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.

13th October 1990: People From Pepperbox Free Party at RAF Sopley Air Base, Hampshire

Some of the DiY bunch got themselves into trouble at this one, if you want to know what happened next I suggest you invest in Dreaming in Yellow! <- That’s the link for the review, scroll down for a link to buy 🙂

Deeper into the winter, we again encountered the hostility and heavy-handed approach of the representatives of the state in the decidedly unglamorous setting of an abandoned air force base near Sopley, Hampshire. There always appeared to be some cosmic rule of karma that applied to our parties. When the vibe was good (it was, of course, usually much easier to start a party than escape from one), we seemed to have luck firmly on our side. The very few which went weird were usually the disastrous ones involving bad drugs and arrests. This was to be one of the latter. Again, we arrived in two cars late on Saturday night; myself, Rick, Pete and DM (he wishes to remain anonymous and who can blame him) in one and Jack, Simon and Simon’s new partner Nikki in the other. In the back of Rick’s estate car were the decks, mixer and two crates of Simon’s records… Sopley RAF base was a pretty miserable affair with lots of war-era Nissan huts, abandoned in the seventies. The site had recently witnessed the nasty eviction of some travellers who had attempted to park up there; they had snipped the padlock and arranged the party as revenge, although no one had informed us of this. Any criminal damage taking a site could be used by the police as just cause to bust it. As we walked into one of the cold, abandoned huts selected for the party, there already seemed to be a strange atmosphere.

As Simon launched into a fairly dark acid set, we broke out some of the acid blotters we had brought and began consuming, which on reflection may not have been entirely wise. The party never really got going, perhaps because there was an inherent strangeness about raving in an old military base or because it just lacked the critical mass of numbers. We persevered through the night until, around five in the morning, during Simon’s masterful dropping of a remix of Phuture’s ‘Acid Trax’, several police officers strode into the building, looking distinctly unimpressed. Stopping the music, standard questions were asked: Who organised the party? Where are you from? What are your names? I think we just stared at the wall. Valiantly, Simon tried to negotiate with them but the game was up. I walked outside into the cold dawn air and saw that there were at least eight or ten police vehicles parked outside the gate, the only exit. Loitering for some time, we kept popping outside to see if the police had gone, which they had not. Finally, we began to drive off, with about five vehicles in convoy, ours being the last. As we neared the gate, the police allowed the other vehicles to leave and then moved in to block our car, probably because we were at the back and had two crates of records and two turntables. Clearly, the ranking officer, a policeman, made the signal to wind the window down and spoke to Rick [Digs]:
‘Did you organise this party?’
‘Erm, no…’
‘Did you play records at this party?’
‘Erm, no. Not really…’

Harry Harrison, Dreaming in Yellow. Velocity Press, 2022, p.116-117.

10th November 1990: Unite Free Party, Bloxworth, Dorset (Busted)

Thanks to commenter ambrose89 for sending us a detailed account of this (scroll down to comments), helping us out with the date, and for providing us with this newspaper clipping, nice one 🙂

Some members of the DiY collective first encountered a violent police crackdown on a party during one of their many excursions down south. The following quote is from Harry Harrison’s Dreaming in Yellow (reviewed here).

Soon after this remarkably benign brush with the law [Rhythm Collision II], events in our parallel lives down south would prove to be far less fortuitous. As our closest associates on the traveller scene had now moved to Nottingham, they would be the point of contact for the free party heartlands. God knows how they, or we, or anyone for that matter, ever found the isolated rural locations where parties were beginning to spring up, but somehow we got there in the end. Although veterans of police violence on the streets and demonstrations of the past, our first realisation that the authorities were prepared to use tactics employed against the miners and the travellers at the Battle of the Beanfield to stop a party came in that autumn of 1990.

DiY were starting to make inroads into the southern club scene at this point; within a year, Simon and Jack would become massively in demand. Following a club night somewhere in the south-west, we headed in yet another 3am convoy to a party near a place called Bloxworth in Dorset. I can’t recall who organised the party, DJs North and South strikes a chord, but it was a well-organised affair, certainly in comparison to those earlier parties at Pepperbox and Barton Stacey. A proper sound system, no apparent neighbours, all inside a marquee, hundreds of people partying in a really euphoric atmosphere at four o’ clock in the morning. Some kind of heaven.

