The 90’s acid house and UK rave scene is something everyone in Ireland and in fact the world can look upon with admiration, disbelieve and a small tinge of ‘I wish I was born in this era’ nostalgia, but for those that lived it, what a trip it must have been.
Aaron Trinder, a former DJ and producer has set about documenting this truly special era through his London based Film production studios, Trinder Films. Having worked on various music videos, charities, campaigns and documentaries since moving on from music, Aaron feels that now is the time, almost 30 years on from the first and most legendary free party the UK has seen, the Castlemorton rave, to document the free party scene and culture like it’s never been seen before.
Take a read about Aaron’s project and its backstory, which is taken from the Kickstarter project page. The Kickstarter has already reached it’s target goal, which is quite brilliant, but donations can still be made to ensure this film grows and turns into something quite special for many, many more years to come.
They wanted the freedom to party, the state saw them as the enemy within. A Folk History of the Free Party movement.
1990, UK. The initial euphoria of the acid house orbital raves had waned after a government crackdown on illegal ‘pay parties’. The energy, creativity and radical promise of the ‘second summer of love” assimilated into clubland, or commercial ‘rip-off raves’ often charging £50 a ticket. And with the recession beginning to bite, the dream seemed over. But a new underground began to emerge with a radical idea..
Sound systems, such as Nottingham’s anarchic collective DiY, with their ‘everyone welcome’ attitude, London’s Fund-e-Mental and Spiral Tribe, with their cult-like image, and acid house party pioneers Tonka begin to appear across the country, in clubs, small squats and ‘broken’ warehouses as an antidote to mainstream clubbing.
In the west country, despite being badly bruised by Thatcher’s attempts to destroy their lifestyle at the “Battle of the Beanfield”, members of the travelling community, and stalwarts of the free festivals such as Circus Warp, Circus Normal and the Free Party People had the know-how, the spaces and the infrastructure to enable amazing free events under the stars.
At the Travellers free field at Glastonbury 1990 – the anarchic free spirit of the travellers and the incredible music and energy of the acid house generation came together for the first time… something new was born.
More and more sound systems from the warehouse / free party / squat rave scene formed across the UK (including Bedlam, LSDiezil, Adrenalin, Tekno Travellers, Smokescreen, Circus Lunatik, Desert Storm) and they began venturing out to the traveller free festivals, turning these events increasingly into impromptu raves. These free parties / festivals began growing in numbers from small events of hundreds, to thousands, to tens of thousands, through word of mouth alone throughout 1990-1992. This culminated at Castlemorton Common in May 1992. Headline TV news for a week, between 20-60,000 partied for 7 days.
But now the British establishment, and the media had its latest folk devils, promising to middle England to crush the movement out of existence, leading to violence by riot police and arrests (Spiral Tribe being arrested at Castlemorton) and draconian changes in the law itself with the Criminal Justice Bill in 1994.
Many travelling communities found their life hard to continue in the UK after the Criminal Justice Act was past in 1994, and the pressure from the state would also push Spiral Tribe, Bedlam and others across the newly formed EU, creating gigantic Teknival utopias dwarfing the size of the UK free festivals. DiY meanwhile, alongside their regular club nights, kept the free parties going in the north, inspiring / connecting to a host of other local sound systems such as Smokescreen, before heading out across the world, including Thailand, Ibiza and the west coast of the USA, where they met ex-Tonka DJs with a scene of their own inspired by the free parties in the UK. Many systems would also keep the flame alive in the UK including Exodus and Liberator, and others in the scene would join the burgoning protest movements at the M11 and Newbury bypass. The scene would fracture into a myriad of disparate sub genres and scenes, with the unity of those initial years seemingly gone.
But now, 30 years later with new laws criminalising trespass about to be brought into the UK, the story is as relevant as ever.
The film looks at personal stories and perspectives, as well as wider themes of freedom, the politics of trespass, utopia and state surveillance, themes with huge resonance in the present day, nearly 30 years since it all began. The stories by people who lived the free party explosion are told from their perspective, from a pre-internet, pre-camera phone era. Everyone’s experience was different, and some opinions and memories of moments and events contrast with each other, so we’ll allow this subjectivity of a largely un-recorded era to be part of the film, with no single ‘voice over’ to dictate the narrative.
The film is extremely relevant to now – with new trespass laws in the UK, focusing on travellers and protestors, extending the powers of the 1994 Criminal Justice BIll as well as post pandemic people are craving a sense of community and connection like never before and environmental concerns, flagged by the travelling communities are now mainstream.
The documentary will be aired on May 2022, the 30th Anniversary of the free festival at Castlemorton. Read more, or donate to the ever growing Kickstarter here.