13th-15th July 1991: Circus Normal, DiY and Free Party People Free Party at Moreton Lighthouse, Birkenhead, Merseyside

Most of chapter 14 of Dreaming in Yellow is devoted to this party, but I’m going to be mean and only include less than three pages. You’ll have to buy the book yourself if you want to read about the adventures experienced by Harry Harrison on his way into the party, and the trials and tribulations of the DiY crew’s return journey. At this stage, the rig has just turned up (they had a club night on the Friday):

By Saturday evening, thousands had arrived, swelled throughout the night as clubs closed, word and flyers flew around and, most of all, because it was featured on the local news. There can be few more surreal experiences than sitting on a traveller’s bus, watching a small television as a news helicopter transmits outraged video footage from above the very vehicle in which one is sitting.

I would wager that more drugs were consumed at the ensuing festival, per head, than any other event in British history. On Saturday night, all-night, through Sunday and on into Monday morning, Black Box rocked the pyramid. Two distinct groupings, the travellers and the scouse ravers merged, both beloved of extreme intoxication and revelry, and amicably at first. More sound systems arrived; Circus Normal set up their enormous rig on the other side of the still-expanding site. And still they came. Barbara arrived in her Renault 4, overladen with Rob’s lightshow. Jack, Pezz and Simon played, John Kelly arrived and went on to a rapturous reaction. Sasha never made it, but it was truly his loss. All our mates from Liverpool rolled in, too numerous to list, as did the Manchester crew, friends from Hull, Bristol, Sheffield, the ever-keen Nottingham massive and many, many more. Conversely, more stolen vehicles were arriving, some driven onto the dance floor, which had expanded onto the grass outside, way beyond the pyramid. Truly wild, truly unique, truly mental. Daylight broke over the estuary, which is when the photo on the cover of this book was taken. On another gloriously sunny day by the Mersey, thousands of people danced through the dawn, through lunchtime and on into the night.

And slowly, things started to get weird; firstly with those of us running things behind the scenes, and eventually a general descent into outright madness. Muggings were being reported, and heavy-duty local gangsters were heard to be taxing travellers. Rumours spread, exaggerated but believed within a large gathering who hadn’t slept for way too long. Someone set fire to a car on the dancefloor; other stolen vehicles were being driven around the site recklessly by fourteen-year-olds on acid. A vintage bus caught fire and, as we rushed round to try and help, we found it was too late; the beautiful wooden body was completely ablaze. Back in Sledger’s Café, we were valiantly still selling food, fending off very hard Scouse lads demanding to know what the fuck a veggie burger was and asking, ‘Where’s the bevvies?’. Several times I looked round to see that cagoule-covered arms had appeared under the side of the tent and were helping themselves to mixtapes. Our perennial source of party funding, the ubiquitous bucket, was having cash stolen from it instead of added, and all the while helicopters buzzed the site overhead. Most partygoers were probably unaware of the bad feeling that was growing behind the scenes as the endless hypnotic rhythms of house music drove the party onwards. It was in many ways a truly fabulous night, driven by huge quantities of pink ecstasy tablets that many thought to be the best they had ever taken. But for every up, there is a down.

What happened was that two very different sets of people collided: the travellers and the scally gangs of Liverpool. Both considered this to be their patch, and in a way they were both correct. Moreton Lighthouse 1991 was a free festival organised by travellers, the site taken by travellers, and the infrastructure and the party created by travellers and associated friends. It was, however, on Merseyside, and so it was geographically within the remit of the Liverpool firms. For the whole of Sunday, the festival rocked on, a riotous, debauched arena of mayhem. Most local people went home on Sunday, no doubt exhausted yet happy, but that was not an option for the travellers. They would eventually leave and end up on a site in Deeside where, allegedly, some of the Liverpool gang came looking for the travellers to settle some scores and five young lads would die in a car crash.

Harry Harrison, Dreaming in Yellow. Velocity Press, 2022p.162-164.

Here are four tapes from this party, enjoy!

We noticed Circus Normal mentioned in the comments, and the Free Party People tent is in a video, so we added them to this post. Let us know in the comments if you can confirm this. Cheers!

Here are a three videos from this party, shout to Youtuber Tizmip again!

Here’s a flyer:

And a video-

Haven’t seen many videos of this era of free parties, which is sad, but the ones I have seen, like this one, are great! Credit for this one goes to youtube user robberbyker (who I suspect is one of the original Gaye Bykers On Acid, whose music soundtracks the video).

Apparently this was the second party at this venue, the first one was some time in 1990, anyone know when/how many/which sound systems in attendance?

Here’s a quote from Jane Bussmann’s wonderful book ‘Once in a lifetime’- I can’t recommend this book enough. It’s about ‘The Crazy Days of Acid House and Afterwards’ as it says on the cover, and is full of stuff to make you reminisce, chuckle, and occasionally think “what the fuck!”….

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And here’s what the book looks like, if you see it, buy it! UPDATE: Now available as an audiobook too!

onceinalifefforweb

So, who was there? Got any memories? Doesn’t matter how hazy, just post a comment….

