18th-20th April 1992: Spiral Tribe Free Party at Acton Lane, London

On Easter Monday in 1992 there was a widely documented heavy-handed raid on a Spiral Tribe free party in a warehouse on Acton Lane. Were you there? What really happened? Here are some words commenters left on other posts:

Macca1971 Says:
September 18, 2012 at 2:32 pm

I went to the Acton Lane party, but left Sunday lunchtime before the coppers kicked off.

Only the second time I’d been out clubbing – fuck me, what an experience. 2 x Rhubarb & Custard caps certainly did a number on me.

When I originally tried to leave, I walked round the corner to where I’d left my car. As I rounded the corner I saw 3 van loads of coppers parked next to my car. Deciding that getting into my car in front of the police, fucked out of my head, wasn’t the best move, I went back inside and danced for another couple of hours!

That event truly opened my eyes.

m@rco Says:
February 2, 2015 at 9:10 pm

yeh Acton lane got well fukin brutal late on sunday when loads of riot cops and TSG smashed thru the warehouse wall…..the WALL ffs!!!!!!! m@rco

stretchy

Mar 3, 2010

if you were there then im sure its a night that you will Never forget,fuck the SPG!!!

Riddler ov Cheltenham

Jul 4, 2007

Who had the crap kicked outta them at Acton Lane, Easter Monday, by the ‘indiscriminate’ Met. Police? Join the club!

From Matthew Collin, Altered State: The Story Of Ecstacy Culture And Acid House. London: Serpent’s Tail, 1997, p.227.

Here’s an excerpt from a Graudian article (link to full article below):

‘On 19 April 1992 – Easter Sunday – Spiral Tribe, a self-described “rag-tag sound system group who came together driven by the will to keep the party going”, who had been running free raves with a mobile rig across the UK since 1990, set up in a warehouse in Acton Lane, west London. To a packed house, they partied through the night. In the early hours, police officers from the Metropolitan Police’s Territorial Support Group, a specialist division with duties including crowd control, surrounded the building. Those who tried to enter or leave had to face the TSG (the same group responsible for heavy-handed policing of crowds in the recent G20 demonstrations). According to witnesses at Acton Lane, some TSG were masked and had their ID numbers covered. The Spirals and partygoers barricaded the doors, but after a 10-hour stand-off, the police revved up a JCB and broke through the outer wall. Scores of ravers later alleged they were beaten in the dark of the warehouse; witnesses claim one pregnant woman was knocked to the ground. One man who tried to escape over the roof claimed to have been pushed; he fell two storeys breaking both arms and legs. No charges were brought. The next day a police helicopter escorted the Spiral Tribe convoy, 10 vehicles long, out of the London area.

Simone, one of the original Spiral Tribe members, who had fallen into the free party scene years before after working in a PA hire shop in north London, recalls: “Everyone who was there remembers exactly what happened. Being forced down on to muddy floors, being battered. It was a horrible experience.

“They were letting people in and not letting people out, then letting people out and not letting people in,” she continues, talking from her current base in a Paris apartment. (Like other Spirals I talked to, she didn’t want me to use her full name.) “All of a sudden you peered out of a crack in the wall, and the place was surrounded by every kind of police vehicle you can imagine. They had diggers, they were all in their riot gear, shields. We’d just been dancing for a few days, we’re in the middle of an industrial estate, not really affecting anybody else around, and then all of a sudden they started bashing the wall in. They smashed up the decks, just went to town basically. Imagine people who’ve been up for two or three days dancing; you’re a bit tripped out at this point. People were being carted off to hospital.”

The Spirals were used to run-ins with the law – “we’d had lines of police directing us across fields” – but nothing like this. “At that point we realised the police were really on our case. There was a news blackout. We tried to call all the journalists we knew, and there was nothing. What happened was kind of obscene, but it went unreported. It felt like we had no way of telling anyone.

