Our roving DJ Matt Wilson recounts his experiences from some big squat parties.
Wood Green Bingo Hall
The first time I walked into Wood Green bingo hall I clearly remember my first words. They were the same as the other 10,000+ people who visited in the next six weeks, for what was to turn into one of the best underground raves ever held in the capital, and they went something like "Shee-it! What a venue!"
Like the Parkway, a cinema that had been squatted in Camden over the last two years, the building was a deserted art deco theatre. What made Wood Green really special was that not only was it bigger (the busiest nighr had four thousand people) but the architecture was even more stunning.
I was fortunate enough to be a dj for the crew who squatted the building, and it was a fantastic chance to meet some of the people who have kept the underground scene in London thriving through the years. These included the people at Aadvark Sound System, who provided a rig more than capable of filling the huge main hall (not to mention their superb coffee bar), various members of Reclaim the Streets, and of course many other dj's including Chris Liberator, Gizelle, Laurie Immersion and Zebedee, as well as numerous visiting groups from other parts of the country.
When I finally got to play it was a tremendous buzz, looking out from the decks and seeing thousands of people, including many local Wood Green ravers who had never seen a party like it! I got a great reaction, and played for the following four weeks consecutively. At the end of it we all decided to take a few weeks break.
After paying off the bouncers (we have bouncers to stop gangs and fights only - I only found out during the last week!) and the people who put a long night's work in at the door and coffee bars there was some money left to re-invest into our sound system. The building was left tidied and undamaged thanks to posters asking people not to vandalise the site. All in all it was a huge success.
So next time you pick up Mixmag or any of the other so-called streetwise dance magazines proclaiming the death of the underground, e-culture or drugs, remember that just from the Wood Green rave alone there's 10,000 people who know better.
The Advance Party and the Camden Parkway Cinema Squat
Our reporter Matt Wilson reports back on his recent involvement with the Advance Party. Unfortunately, he's had to be a tad skimpy on the finer details as we don't want to give you-know-who any unnecessary leads...
I first approached the Advance Party through a mutual friend who had suggested I might be fit to DJ for them. I had been going to their events for the last two years or so and was fascinated by how such large-scale events could be organised by a seemingly anarchic bunch of people. As soon as I got an opportunity, I decided to visit them on the day of a rave and find out exactly how it was all done, and what went on behind the scenes.
The first thing to hit me upon meeting the organisers (this included several members of different sound systems all loosely affiliated) is their dedication to the cause of partying. For these people, the Criminal Justice Act made the illegal parties a very political affair, which has since enabled to them to tie up nicely with pressure groups such as Reclaim the Streets and the Newbury Protestors. The view is that ravers, environmentalists and other persecuted groups such as the Liverpool Dockers can work together to create a network to fight against the injustices of the Criminal Justice (and probably later) Acts.
One thing I was very impressed with was the reasoning behind some of the buildings chosen. With the Parkway cinema, a building that had been closed for three years after being bought by property developers (very useful for the local community, eh?), the squatters staged film shows for local children and repaired damage to the building. This earnt them the support of the local paper and many local residents who were angry at the state the developers had left the cinema in. Needless to say, after their inevitable eviction, the cinema once again fell back into disrepair.
It was a similar story with the Kentish Town University building. I was told the unpleasant story of how a working class university was closed down so the faculty could be moved to more affluent areas. In this case politically active students helped the squatting of the building from the University.
The most impressive building, however, was a large seven storey deserted office complex on a roundabout directly opposite the Houses of Parliament. I actually stood on the roof of the building listening to those darn 'repetitive beats' and looked across the water at Big Ben - quite incredible when you consider the area is supposed to be totally secure, and certainly a kick in the teeth for the CJA.
After the building has been carefully chosen, word is spread along various underground networks, and the safety of the partygoers is ensured by checks from the local Fire Station before it goes ahead. There is also a lot of very tough work involving carrying speakers up and down stairs, setting up backdrops, café areas, and entrances. This takes most of the day before the party and everyone mucks in together to get the best results. It's easy to moan (and some people do) at the four pound entrance fee to these events but it isn't quite so easy to realise how much hard work and personal risk goes into staging them something that might be worth remembering next time you're trying to blag your way in!!
Amongst the DJ's there is a strong feeling of camaraderie and I was made to feel welcome (although I was very nervous). The general outlook is to work together and not be too egotistical. It's also important for the DJ's and sound systems that they enjoy the night too as many of them work for free. The parties usually kick on well into Sunday morning normally winding up about lunchtime, but some have been known to carry straight through Sunday. Hard core stuff!
Only a few weeks after I had started dj'ing the eviction order went out for Manor House and the organisers are keeping their eyes peeled for a new venue. In the meantime, keep in touch with the Party Line (0181 450 6929), giving information on what's going on the underground scene every Saturday night!!
©Matt Wilson 1997
legal disclaimer: we are not encouraging people to participate or get involved with illegal raves in any way. Oh no. We advise people to go to nice Government approved clubs like the Ministry of Sound where they can pay lots of money to be searched by burly bouncers and have their pockets lightened by over-priced drinks and water.
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