19 thoughts on “13th-15th July 1991: Circus Normal, DiY and Free Party People Free Party at Moreton Lighthouse, Birkenhead, Merseyside

  1. just a quick post to say that if anyone`s after a copy of this book i`ve just put mine on ebay!user name is wvmlucky7 if you`re interested ta

  2. We took this site, i rammed a polce blockade in a 40ft pink bus then hit the kerb at the top and blew all my tyres out. The locals saw the copeers off and then max in his mk sanwidged a cop car with another army truck to get on. By that night diy had set up and we were partying. full on party, needed to be alert for this one.

  3. Arrived at the site the day before the main convoy there was a bloke in an ex-BR crewvan(?) there before us.

    We parked in the car park here;-

    http://maps.google.co.uk/maps?q=birkenhead&hl=en&ll=53.415901,-3.118948&spn=0.004105,0.011362&sll=51.558718,-0.868114&sspn=0.008565,0.022724&vpsrc=6&t=h&z=17

    There were only park police there at that point and they didn’t seem to care if we parked there. Locals drifted down and were more than happy there was going to be a free festival again. They were going to book the week off work.

    We had a ring side seat for the whole thing. Police got more and more agitated through out the day. We were a bit puzzled that the only attempt at stopping the vehicles were a few cones down the side of the coast road.

    Locals turned up with scanners to listen to the police and we waited as we heard the main convoy was approaching.

    Police activity picked up some more and then the convoy appeared coming over the bridge from the rail station down pasture road.

    Police started running along Leasowe Rd but it was to late the convoy got almost to the end of the first grass block and then the first bus turned in – all the others turned – beautiful sight. Police hanging of buses being dragged along I think they thought they could physically stop them.

    Police set up a command post in an old hospital/clinic and started deploying riot squad. At this point the locals also started massing and told the police that if we were evicted they were going to stop the eviction.

    Council showed up claiming it was their land and the police were ready to start but two old guys from Wallesey action commitiy showed up with the land owners ship deeds proving it was common land and the police backed off.

    Circus Normal and DIY sound systems were there.

    Loads of Scousers flooded out of Liverpool for the festival. The local club owners were none to happy. Which boiled over at the hotel site by the paper mill in Deeside.

    We did get free fuel when we left the authorities set up a temporary fueling station on a bit of dual carriageway somewhere close by.

    HTH

  4. Remember them both, first was a bit quiet, second got the cheezy quavers but I remember no dodgey arses. I got done on acid at the second one and reemmber a mate trying to play either a motorhead or Hawkwind number on stage and also accidentally urinating on a sleeping crusty – sorry about that!

  5. turned up day after site taken in a convoy of around 10 vehicles. police had a road block at the bottom of a hill we fanned out and ran the road block much to the entertainment of the locals. great festival locals of all ages attended and made us very welcome. all went a bit shit a few days later tho when gangsters tracked us down to warn us of their “turf”

  6. I live in Wirral and went to both years fessies and to contradict Jane Bussman, the locals were all for the travellers; in 1990 the L’pool Daily Post had a front page pic of a guy I knew waving an axe at the plod. Gutted when the drug dealers ruined the 2nd year by setting a bus on fire. Pity there wasn’t a 3rd year but great memories. A few years ago the hypocrites at Wirral council held a photo display of the festivals at local libraries.

  7. Remember buying a sheet of acid from a traveller at the chicken coup at rear of bus. Also seeing germans with bald heads rocking to base-less screeching techno. fecking great.

  8. The first festival was great the weather was wonderful
    I actually played on the Wango Rilley stage with my band The Pondskaters
    Good times

  9. the first was a few scatterd fire.. the second was bigger with loads of brew crew & a few bands playing (ice 9). the 3rd was just mega.. loads of bands on wangos. techno & the locals loved it.. we were given free fuel in the end to get us out of there.. spoiled by local gangsters at shotton paper mill, where we run them off site, but then there BMW collided with an oncoming car full of punters.. 4 dead i think.. then straight down thru wales onto bala happy daze free fest & so on.. happy memories.. 🙂

  10. I remember selling some illlegal triply sheets on the train station platform I was 18 had been traveling with convoy for a few years we also set up a hot knife tent where you crawled in one side and left out the other end wasted £1 a shot here hee
    Also gangster thing was fucked up but we were undercutting them on price
    I will never forget that the locals called purple Oms (mbs) mind body and soul and once I knew that I was enriched good times

  11. Ha !..Damn I remember this..I went on train on my own to meet my mate John Mucca..got there..found his big green Dodge early morning..woke him up + went inside. I had to step over people sleeping on the truck floor..Greeted Mucca..sat down for a brew and someone woke up on the floor and shouts “What The Fuck”?..Id accidentally trodden dog shit all over their blankets !! Best entrance Ive ever made !!..Well they shouldn’t have had so many dogs . Oh..the party ruled btw.x

  12. Igot there early morning and found John Muccas green Dodge..went inside and accidentally trodden dog shit all over their blankets. Best entrance I ever made.ace party

  13. Well I was there with a few mates. We were around 14….. walked along the prom from
    New Brighton tripping our faces off on MBS or Strawbs. Dunno how we heard about it but it was totally wild and lawless, but a good vibe. Remember we called it ‘The Hippies’, bikers riding around the site, like hells angels. Other ‘hippies’ walking round shouting ‘hash for cash’ lol…. So many music tents, some so small only the dj could fit inside with people outside lapping up the crazy hard techno. It’s a blur tbh, that’s all I remember, one of my best teenage memories, a true illegal race in every sense of the word. Cheers OP for the videos above, gonna have a good look at them 🙂

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