“Really, what were we doing that was so disastrously wrong? Occupying empty buildings, playing music and dancing. People of all walks of life were coming together on the dancefloor. They [the police] acted completely out of fear.”

… “After Acton Lane, half of our speakers were blown. But people were always offering us things to make up for lost equipment.”‘

https://www.theguardian.com/music/2009/jul/12/90s-spiral-tribe-free-parties

24th-27th May 1991: Sweat, DiY and Circus Warp at Avon Free Festival, Sodbury Common, Chipping Sodbury, Avon

UPDATE: Steve just sent us this clipping:

sodburycommon91

Some photos of the festival on this page (scroll down):

https://www.travellerhomes.co.uk/?gallery=63

This was a year before Castlemorton and there were apparently house systems there according to this page: http://www.oldskoolanthemz.com/forum/chillout-room/11812-good-old-days-acidic-warehousing-bygone-nights.html (it’s a great article which was apparently copied from the now-defunct DiY discs site).

For the first time the major festivals appeared not so much as hippy events but akin to the great orbital raves of 1988. Here, indeed, was the true spiritual heir to the Summer of Love. The commercial rave scene could no longer genuinely claim to represent love, unity or spiritual celebration. Chipping Sodbury, the eventual site of the Avon Free Festival of 1991, featured various house systems and was really the first free festival so explicit in it’s reveration of dance music. The antagonisms many travellers felt towards these foreign new sounds, also began to become apparent. Fair point, if you have to live on a site with a baby, five days of hugely amplified house is probably not ideal. However, it is undeniable that the influx of this culture breathed new life into an atrophying festival scene. The Avon Free in 1987, for example, had been without joy, a paean to negativity.

Alan ‘Tash’ Lodge had some unwelcome police attention there, the text below is from his page: http://tash.gn.apc.org/photo_degree_ntu.htm

In May 1991 at a small “free festival” near Chipping Sodbury in Avon, a major police operation was mounted and road blocks were set up. The police were attempting to search most of those attending for controlled drugs. This “blanket” activity was held by our counsel to be illegal, since the police must act on individual grounds to suspect any particular individual. The law says that they must not make judgements on colour, style, appearance etc.

This was, however, exactly what was occurring and I was asked by lawyers to go and photograph the circumstances for later use (slides 134 – 142). I have engaged in this activity many times and know police frequently object or are obstructive.

This occasion was no different and while photographing, was threatened with arrest. It was never clear exactly why, but it would have achieved getting me out of the way. I was also subjected to a search myself.

The story is described in a statement that I made to record an official complaint against the police.

14-16th September 1991: Circus Warp, Circus Normal and Street Level Free Party at Broadwell Aerodrome near Burford, Oxfordshire

UPDATE 24/3/21: Joe Bloggs’ comment on the Cassington party about ten years ago (!) indicated that other rigs aside from Circus Warp were involved. I have updated the title and categories on this post but please let me know if you know something different party people 🙂

“Burford was Street Level with Circus Warp and Circus Normal (I think).”

Scant details on this one I’m afraid! Big thank you to Matt whose comment on this post alerted us to this party:

“This is about the ’91 (Aug or Sep?) Burford/Shilton party a few people have mentioned. I lived just down the road, and I’m pretty sure it was on what used to be Broadwell Aerodrome, off the A361 past the Cotswold Wildlife Park.

It was only the second party we ever went to, so we basically had no idea abpout anything, but there are a few things I do remember. One that as other have said, this was Circus Warp – I clearly remember the red/blue big top.

Couple of other things that happened that night/day.

Early in the evening, before things had really kicked off, we were sat smoking with a few randoms and this crusty girl who starts rooting around in the grass. Trying to be helpful, we asked her what she was looking for, to which she replied ‘two E’s, I’ve just puked them up!’. Naive as fuck, we watched wide-eyed as she found and re-ingested them, no doubt with a garnish of grass and dirt.