Then, unbelievably, dozens of kitted-up riot police arrived from nowhere. We watched in mounting horror as they formed a line behind the decks at one end of the tent, turned the music off and walked slowly forward, hitting their shields, pushing and striking partygoers randomly. In seeming slow-motion, they shoved riot sticks through speaker cones, battered the DJ, yanked out cables and threw the decks onto the floor. Hundreds of panicking ravers spilt out of the other end of the marquee, walking and then running away, many onto the nearby road. Having emptied the tent and trashed the equipment, the police then emerged and, in a running battle, began hitting people indiscriminately. A gang of four or five young girls had climbed onto the roof of a car, and I will never forget the sight of fully grown men in riot uniform repeatedly hitting them with full force on their legs as they screamed.

Harry Harrison, Dreaming in Yellow. Velocity Press, 2022, p.114-115.

I recommend you buy the book (link just above) if you wish to read Harry’s excellent rant about police violence that follows this account of the agressive trashing of a DiY party.

31st December 1989: New Year’s Eve Free Party at Frowd’s House, Salisbury, Wiltshire

I’m very grateful to Oli for this account of what must be one of the south west’s first free parties, thank you so much!

The first one is the very first free party that I organised and DJed at.

The date was 31st December 1989, and the venue was Frowd’s House in Salisbury.

Frowd’s House was an empty almshouse building that had been squatted.

There was a great squat scene in Salisbury in those days, with some real characters, many of whom ended up buying vehicles and going on the road.

I did flyers for this party.

It was billed as “Psi Division In The Iso Cubes” (lifted from the Judge Dredd and Judge Anderson stories in the 2000AD comics). The front of the flyer was a Judge’s badge with PSI across it. (Google PSI Division badge).

This is before Pepperbox so we weren’t the PFP, and I wasn’t DJ Oli at this point.

I went on to become Inner Temple. One of the Pepperbox flyers mentions this name.

My good friend Paul Grant was going to play too but he succumbed to the acid before getting a chance.

Granty sadly passed away in the Spring of 1990.

It devastated me.

All the Pepperbox parties were dedicated to his memory.

I had 2 belt drive turntables and a Radio Shack mixer.

I played for a couple of hours and then the madness descended.

There was some VERY strong LSD around at that point and the party just melted.

13th April 1991: Free Party in Pitton nr Salisbury, Wiltshire

Thanks too to Alge, who also helped us figure out the correct date and sent in the following clipping about the site:

Alge also sent us a paper he wrote which had a mention of Pitton:

Time for a short story, a fragment of a party but one that prompts the writing of this essay. In Pitton near Salisbury ( you can look it up on a map) on the 13th of April 1991 there was a party (see Salisbury Journal
25th April 1991). All was fine and the music was loud but well away from any residential area. At about two in the morning twelve police vehicles encircled the field. Police in riot gear with dogs, C.S. gas and guns proceeded to charge the crowd and demolish the p.a.. It suddenly became aparent [sic] that this field in the middle of nowhere must be of national importance; a sacred space of some sort.

Oli was there, this is what he had to say, thanks again Oli!

Are you sure about the date of this one?
If this is the infamous Pitton party / riot, I thought that was April?

It was billed as Eric The Cleric’s (DJ ETC) birthday party (I’m not sure if we did flyers for this one).
His birthday is mid April if I recall correctly

Assuming this is the same party, things went awry early on.
The police had cordoned off the area but we managed to jump some fences, and climb down the steep hill behind the site, carrying my records.
I remember playing a set and Dennis (DJ Easygroove) played after me.
During Dennis’ set the police entered the site and kicked off. They got real ugly.
Everything and everyone was out of control.
The police herded loads of people into a three-sided barn, pushing everyone in against a wall that subsequently collapsed.
It was a miracle that no one died.

We fought back. Rocks and sundry missiles were launched at plod. Someone threw a piece of glass that hit a copper in the neck, cutting him badly. He was lucky to survive.
This was detailed in the tabloids at the time.

One girl was arrested, I forget her name, but her father was in the police, possibly an inspector? She was locked in a black maria, which was then surrounded by angry party people, who began rocking the van, trying to release the girl detained inside.

The tabloids had a field day and this party ended up being discussed in Parliament.
We were subsequently contacted by The Shamen, who offered to come and play at our parties. Needless to say, I declined their kind offer.

The travellers on site didn’t want us to put the party on in the first place, and in hindsight I regret that. Denzel never forgave me and was still banging on about it a decade later!

But one thing is for sure, the party would have passed off peaceably (our parties always did) had plod not kicked off.
The violence was started by them.
But the PFP had a “take no shit reputation” stretching back to the squat days in Salisbury, and we gave as good as we got.

Where you there too? What do you remember? Leave a comment 🙂