AS PASSAGES in Britain’s statute books go, Section 63 (1)(b) of the 1994 Criminal Justice Act is one of the odder ones. It gives police officers the power to remove people from events at which music “wholly or predominantly characterised by the emission of a succession of repetitive beats” is being played.
The phrase was a draconian attempt to define and derail the illegal raves that first appeared in 1988 in post-industrial parts of London and Manchester, where house music from Detroit and Chicago collided with ecstasy pills from the Netherlands.
DJs had started playing frenetic, electronic music at illegal bacchanalia in wastelands and derelict warehouses, culminating in the 25,000-strong crowd at the Castlemorton Common Festival in May 1992. Moral panic, a heavy-handed police crackdown and ultimately the 1994 law followed: British rave, it seemed, was over.
IT WAS NOT OVER. Quick thinking techno-heads from different sectors of the dance music scene all pulled together and if anybody wants to learn about how to communicate with each other on important matters, then this is the perfect example.
The coming together of 5 sectors are responsible for today's success. (1) genius music-minded artists, (2) the venue's, (3) passion-driven moguls who worked tirelessly for their hard earned cash, gave all their spare cash away to make raves happen, spending money on everything from DJ equipment to advertising campaigns (4) the die hard-core dance music fans, (5) the culture, it didn't matter if you were different, or if you liked peanut butter or hated it, but the raves brought everybody together.
Had it not been for this, we would not have had the delight of listening to 90's dance music tunes or energy 106.6fm
probably would not have existed.
Soon after the 1994 act was passed, established radio stations began to air tracks by DJs supporting illegal raves and other underground artists. The artist “Judge Jules” personified the shift: At the start of the 1990s he was defending illegal raves before the police, and that is where he got his DJ name from.
By the end of the 1990's, Judge Jules had a weekly slot on BBC Radio 1. Around the the time of the millenium, The Northern Irish population were rejecting the commercialisation of live music—tickets sold out months in advance, compulsory wristbands and pricey government taxed drinks.
Instead, spontaneous, hedonistic events reminiscent of the early 1990s grew and grew again a decade later. instead of staying out all night, clubbers consume their music (and poisons) at home or in other illegal informal venues where you did not get or pay for a licence to legally hold these events.
Such venues would have you arrive up to a door of a boarded-up shop in Belfast and a burly bouncer demands a password sent to guests by text-message (probably reading it from your nokia 3310) hours in advance, along with the address of the venue.
A dingy flight of stairs leads to a crowded basement where graffiti and wiring and makeshift lighting vein the walls. Algorithmic neon shape wheels made of plastic and old car tyres hanging up on the walls and a dart board on show to the sound of thumping bass rave music in the background, and a smoky fug of sweat and marijuana hanging in the air.
Some of the older clubbers look the worse for wear, but the atmosphere is not threatening. It’s really energetic and ravey! All the guys and girls dancing about the place with cheap cans of lager in their hands.
But by 2004, the government had introduced the SIA security license, along with better management on keeping records of licensees and police coming down hard and shutting illegal rave's. With the rise in social media soon after, everything became a bit more mainstream in Northern Ireland.
Nowadays in NI, and ever so increasingly, are licensed music events. Large, commercial clubs taking in nice tidy sums of money. Social-media sites enable promoters to convene impromptu gigs. The rise of music festivals has further institutionalised the party-in-a-field tpye of hype. And some of the veterans of 1990's rave's heyday are leading the way. Many of world's top 100 DJ's have been around for a long time. Thats all the proof tat you need.
So raving is here to stay in Northern Ireland, but in a more mainstream form.
The original rave culture throughout NI, ROI and mainland UK was about defying the system; you don’t get that so much today. The mass illegality and tabloid hysteria of illegal rave's are gone.
The authorities look more kindly on requests to hold events nowadays too, but in a much more controlled enviroment.
In 2012 the government lifted restrictions on certain forms of spontaneous live entertainment. In some city centre areas, councils actively welcome informal music performances - knowing that in their wake will follow the cafés, bars and new build flats that regenerate a place.
You may find in ROI further away from the border areas of NI, a few illegal raves taking place in wasteland areas during the summer months, partly due to the far more relaxed police enforcement in the south. And in England and Wales, you will be in the loop with illegal raves still taking place with large crowd gatherings of all ages all year round with ravers travelling for miles and miles away from home to far reach their love for raving that will go on into the small daylight hours of the early morning. Either the police will shut these down if it is safe to do so or they will watch and stay guard from a distance. Many of these gatherings will play a mixture of gabber and rythem 'n' drum. In Scotland, they will have a taste of hardcore and hardstyle.