22nd-29th May 1992: Adrenalin, Bedlam, Circus Warp, DiY, Fun-de-mental, LSdiezel Spiral Tribe, and Techno Travellers at Castlemorton Common Free Festival, Worcestershire

UPDATE 14/6/21:

Regular contributor Simon M sent us this report:

There were rumours going round about a free festival being held somewhere in the west country on the 23rd. At first we thought it might be at Chipping Sodbury, but late on Saturday night we found out it was going to be near Tewkesbury in Gloucestershire. We switched off the episode of Casualty we’d been watching (which was about a drugs overdose) and the four of us set off from Bridport towards Gloucestershire in my gold Mini Metro.

Once we got past Bristol we saw loads of other ravers and travellers headed in the same direction. Near Tewkesbury we joined a convoy of disparate vehicles that stretched for miles towards Castlemorton Common and realised this was going to be a big free festival.

Having got appropriately stoned whilst dawdling along in the line of traffic we finally arrived on site at about 2am and parked the overheated Metro on the side of the road going through the common. Jumping out of the car we hurried towards the lights flashing into the sky from what looked like a huge sprawling township that had grown out of nowhere. Music blasted out in all directions, a mash-up of house, hardcore, breakbeat and techno. There were people every where and parties already in full swing.

Surrounding the marquees were traveller buses, ravers cars, tents, fibreglass sculptures and human gyroscopes. People were selling stuff all over the site. Beer, dope, E’s, acid, speed, rizlas, fags, coffee. We scored and dropped some ecstacy and stayed around the DiY and Circus Warp tents for the night.

After coming up, my fellow raver, dressed in a boiler suit and gas mask hat turned yellow and went outside to puke. I only found him much later, dancing, luvved up, ice lolly in hand. Once the sun came up we had a better idea of the layout of the site and in amongst the 40,000 party goers we found some friends from Dorset and joined them at Spiral Tribe. We sniffed some K and did some wobbly dancing, creating solid shapes out of thin air.

I was never a big fan of Spiral’s hardcore music and would have preferred to be back at DiY, but the Ketamine had me stuck to the spot like glue. Some travellers with families were quite rightly annoyed at Spiral Tribe’s strict policy of 24 hour hardcore and techno. Other systems mellowed out with some dub for a few hours on the Sunday to give people a breather and for kids to get some sleep, but not Spiral.

UPDATE 8/6/21:

Fixed link:

Commenter Jam Smoot told us about the Sparks and Martian at Castlemorton mix, here’s a new link for it:


I missed Castlemorton but 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!

Interesting query from Hardcore Bob in the comments: the Techno Travellers (who we’ve now added to the headline) had their rig in the blue and red marquee, so which other rigs were there, and which tents were they in? Let us know in the comments 🙂


UPDATE 23/1/21:

It's Not About Me Lechlade p.56It's Not About Me Lechlade and Castlemorton p.57

From Ian Young, It’s Not About Me! Confessions Of A Recovered Outlaw Addict- From Living Hell To Living Big. Norwich: Anoma Press, 2013, p.59-60.

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 Simon M 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:


A Flickr pool with some pics of Castlemorton:


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


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.

9th May 1992: Spiral Tribe Free Party on Selsley Common, Stroud, Gloucestershire

UPDATE 26.5.21: A new newspaper clipping has emerged from the ether, thanks a million Stuart! 


UPDATE 18.3.11: Most commenters are saying this was pre-Castlemorton,and we just noticed a reference to Lechlade (misspelled as Lechale) being the previous weekend in this newspaper article, so we’ve changed the title. If anyone can confirm the date, please let us know in the comments! Thanks 🙂

Eric sent us this clipping from the paper. Nice one 🙂

A mate of ours remembers that the police turned up at some point to try and shut it down, realised it was too big to stop, and buggered off again 🙂 …

Here’s some more memories:

a guy pulled a gun on someone and spiral stopped the music and said that it wasn’t on, so get the fuck out of here.. all the ravers boo’d the gun guy until he had no choice but to leave.

music back on, party continued.

it was a pretty crazy party all told. getting there was quite a mission as well, climbing up that hill. I think the soundsystem caught fire at the beginning, or some wires did anyway. and then eventually it all kicked off. great place to see the sunrise as well.

edit: also pretty funny to see people walking their dogs in the morning. what must they have thought!

