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Music

THE NEW SUBCULTURES: THE FREE PARTY SCENE UK

We’ve teamed up with YOUTH CLUB a youth culture archive in the UK, to identify new youth subcultures across the globe. Over the next few months we’ll be introducing you to new waves of fashion and creativity from the USA, UK, Africa and Latin America. Bubbling away under the surface of everyday British life is the Free Party and Teknival Scene. This underground rave scene revolves around huge ‘free parties’ that take place in squats, abandoned buildings, forests, fields and beaches in the UK and worldwide.

The Birth of a Movement
These underground parties began with the emergence of Acid House in the 1980s, turning abandoned inner city warehouses into the hottest parties in town. The scene slowly spread across the country and into the depths of the countryside, weaving together squat parties and rave culture with the traveller lifestyle in a vibrant concoction that rejects the values of a ‘civilised society.’

With an ethos that’s all about spontaneity and spiritual freedom, Free Parties took place outside the regulated club scene and were vilified by the mainstream media at the time. Sound systems would set up shop in rural fields, forests and abandoned buildings. Drawing large crowds from all over, the parties were known as ‘free’ parties because they were free from restrictions, free to enter, and free from the law.

 

 

Legendary Parties and Sound Systems
Key to transforming often nondescript spaces into fully-fledged parties, is the sound systems that set up shop, with some gaining cult status amongst followers. These travelling sound systems are essentially vans and trucks with rigs attached. Some iconic systems are Bedlam, Spiral Tribe and The DiY Sound System, who all helped define the scene. When the Criminal Justice Act was implemented many of these sound systems led the migration of the scene into Europe.

The scene gained huge popularity during the 1992 Castlemorton Common Festival, a week-long free party that attracted almost 50,000 people. The festival was hosted by some of the most well-known sound systems of the time, spearheaded by Spiral Tribe, the groundbreaking sound system that became synonymous with the DIY rave scene.

The following week, the infamous party was sprawled across the newspapers and tabloids, providing a direct catalyst towards anti-rave legislation and the 1994 Criminal Justice and Public Order Act.

 

 

Criminalising The Rave Scene 
The 1994 Criminal Justice and Public Order Act targeted free parties, raves and traveller lifestyle, and famously included a section that banned “sounds wholly or predominantly characterised by the emission of a succession of repetitive beats.” So basically all dance music – especially house and techno.

The act essentially criminalised a vibrant, free-spirited community by making their unlicensed gatherings illegal. Coincidentally many of the ravers involved in the Free Party scene were linked to political causes, and the community came together to protest this legislation with large demonstrations all over the country.

 

 

Going Deeper Underground
Rather than quash the scene, the act pushed the Free Party scene further underground. Photographer Molly Macindoe has been documenting the Free Party and Teknival scene since the late 90s, from small underground raves in inner city London to the the large Teknival gatherings across the continent.

“I felt it the first minute I walked through the loud, chaotic, intimidating doorway of my first squat party in the Wood Green Bingo Hall in 1997, and 18 years later there is no other environment that makes me feel the same.”

 

The Rise of The Teknival

The Free Party scene comes together at annual ‘Teknivals’, extended parties that can last up to a week. Countries around the world host an annual Teknival, making for an impressive rave calendar for those in the scene. Convoys of sound systems and people living in vans and trucks travel between festivals, as a community of revellers passionately carve their own utopian way of living and travelling simultaneously.

Making the venture out into Europe from Britain is a rite of passage for a free party raver, as Molly Macindoe explains; “It was repeated every year in a kind of annual migration where sound systems drove east in the summer” and has given rise to the ‘Tekno travellers’. These Teknivals have brought Macindoe from France to Czechoslovakia, and all the way to Morocco and Jordan, demonstrating just how far the movement and spirit of freedom has spread.

More than just a subculture, many of those who are part of the Free Party scene have forged a nomadic, self-sufficient lifestyle, continuously travelling Europe and beyond always in search of the next gathering.

All images by © Molly Macindoe.

Since the late 1990s, Molly has meticulously captured the evocative Free Party movement that emerged from the squat parties and raves of the inner city, becoming interwoven with the traveller festival scene. She will be discussing and debuting her most recently shot work at The Subculture Archives. Exhibition runs until September 28th. Find out more here.

Molly Macindoe Talk and Exhibition Launch
Thursday 21 Sept, 6-9pm

The Subculture Archives
3 Carnaby Street
W1F 9QG

One thought

  • Hey, That’s me with the red hair.
    I bought my first pair of Docs age 14 in 1994.
    I cant afford waterproof boots this winter. Sort me out Doc Martens.

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