Archive for the ‘1992’ 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 October 1992: Frequency Oblivion at Crossways, Dorset

October 21, 2012

We know there was a party at Crossways in Dorset on this date but do we know anything else about it? Nope. Help us fill in the gaps if you can!

Frequency Oblivion sound system

October 21, 2012

Can anyone help us fill in more details about the parties put on by this free party crew from Dorset? Any dates or locations? Flyers or photos?  Memories, however hazy? Let us know in the comments 🙂

Here’s a link to party reports on one of their dos: 29 May 1993: Frequency Oblivion at Batcombe Down picnic area, Dorset

They also put on a party on 24th October 1992. If you were there, visit this page and add your memories in the comments section: 24th October 1992: Frequency Oblivion at Crossways

A contributor sent us this:

I’ve been meaning to write a report on Frequency Oblivion’s free parties in Dorset. The parties were raw and outlaw. They were put on by DJ Diola and a few others whose names I can’t remember, from Dorchester. I first started attending when we realised we wouldn’t have to go all the way to London for an all night rave. These local heroes put on parties in the Dorchester area. I can remember attending a few but the only locations I can remember are Crossways, where I believe they put on a few parties, and a very muddy Batcombe Down.  In some ways these parties were even more intense and intimate than the larger warehouse parties and festivals put on by the better-known sound systems, because we knew half of the people around us. Occasionally these dos were indoors, but mostly they were in forest clearings and picnic areas. They got busted at least once, but mysteriously got their rig returned in record time.

22nd February 1992: Bedlam free party at Unigate warehouse, Park Royal, London

October 7, 2012

Update 21.10.12: Another diary extract from http://simonmathewson.blogspot.co.uk/

Diary entry:
Dance, dance, dance, dance. Non-stop fucking getting lost, Tom – K case, eyes bulging out, saw Grooverider or some DJ total fossilised face.
I don’t remember much about this party; according to my diary entry I danced a lot, so the music and drugs must have been good.  There was a big bonfire outside the warehouse and at sunrise, as the drugs were wearing off I was invited out by a friend of mine to smoke some MDMA. That got me feeling pretty mashed again. For some reason I then found myself sat in DJ Loftgroover’s beige Jaguar, and I thought he looked like he had a fossilised face.

An anonymous contributor to the blog sent us this report:

Where to start? This was year zero for me in terms of parties, the first of which took place on February 22nd in a disused Unigate warehouse on a defunct industrial estate somewhere in West London.

We had originally intended to travel to a local party in the adjoining county, but as we were driving from meeting point to meeting point, we realised we were half-way to London anyway. Often, as the years progressed, this kind of mission ended in failure. But not this time.

We arrived, after a bit of fiddly driving, at a vast warehouse with large fires burning outside. This was situated on a large patch of rubbly wasteground adjoining the main road.

I remember remarking at the time that I felt like I was in a foreign country. There is nothing quite like realising that you have just entered a country within a country where no/new rules apply and the only goal is hedonism. The party seemed to be everlasting (although us lightweights chickened out by Sunday afternoon).

I can still remember the pit-of-the-stomach, wobbly legged euphoric feeling of entering that warehouse. We had to enter via a door in the upper part of the warehouse, and descend a staircase into the depths of the party, all the while getting a bird’s eye view of the deafening and blinding spectacle. There was an incredibly intense vibe. The place was full of people dancing. The music was very hard, the lighting minimal. My first proper party was everything my friends had told me to expect  and more.

There was one point in the night where I looked around for one of my travelling companions and he appeared at my side, however, as I looked, I started seeing double, and then in triplicate, and then there was a whole row of him!

The music I remember being very hard, the lighting was very minimal.

We felt like we were living in the future- the experience seemed so magical, so unlike anything in our everyday lives.

DJ’s? Unknown. Hours spent dancing? Can’t remember (but probably a lot). Amount of fun had? Immeasurable.

I picked up this flyer at the party:

22nd-29th May 1992: Spiral Tribe, Bedlam, Circus Warp, Circus Normal, Adrenalin and DiY at Castlemorton Common Free Festival, Worcestershire

October 5, 2012

I missed Castlemorton pbut I believe everyone who says it was wicked. Interesting that dr_box (see below) mentioned the police herding him onto the common, people often forget that the travellers and soundystems were pushed/chased there by the cops. By the way, if anyone has exact dates for this please let us know, we know it’s quoted as going on for 6 days, but we need some sort-of-facts! Thanks!