Does anyone have an exact date for this? Or any more detailed memories?

Anyone who’s looking for the 1991 event should go here: https://freepartypeople.wordpress.com/2009/10/02/21st-september-1991-free-party-at-great-mills-stroud-gloucestershire/

Free Party: A Documentary


Scroll down for the link to the Kickstarter and the Facebook page where you can see exciting new teasers and trailers and read more about the different goals to be met.

Finally, someone is making a documentary about the UK free party scene! I can vouch for the creator as being someone who was there at the time and cares in a big way about helping the people who were there tell the real story of what happened in those amazing and intense years at the start of the nineties. Click on the links below to support the film and follow it’s progress. I can’t wait to see this 🙂

They wanted the freedom to party, the state saw them as the enemy within.

A Folk History of the Free Party movement.

Free Party is a documentary film charting the free party movement’s birth, its rapid rise and how the state tried to crush it, from the people who lived it and the global legacy it leaves in the present day.

Here is the Facebook page so you can follow the film’s progress. There is now a trailer and a teaser on there to give you a taste of what’s to come. WARNING: The videos will make you rush your bollocks off.

And here is the Kickstarter, which has some stretch targets still to meet, have a read if you want to be a part of it.

7th–9th August 1991– Fun-de-mental, Spiral Tribe, and Sweat soundsystems at Torpedo Town Free Festival at Bramshott Common, Hampshire

Updated- some of the Youtube links were broken.

We try and keep an eye out for broken links/deleted video/mixes etc but please let us know if anything seems wonky or missing 🙂

Please note: this covers the 1991 festival, here are links to the 1990 and 1992 festivals of the same name.

Here are (possibly different versions of) the tunes Tim Acid and Dunk mentioned hearing at this party (see comments):

And here’s something one commenter just mentioned:

Here’s a picture and some quotes from Andy Brown’s wonderful but hard to find book ‘Rave: The Spiritual Dimension’. If anyone else has anything to add about this, please send it in 🙂

In 1991, the festival was 5 miles further north along the A3 and the turnout was even higher at a cool 12,000… Torpedo Town 1991 mushroomed into existence on a Friday night, grew at a phenomenal rate for all of Saturday, sustained itself through Sunday and then, on account of an M.O.D. injunction, had completely disappeared by Tuesday, except of course for the burned out wreck of a coach which looked like a crashed spaceship. The land itself was I think a M.O.D. common, mainly scrub trees and grass with broken, disused tarmac roads. When we first arrived on the Friday night things were a bit quiet so we took it easy. We parked up in a lane thing and pitched our tents right near. To start off with there were hardly any tents but things didn’t stay that way for long. As more people arrived, a right of way formed through our piece or real estate. What had been a hardly used path through the ferns when we arrived, was now one of the main routes for ravers collecting firewood from the forest. What had happened was that the quiet suburbs which were quite near to the dancefloors had turned into prime sites. Anyway, we had a good spot so we weren’t bothered. At its peak, the city had streets, all heaving with bright eyed happy people, so many that sometimes the paths were so completely rammed with bodies that you couldn’t move at all. This festival really was a city and it even had its own booming economy. I don’t think I need to say what were the main commodities but just as in any established city, you could buy anything you wanted from food to clothes- even a haircut. I was so happy, I cannot stress that too much, really, really, really good times. The totally awesome atmosphere generated at these festivals can be overwhelming… It no exaggeration that once experienced, these festivals can change your life.

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


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.”‘