person actively doing anything. Excuses were mumbled, ignorance claimed. Simon eventually gave them his real name, which raised a few eyebrows and was to have drastic consequences further down the line. There came that moment when it was time for the party to end, when the realisation strikes that the police really have had enough and arrests will soon follow. Speakers were loaded into vehicles, decks placed in the boots of cars, people tidied up.

As I recall, most people had left as we drove out on the A36, leaving only the travellers’ vehicles bringing up the rear, and as Phil’s bus pulled out into the road, two police vehicles blocked his way. This would be the first of many, many encounters with the forces of authority around a free party, and as the police entered Phil’s vehicle, the feeling of helpless agitation was overwhelming. After an agonisingly long wait, they emerged and drove off, leaving a relieved looking man to drive his bus back to site. Despite the police actions and the realisation that the location was no longer a viable party site, we set off back to Nottingham, elated and reverential over what we had experienced. During the emotional intensity of that party, alliances had been formed and friendships made that would have enormous repercussions for all of us present. Inspired, we wanted to do this again, and soon. We wouldn’t have to wait very long.

Harry Harrison, Dreaming in Yellow. Velocity Press, 2022, p.104-107.

What else do you know? Memories, however scattered, are welcome here, just have a waffle in the comments 🙂 If you want to send us images or have more to say, then email us: freepartypeople (at) yahoo (dot) co (dot) uk .

We have seen a flyer, do let us know if you have a photo of it as we would love to include it here!

Overall, we know very little about these parties. NB Here is the page for the first one which took place at the start of August one, the second one, the August Bank Holiday one (Total Recall), and the party on the airfield at Barton Stacey.

25th August 1990: People From Pepperbox’s Total Recall Free Party at Pepperbox Hill, Wiltshire

Massive thanks to David Stooke, the artist who created this and the other Pepperbox flyers. Here’s what he wrote in a comment on another post. More from David soon, stay posted 🙂 Be sure to check out his other artwork (link below):

I designed the flyers for the three Pepperbox Free Parties, I can’t remember the order of them now but they were called “Total Recall”, “The Fools on the Hill” and “The Ley Line Lunatics”. I was living in a bus at the time, Oli and Eric would come up to visit me late in the evening and want finished artwork there and then. No time to think, no time to try out different ideas, just get drawing! They were all done in a combination of black fine liner felt pen and black acrylic paint on sheets of white cardboard. I would sketch them out quickly in pencil and then draw the detailed bits in fine liner, and fill in the larger areas with black acrylic paint. If I remember correctly one of them I didn’t like, it was just too rushed, but the other two were quite good! I wish I’d kept the original artwork but foolishly let Oli keep it, now it’s all disappeared unfortunately. And I don’t have any of the actual flyers which were just photocopies and very cheaply printed. So there you have the story of the Pepperbox flyers! Check out my new age traveller and free festival art at http://www.davidstooke.co.uk

The following excerpt from Dreaming in Yellow credits the Pepperbox bunch with inventing the Free Party:

Rick [Digs], Pete [Woosh] and I didn’t go to but the party certainly lived up to its claims, Simon [DK] heading down with [DJs] Jack and Damian, then returning to Nottingham to rant for days about this incredible party that went on all morning and where he and Jack had played for hours and met loads of amazing people. A party with no entry fee, no security, no fences, not even a a tent or marquee covering the decks. By this stage, we were veterans of house parties and raves, veterans of free festivals too, but it had not really occurred to us to combine these two concepts into what would become known simply as ‘free parties’. Like all great ideas, it would seem obvious with hindsight.

Harry Harrison, Dreaming in Yellow. Velocity Press, 2022, p.104.

This was the third People From Pepperbox party at this location. The first one is here, the second one is here, and the last one, Ley Line Lunatics is here. Their party at Barton Stacey is here.

If you have any memories do please give us a shout in the comments. If you have longer bits of writing, photos or videos you want to send us about this party the best way to do that is by emailing us at freepartypeople (at) wordpress (dot) co (dot) uk.

20th October 1990: People From Pepperbox Free Party at Rising Sun Squat, Salisbury, Wiltshire

More tales from Oli, a Pepperbox Person. Thanks loads man!

The last of the Pepperbox era parties was in the Rising Sun. 

This would have taken place the weekend after Sopley.

We were on a roll in those days.

We were doing Pepperbox every weekend. Then, when that got shut down, we did Barton Stacey the following weekend.

The weekend after that we did Sopley.

And then the following week was The Rising Sun.

I know Harry believes that Sopley happened during the winter but I am pretty confident about that timeline. 

This was another squat party, like my first, in Frowds House

The Rising Sun was a long established pub in Castle Street. 

As was the fashion in the mid 1980s it became a ghastly wine bar and was renamed Sunnies. 

At some point, probably during 1989 or 1990, it closed down.

