Archive for the ‘1991’ Category

Book Review: Exist To Resist by Matthew Smith

September 4, 2017

 

I’ve been waiting for the appearance of a book like this for decades. There’s hardly any published photographic record of the UK’s early 1990’s travelling, free party, free festival, and environmental protest scene, let alone books on the subject.*

Matthew Smith was actively involved in the scene he lovingly portrays. As the authorities started cracking down on travellers, ravers and dissenters of all sorts, the scenes became more inward-looking and more distrustful of mainstream media, cameras, and the people wielding them, whether professional or not. Insiders like Smith were thus in a position to record events in a way others couldn’t.

This long overdue volume of exciting photos that captures perfectly the feeling of being involved in protesting and partying in the early to mid 1990’s. It also covers some soundsystem-centred events from preceding years, like the Moss Side and Notting Hill Carnivals of 1989.

Some of the events photographed were pivotal. The Glastonbury Festival of 1989, for example, was “the year rave arrived at Glastonbury in a big way”. The first picture of the sequence is of a shirtless traveller toddler, with their home vehicle’s registration number and the field it was parked in scrawled on their chest. Behind the child is a tent with “DHSS World Tour” painted on it. This, together with the other images in the series, serves as an artefact of the pre-giant fence, pre-sanitised Glastonbury, an era when travellers were allowed in for free and police weren’t.

The excellent image on the cover is a fine example of the way Smith’s photography captures the energy of the protest movement while placing it in context. The roofs of The House of Commons loom through the heat haze. A truck, on top of which a woman dances and claps, is transporting a soundsystem up a busy street in central London. A man, leaning out of the truck with a microphone in one hand, gazes into the lens. It is unclear whether he’s driving, MC’ing, or both. The truck is framed by a row of police vans on the left and a cinema, showing Four Weddings And A Funeral, on the right.

I think I’m not alone in saying this: the Criminal Justice Act politicised me. Prior to the legislation, I simply wanted to rave, or help organise raves. The fact that these events were unlicensed couldn’t have interested me less. And in the period before the CJA, as long as no-one made any noise complaints, reasonable-sized parties were allowed to continue without much interference from the authorities. It wasn’t until the Criminal Justice Bill was actually on the cards that I personally realised I had to take to the streets, for the first time in my life, to try and prevent its passage through parliament. The day I was politicised constitutes the explosion that lies at the centre of Exist To Resist: the second anti-CJA demonstration in July 1994, which was characterised by thousands of ravers raving in the middle of the street in usually grey workaday Central London, grinning and dancing on the back of a truck as it drove past the Houses of Parliament, cavorting in the fountains and raving to a bicycle-powered soundsystem in Trafalgar Square. Politics was never so much fun, and Matthew Smith captures this sense of freedom and hope perfectly. Although it was mostly peaceful, the demo I attended didn’t pass without some unrest: as the parade made its way past Downing Street and some tried to force their way into the Prime Minister’s front garden. Smith suggests that there may have been agent provocateurs in the crowd. Whether this was the case or not, the resulting horse charge that my friends and I were caught up in was truly terrifying, preceded as it was by police threats to ‘sterilise the area’ if we didn’t move out of the way.

By the third march against the Criminal Justice Act, according to Smith, it was “too dangerous to not be wearing a police uniform” and it “felt like a harsh end to a beautiful dream”. The dream continues to be lived in a more low key fashion, but Smith’s wonderful images remind us of the moments when hope was brightest.

 

Order it here.

 

 

 

  • Alan Tash Lodge is one of my favourite photographers, indeed, the only one I knew about for many years, but he has never published a book of his own. Check out his site ’One Eye On The Road’ for some fantastic images. Alan Lodge was on site even before the birth of Acid House, and his intimate connection to the scenes and their people is evident from his images. In Molly Macindoe’s Out of Order, an honest and intimate portrait of the British warehouse party scene from 1997 to 2006, the photographer portrays a scene she was clearly a part of. It’s full of amazing photographs, but due to the period she covers it falls outside the period my blog is most interested in. Vinca Peterson’s No System portrays the continental European offshoot of the scene, covering the adventures of some of the British soundsystems after they took their noisy circuses to France and beyond. Again, not of direct interest to this site, but probably my favourite book on the travelling soundsystem scene. The book contains not just photographs, but also excerpts from Vinca Peterson’s diary.

 

 

 

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24th-26th August 1991: Street Level Free Party in Cassington, Oxfordshire

May 25, 2017

Update: Darren sent us his account of the night, thanks Darren! 🙂

Freepartypeople: Heard about this a looong time ago but didn’t attend it myself. Allegedly went on for 3 days and was still running on the Monday, hence the dates at the top of this post (Saturday 24th to Monday 26th).

Were you there? What was it like? Please leave a message in the comments.

Found some great photos on this page:
http://www.its-all-about-flyers.com/viewtopic.php?f=43&t=768 Thanks to the original uploader, they’re great shots.