The night itself was mentally good – there were lots of very good red’n’blacks around and the atmosphere was just intensely good in that tent – probably the best of any party I went to. I remember hugging some large sweaty topless bloke, who it turned out was part of a minibus full of squaddies up from Wales (Cardiff I think) – the sort of person I’d have run a mile from under ‘normal’ Saturday night out circumstances.

Next morning hanging out at my mates car, and for some reason he has his kid brother’s bike in the back, so we were riding around on this toddlers bike. A random comes up and asks if he can have a go. My mate was a bit suspicious, thinking he’ll nick it, so the bloke goes ‘here you are, hang onto this then’ and gives us a bag with a load of 1/8th deals of hash in it. At that point my mate relaxes, and off the bloke peddals round the site on this kids bike. I wonder of anyone here saw him?

Happy days indeed.”

Thanks too to Jimmy, who also commented on the Cassington post.

“p.s burford was banging too!!!! i remember it absolutley slagging it down for an hour or so .. the tent became packed and the vibe went up up and away.. kind of the polar opposite to” clearing a dance floor” “

31st December 1992/1st January 1993 New Year’s Eve: DiY/Eze Love free party at Biscombe Farm, Bath, Avon

This report was sent to me (together with lots more) by Mark (mharridge) aaaaaaaages ago. Thanks Mark, and sorry it took so long!

 

UPDATE 14/3/2020: Here are newer uploads of the DK tape, enjoy! Thanks to Jerry for pointing out our broken links 🙂 By the way, if anyone sees any other broken links (I’m sure there are heaps!) just leave a comment and we’ll try to replace them with current ones 🙂

https://hearthis.at/sbradyman/diy-eze-love-free-party-nye-92-93-2-simon-dk-pt1/

https://hearthis.at/sbradyman/diy-eze-love-free-party-nye-92-93-2-simon-dk-pt2/

Recordings from the rest of the night can be found on this page:

http://www.oldskoolanthemz.com/forum/showthread.php?t=129737

Incidentally, this party belongs to the long list of great parties I never made it to. Some of my friends went and had a whale of a time. Anyway, here’s Mark’s account of the night:

New Years Eve daytime having a smoke at Holmer’s house with Mr Wyer and one other(?) plans were made to head for the party that night Bath way. I called two other mates, Woody and Spence, and the mission was on. So, after waiting for Woodie to finish his washing up shift 😉 at the Jade restaurant we set off just after 11pm in Spencer’s white 405.

Before long we were hammering down the m5 and come 12pm the obligatory champagne made its appearance. After a quick refuel, we set off again reaching the party around 2am(?). Anyone who was out that night will remember it was absolutely freezing! The party though was in full swing and I remember being impressed by the t-shirted and sweaty bodies inside the marquee compared to the freezing people outside.

We soon realised that there werent any E’s on site – or so we were told and decided to plump for some hash and acid instead. This we did, scoring off a nice little ice cream van parked nearby. The night passed in acid, champagne and slate confusion and the rising sun showed the whole area to be wreathed in fog which was confusing many people by the looks of it. We made the brave decision to go and try and dance so after Spencer’s neatky executed 3 point turn and a close encounter with a large hairy pig we were inside the tent. All I remember is dancing with a insane grin on what appeared to be a 45 degree slope. Anyway, a good time was had by all 🙂

8th February 1992: Spiral Tribe Free Party at York Road, Kings Cross, London

This report reached us from the diary of Simon M:

[My] first free party was Feb 8th 1992, Spiral Tribe at King’s Cross. It was in a derelict warehouse behind King’s Cross station, near some gas holders. There was a massive hole in the wall and it was freezing cold. It didn’t get started till late. Saw alot of what appeared to be ketamine cases. It was exciting to be at an illegal rave having heard about them, but it wasn’t the best.

Some images of this do were on the now-defunct Spiral Tribe site but can luckily be accessed here thanks to the Wayback Machine.

Were you there? What do you remember? Let us know in the comments 🙂