Sound Systems


`Make the vinyl spin and the system pound,
providing a vibe with the underground sound.
Of illegal music they just can’t stop,
gonna crush their laws making party’s rock.
So dance with us, come stomp your feet,
cuz your future lies with
                                              `repetitive beats…!!’


I am fully up to pace with a lot of the law changes going on that affect people while trying to celebrate. Themselves, their culture. just wanting to have a nice time! and let rip with their friends. I am `middle aged’ now I suppose, but since I can remember, people around me have said. “Why won’t these bastards leave us alone? all we want to do is, festival, dance, party, etc. We’re not doing anyone any harm”. Thing is, the authorities have never agreed, and they think of `free spirits’ as a threat to the state and are treated accordingly.



I had much involvement with free festivals and the events and gatherings at Stonehenge. A free festival at the stones at the Summer solstice that had been happening for twelve years. Hundreds of thousands of young ( and not so young!) gathering for what was obviously a `common need to celebrate together. The moral majority! general worthies, the police and the no fun brigade, banded together moved the law about a bit. Then came and hit us with sticks with much blood. It was kind of like a signal and intimidation, to stop many others coming to `play with us in the fields.


Because of our reputation in Britain as having a `proper’ liberal democracy, it was news all over the place, that our police could behave in such a way towards unarmed civilians, in pursuit of political ends.


Talking to people in various countries, I know its not just Britain starting to `get tough on deviants of various sorts. Although a lot of travelling people have left England because of the oppression of their lifestyles, some are starting to find similar law and prejudice applied to them, elsewhere as well.


Some of the ideas of festivals and travelling that we have done here, have some roots in America in the late sixties with the big festivals (with the free ones building on the edges!)., merry pranksters etc. As well as with the ideas of gathering and celebration that go back 2 or 3 thousand years that seem as relevant now, as then.



The music is only part of the mix. Many developed a sense of common purpose and identity. There was an acceptance that modern life was too fast, expensive and polluting to the environment. We had discovered a kind of ‘Anarchy in Action’, and it worked! People began working out and managing relations within `our’ communities, without reference to `Them .


Seizure of vehicles and sound equipment ‘ready to print’ PDF file (63Kb)

“Sound Advice”  – what to do if party is threatened with closure, or worse!


They’re trying to squash deviance and dissent here, now. The words `new age traveller are dirty words here. Used by the press when they want to be rude to us.
Now in `dance culture’, it all goes round again.
Shame isn’t it.



 some police actions, …. after the CJA enacted


12/4/97 Reclaim the Streets, Trafalgar Square: 3 people from Immersion charged with conspiracy to murder. Sound-system impounded and later reaturned. Charges were dropped.
5/5/97 Llyanbered, North Wales: Police hellicoptors and riot vans appeared at Marchlin Quarry and seized the Babble soundsystem. The driver was arrested.

21/6/97 RTS, Bristol: Desert Storm soundsystem and truck impounded on the M4 and owners charged with conspiricy. Rig and truck returned in October and charges dropped.

13/7/97 East Sussex: police threw the CJA at a private birthday party following the Brighton Dance Parade, at which 20 soundsystems made to promise not to put on free parties that night.

16/8/97 Deiniolenin, North Wales: Police strip searched two people for drugs on their way to a free party, finding none, before setting up road blocks.

6/9/97 Norfolk: at the legally squatted Thelverton Hall, police arrived before the soundsystem to prevent a party organised by Innerfield and Planet Yes.

18/10/97 24 officers arrived at a private birthday party and found #10 worth of cannabis. They nicked two people, took the key to the house and impounded the soundsystem.

31/10/97 Norfolk: At the squatted Thelveton Hall, police crushed another Innerfield do by seizing equipment, which they later had to return. People’s bedding was burnt on the front lawn by the owner of the hall.

11/97 Tottenham: 60 riot cops busted party and seized equipment belonging to the Immersion rig – later returned minus a few bits.

31/12/97 Brighton: one party was stopped before it began; another was stormed after midnight by riot police who then baton charged people outside. A third party took place in a squatted bingo hall, until police seized the rig in the morning.

31/12/97 Nottingham: Pulse, Smokescreen and DIY tried to put on a party in a non-residential area, but police stopped it with roadblocks.

25/1/98 Hackney: noise pollution officers stopped a party in a disused Hackney warehouse, siezing sound equipment which they are now seeking to destroy.



A View from the Dance Floor

In January 600 party-heads, clubbers, sound-system collectives and rave organisers met in Bristol’s Trinity Hall. The all-day, all-night party-come-conference built a united front


It’s the War of the Flea. Soundsystems keep growing from the grassroots. While the authorities try and contain them, they keep coming back to irritate them. One may be out of action for a time, but another will spring up in it’s place – Debbie Staunton, United Systems


Riot police have conducted a year-long war of attrition against large private and open air parties, making scores of arrests and breaking up events before they start – The Big Issue, 3/11/1997


While New Labour were busy popping champagne corks and celebrating with a May day post – election knees up, other parties (of repetitive beats) were being actively state-crashed across fields and warehouses all over Britain.