It was squatted by the usual suspects who had been squatting various city centre properties for the previous year or so, including Frowds House and a 4-storey building in Endless Street. 

We were in to Autumn at this stage so an indoor party made sense and the squat had already been taken. 

We invited DIY as guests again.

We used the PFP mattress sound system (so called due to the speakers being a unique design that resembled a mattress, we were lent the system by Midnight Lasers).

There were no flyers for this one. 

Holding the venue against police attack wasn’t an issue as there was no way that Wiltshire Constabulary would have dared to enter the property. It would simply have been too dangerous. 

With that in mind, I should mention an incident at the Endless Street squat some months previously, that may explain the reticence of the coppers to enter the Rising Sun squat. 

Several plod had arrived in Endless Street, in order to arrest one of the residents. 

They knocked on the door. 

There was a narrow doorway that opened in to a small hall. 

After some general argy-bargy and shouting someone grabbed one of the constables and pulled him inside the property; the door was slammed shut, leaving his colleagues out on the street. 

Inside the cramped hallway, a flurry of kicks and punches were aimed at the hapless copper, his helmet was ‘liberated’ and after no more than 20 seconds the door was opened again and he was unceremoniously shoved back outside into the arms of his colleagues. 

The gaggle of plod, along with their now helmetless comrade, left, tails between their legs. 

It is worth bearing in mind that there were no immediate repercussions from this incident. 

Perhaps the officers involved made a pact never to speak of what had happened, or maybe they felt they would bide their time, and wait for the appropriate moment to exact revenge. 

I favour the latter explanation, as it would go some way to explaining the unhinged violent behaviour of Wiltshire’s finest when breaking up the Pitton party, a few months later. 

Back to the Rising Sun….. 

The police shut down the whole of Salisbury for this one.

Every road into the city centre from the ring road was cordoned off. 

But the former pub was already heaving with people and the party was jumping. 

There was a great atmosphere at this one. 

A problem arose when DIY arrived, as the police were preventing people from walking along Castle Street and entering the squat. 

The legality of which was questionable. 

I was living in a shared house (of legendary repute) in Hamilton Road in those days, and left the party to meet Simon and Jack who had travelled down from Nottingham. 

DJ ETC was left manning the turntables. 

We walked down Hamilton Road to Castle Street, carrying Simon and Jack’s records. 

We got to within a few metres of the venue, only to be met by several police officers, including one in a peaked cap, presumably an inspector. 

He had a bit of a chip on his shoulder and told us to turn around and leave the area. 

I questioned his legal right to prevent us from going about our lawful business, carrying boxes of records along the street (ha ha ha) and was told that if we didn’t comply, he’d nick us all. 

It is important to be aware of the geography of this particular part of Salisbury. 

Castle Street runs from the ring road into the Market Square. The Rising Sun sits on Castle Street. 

However, behind the Rising Sun, the River Avon runs parallel to Castle Street. 

So myself and our guests from Nottingham walked towards the ring road, then turned left along Nelson Road and crossed a bridge over the Avon. 

We turned left again, following the river to another pub on the opposite bank from the Rising Sun. 

It was called the Boat House, and, it being midnight, was shut.

The Boat House was so called because one could have a beer in the garden, and rent a boat to enjoy a leisurely row along the Avon. 

We liberated one of these boats, clambering aboard with Simon, Jack and their records, and then proceeded to row the 50 metres or so upstream to the back of the Rising Sun on the opposite bank. 

We disembarked and entered the venue from the rear. 

The DIY guys hit the decks and the party continued all night. 

However, I made my way upstairs to one of the rooms overlooking the front of the pub on Castle Street. 

Opening the window, I looked down below to where the inspector who had prevented us from entering was standing with his colleagues. 

“Oi! Mate!” I shouted. 

The inspector looked up. 

On seeing me, he looked incredulous, and then angry. Really angry. But he had no words. He literally lost the ability to speak, such was his anger. 

I shouted down “We managed to get in mate, and the party is absolutely rocking! Your daughter is downstairs, and she’s having a great time!” 

And with that, I closed the window and disappeared from sight. 

That was one of my favourite moments in my short career putting on parties! 


The party went without a hitch, and because it was a squat, there was no pressure to get the mattress sound system out and past the coppers the following morning. 

It stayed there for a few days. 

Unfortunately, during this time, all the cables were stolen by someone living in the squat. This meant a big financial hit for Kevin and Richard from Midnight Lasers, and they were no longer willing to let us use their rig. We had put the parties on for nothing and had no money to reimburse them. 

After the Rising Sun, DJ ETC and myself became virtually the most wanted people in Wiltshire, Hampshire and Dorset.

It became impossible for us to do anything in our area.

Putting on parties in Wiltshire was madness really.

Wiltshire Constabulary (motto: Primus et Optimus – first and best) prided themselves as being the anti-hippie force. And they did enjoy the prospect of violence.

This was evidenced at Pitton of course. 

Nasty bunch.