Leonie Cooper on creative clubbing.
Come the weekend, it’s understandable that not everyone will want to go to places where the pints are £6, there’s a silly dress code and aggro on the dancefloor. And with more clubs closing than opening in the UK, it seems like people are intent on making their own fun – even if it comes at a risk.
This month, a pair of DIY parties made the headlines. First, there was the beginners DJ evening class held in a Nottingham school that accidentally turned into a full-blown rave, complete with glow sticks and abundant Red Stripe tinnies. Police eventually got things under control at around 3.30am and dispersed the 250-odd people who’d gallantly given new meaning to the term ‘after-school club’.
Meanwhile, up in Newcastle an illegal rave was held in a murky tunnel that resembled a mud-splattered sewer, which people could only get into by wading through water. That too was shut down, reportedly after attendees themselves contacted police over worries about the safety and ickiness of the event.
Now, I might stop short of raving in a knee-high puddle – although I do it every year at Glastonbury – but the appeal of an unconventional venue and a party thrown by people who care more about having a good time than making money is hard to ignore. They might have been risking their health and school report cards, but these intrepid partygoers were making their own entertainment, instead of settling for a standard Friday night out. Give me a street corner, a warehouse or an empty barn over an overpriced nightclub any night of the year.
DIY partying might now seem like the future, but it has strong roots in the past. In the early ’90s the UK’s free party scene was thriving, with squats, fields and abandoned buildings taken over by teenagers with a fondness for techno. The movement reached its loved-up zenith 25 years ago with one of the biggest free parties ever. The Castlemorton Common Festival was a week-long celebration that saw an estimated 20,000 new age travellers, crusties, ravers and people who just really liked getting off their t*ts descend upon the Malvern Hills. But the fun came to a screeching halt in 1994 with the Criminal Justice Act, which made outdoor parties with “repetitive beats” illegal – legislation many saw as the authorities clamping down on youth culture.
Thankfully, the greatest free party in the world, London’s Notting Hill Carnival, is still as incredible and accessible as ever. However, reports about the safety of the event have led to calls for it to be moved or closed down entirely. As a concerned lifelong attendee, I cornered Mayor of London Sadiq Khan earlier this year, and he promised “to make it the best carnival in the world”. So, if schools and sewers aren’t quite your thing, you know where to go and dance instead.