UPDATE 5.10.2012:

We came across three longish (slightly chewed) VHS videos of Castlemorton free festival recently. Thanks a million to youtuber discodelinquent (great name by the way!) for uploading them. Discodelinquent has also uploaded some footage from Sugarlump parties. We’ll probably do a post on Sugarlump sound system sooner or later… Meanwhile, enjoy these videos:

Here’s a quote about Castlemorton from ‘Adventures In Wonderland’ by Sheryl Garratt:

Mr Arm (you know who you are!) let us scan a load of newspaper cuttings from his scrapbook. Big up! :


The following photo was captioned “Festivalgoers on Castlemorton Common yesterday, enjoying the sound of music in the Malvern Hills”.

The following photo was captioned “Common nuisance: The 20,000 hippies encamped at Castlemorton common yesterday”.


A classic headline:

Click on images for larger versions:

The following picture and article appeared with the headline: “Villagers threaten to burn out hippies -An illegal festival in the Malverns has driven people living near the site to breaking point”

Continuation of article above, click on image below for larger version:

The following article and photo appeared together:



Here are a couple of videos, the first one’s been online for ages, the second one’s newer and includes some footage taken near the spiral rig-

Thanks youtuber Yangow for the first vid, and thanks youtuber hemustbemad for uploading the second (he credits his friend Matt with filming).

Old friend Atomic Robot Man was there, and he sent us this page from his diary:

These great photos courtesy of Pete Dibdin whose work can be found at http://www.peterdibdin.com/ :

The photos below are from George McKay‘s book ‘Senseless Acts of Beauty’ and I believe they were taken by Alan ‘Tash’ Lodge (whose excellent website you can find in the links on the right hand side of our main page.

The Riddler (who has a great site, well worth a browse), has some pics of castlemorton here:

http://www.webm8.co.uk/riddler/castlemorton.htm

A Flickr pool with some pics of Castlemorton:

http://www.flickr.com/groups/castlemorton/pool/

Commenter Jam Smoot told us about this mixtape:

http://ylow.blogspot.com/2009/09/sparks-martian-circus-warp-live.html

A couple of contributors remembered some tunes they heard at Castlemorton and here are a couple of youtube links for them (see this post for details:https://freepartypeople.wordpress.com/2009/02/27/some-hardcore-mixes/ )

Tim Aldiss’s site has his account of his trip to Castlemorton (his rave diaries are a good read, look at the other entries while you’re there)- http://www.loftsites.co.uk/old_school_rave/diaries/castlemorton_common.html

Here are a couple of Guardian articles about Castlemorton etc: http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/musicblog/2009/jul/11/castlemorton-free-party-scene-spiral-tribe?showallcomments=true

http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2009/jul/12/90s-spiral-tribe-free-parties

This lucky lucky person was there too:

dr_box wrote:

Castle Morton was an experience.. I’d been visiting a mates place in East London and he was coming over to mine in the depths of West Wales afterwards. we’d heard that there was a festi down near Bristol that weekend, so set off on the hunt along the M4. At one of the service stations along the M4 we got a lift from a Green godess fire engine that was loaded down with kit and Hippies, it was one of the vehicles spiral tribe was using to get to the festival. As we got close we found out that the festival might not be on, so set off on a hunt. the police herded us up to Castle Morton, by the time we got close there were several miles of trucks and busses full of people. At one point the line stopped and a guy with us got out and started counting vehicles as he walked towards the front. when the line started moving again, he waited for us to catch up. he’d counted over seven hundred vehicles, and he hadn’t reached the front of the line.

When we got there, the sun was setting and from the hills overlooking the site you could see the site starting to pulse with light and hear blasts of sound as things were set up. Travelling off all the way to the horizon there was a ribbon of headlights delivering more people to the festival.

Blinding weekend, my mate had his first E experience, Watched the police try and drive through the centre of the crowd. they got stopped in the middle, and a nameless longhair got passed over the crowd, and started selling Acid off the bonnet of the police car. after futilely attempting to get out of the car the plod ended up just laughing at the sheer balls of him.

Nighttime had more than its fair quota of low flying helicopters with spotlights. (although someone did take a potshot at them with a firework)

Last of the truly fun free festivals.


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