We also found a drawing of the party, which is a first for this site 🙂
http://www.flickr.com/photos/leehutchinson/542987905/
The same Flickr user also uploaded a newspaper cutting about the party:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/leehutchinson/552921413/
Thanks whoever you are! I thought I’d link to your page rather than just nicking the image, ‘cos that’s not nice, I like what you’re written as well.

And here’s an Easygroove and DiY tape from the event. I listened to it a while back and I remember there’s a funny bit where he gets on the mic and starts complaining about a lack of Special Brew ;P It was a bit tricky to find, but we finally tracked it down on a Polish website!

http://www.stressfactor.co.uk/resources/portal/index.php?name=Downloads&req=getit&lid=1422

Also available on Youtube, but I don’t know whether this is the complete set or not:


23rd November 1991: Free Party at Staravia factory, Ascot, Berkshire

June 22, 2011

NB This post refers to the first party at this site. For the second party, the week after, please read this post: https://freepartypeople.wordpress.com/2011/06/22/30th-november-3rd-december-1991-spiral-tribe-and-circus-warp-free-party-at-staravia-factory-ascot-berkshire/

We’d heard about this before, but thanks again to Snufkin for filling us in on some of the details:

That Ascot party was awesome. Last day of November 1991 and it was cold, minus ten at least I’d say. We had been living there ten days or so, on the site of a demolished jet engine factory called Staravia. The site had been used for storing  pea gravel so there were mounds of the stuff everywhere and huge ruts frozen solid.

We held a party the previous week, had no tent, but the factory site was a big concrete pad with rows of pine trees down both sides, so we borrowed (?) some scaffolding and tarps and strung up a makeshift marquee. We had no rig either, the one we usually used wasn’t available, but we phoned a number from the classified adds in Sounds and managed to book 6k of brand new Peavey Turbosound. The owners were bikers who had never seen anything like us, but fair play, they were up for it. The party rocked, for a few days and Easygroove played. In  the morning he asked if we would host his birthday bash. Sure we said, if we ain’t evicted. We had been partying and being moved on for a few months by then. We were all quite surprised to still be there on Friday.

Here’s a map: http://wikimapia.org/9626663/Spiral-Tribe-Rave

Any memories from this one, anyone?

30th November-3rd December 1991: Spiral Tribe and Circus Warp Free Party at Staravia Factory, Ascot, Berkshire

June 22, 2011

NB This post refers to the second party at this site, for the earlier do, please read this post: https://freepartypeople.wordpress.com/2011/06/22/saturday-23rd-november-1991-free-party-at-staravia-factory-ascot-berkshire/

More from Snufkin:

That Ascot party was awesome. Last day of November 1991 and it was cold, minus ten at least I’d say. We had been living there ten days or so, on the site of a demolished jet engine factory called Staravia. The site had been used for storing  pea gravel so there were mounds of the stuff everywhere and huge ruts frozen solid.

… Easygroove turned up with the whole Circus Warp crew and added their tent onto our shambles. Spirals turned up later and they had to stay out in the cold. I remember walking away from the party at one point, tripping my tits off I turned back to look. There were 5000 people raving in a bodged together tent and the heat of their bodies formed a fog around the tend, which pulsed and throbbed with the lights. As I watched, the fog sat up on its haunches, like something ethereal out of ghostbusters, smiled a snaggletooth smile at me, winked and then settled back down again, curling itself around the party contentedly. No, really!

I can’t remember how long we partied for, maybe til tuesday, it got pretty twisted by the end. I had the burner going in my trailer all the way through and the site was big enough that it was possible to sleep now and then, but I don’t remember too much sleeping..

Here’s a map: http://wikimapia.org/9626663/Spiral-Tribe-Rave

Thanks again for the nice long comment Snufkin. Does anyone else remember this at all? Any photos?

31st December 1991-2nd January 1992 New Year’s Eve: Spiral Tribe and Circus Normal at The Roundhouse, Camden, London

June 22, 2011

Here’s a quote from Steve Spiral:

The round house we never had a generator… Had to hotwire, FACT, I was there when it was done… not saying I did It.

Thanks to Snufkin for this comment:

I was at the Roundhouse gig on New Years Eve too. At the time it was derelict and owned by the Metropolitan police. the entrance was blocked with several hundred tonnes of rubble, totally filling the access road. Didn’t stop the Normals drving the rig and genny in on a six six-wheel-drive Militant that used to belong to Moscow State Circus, strainght over the top. Another crazy night. Next night wasn’t so great, after the security had done too much coke and gone to sleep and every mugger in London moved in.

From the Spiral Tribe Wikipedia page ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spiral_Tribe ):

The power was stolen from a light socket owned by British Rail at the back of the building and the system went off at 6:30 in the morning when they turned the lights off. Someone then found an alternative power source.

There are also some lovely pics and a flyer from this party over at:

http://www.spiral-tribe.org/understand/page10.html

Again, we heard about it at the time but didn’t attend. Remember hearing rumours about muggers, but also about what an amazing venue it was. Were you there? What was it like? Got any photos or flyers? Also, there seems to have been a Christmas Eve party (also Spiral). Anyone know about this? We’ll create another post for it.


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