Dancing is OK, so long as you do it without the beats. Otherwise police resources and manpower, to the tune of an inner city riot, may have to be activated.


In the week before Labours landslide victory an unsuspecting party goer received this posting on his e-mail: “the North Wales police are monitoring your activities, and we will take action to stop your event”. The next day several officers grilled him over rumours of a May bank holiday rave – Having monitered the UK Dance Listings web page, and e- mail North Wales police followed the data trail right to his door.


The following May Day “election” weekend, the Tribe of TWAT, Chaos, BWPT and Babble soundsystems, trailed by a party convoy, were met by the regional Zero’s In-Tolerance squad at Marchlin quarry in Llyanbered, Deploying helicopters and riot vans, the Babble system was impounded and the party convoy forced to find sites over the border into England.


Not that English police dont leave their Criminal Justice Act (CJA) calling cards when sound-system festivities come to town. A month after the election, following an all day RTS party, Desert Storm were pursued by Bristol police to the bottom of the M4. Shielded by several hundred people, the truck had been led to the outskirts of Bristol to avoid being snatched by stationed riot vans. On setting out for the long haul up North, the vehicle was pulled and the sound system impounded.


While 1997 saw quarries, fields, and warehouses ransacked even private gatherings were being trashed.


The second half of 97′ runs something like this, clampdown in Wales continues, with Rave Watch schemes, arrests and system seizures. Armed response units show at a Norfolk house party on Halloween. Police in Tottenham and Hackney discover the Noise Act. Riot police showed at the Innerfield Bingo Hall bash, seizing their rig, and stealing records and connection leads. Then, only a month into 98’as part of the “Transforming Hackney” programme, five sound-systems were taken under the Noise Act…


In 1993 the Southern Central Intelligence Unit began Operation Snapshot. Following the events at Castlemorton festival, open air raves were identified as a target for police operations. Any information, no matter how small, on New Age Travellers or the rave scene was to be logged onto police databases for future intelligence. Working in since, the Home Office tacked ravers on their CJA top ten social deviant list, by outlawing sound-systems and making criminals of their owners. On the party scene since, 1997 saw more legislation, manpower and resources mobilised to close down free parties than ever before.
Clubbed to Death


If we are not careful night-life will turn out to be no different from the bland consumerist playground of chainstores and fast food outlets which punctuate the daytime economy” – Manchester Metropolitan University Institute for Popular Culture. Management who do not co-operate i n drink and drug related matters will be brought to task and this could ultimately lead to closure” – Chief Superintendent Peter Harris, Greater Manchester Police



In 1998, sniffer dogs, drug swab tests, search warrants and licensing powers are used on innocent clubbers. Many will be recorded on CCTV, inside club venues some made to submit to drug test. Some clubs will be closed and promoters forced to sanitise their nights with fresh police disinfectant licensing solutions.


This new clean club solution won’t effect corporate scum like the Ministry of Sound but will wash out alternative dance and DIY circuits nationwide. In Brighton, where special SWAT teams forever chase the rave to the grave, fave Chief Inspector Bailey issued a report toEnvironmental Services calling for a revoke of a cafe’s 24 hour licence. Bailey said Brighton police had collated intelligence and video footage implicating the Sub Cafe’s management with known criminals and drug dealers. The cafe had it’s flyers banned for using the words “chill out, CCTV cameras spying on the venue, and officers wandering in on weekends, threatening the place with closure. However, when Bailey’s bully boys rolled up in front of the licencing committee with their snooper film rushes and intelligence” casebook; it turned out the evidence was misleading, and the Sub management were cleared. However, the continued harrassment eventually led to their closure.


Zapped on Camera

When Web and Kirby, the multi-pub conglomerate, bought the Brighton beach front Zap club they decided to install hidden CCTV cameras. The spy system, all grand spanking pervy new, is in full colour – so it can pick out that pink stitching on your bright fluffy bra. Web and Kirby say it’s part of the new sanitised Zap charter. Finally, a club you can take your gran along to – they even shut at a mildly respectable 3.00am nowadays.


The Zap Club joins other Brighton snooper spots – the Paradox, Event, McClusky’s, Greens and Cybar, in installing CCTV systems where footage can be used on police request. This is all part of the new Orwell-Clubs initiative on behalf of Brighton police, where, to get an entertainment’s venue licence, you have to spunk up (literally) on spy cameras first.


Drug Czar Hellawell has already given his thumbs up to new club bashing powers. On Newsnight he said, “Alongside inner city areas, clubs were public enemy number one.” The Legg Bill (Public Entertainments and Licensing Act) when it becomes law this year, will give police the power to shut clubs on any evidence of drug use. Smoke a spliff in your local Ritzy and there goes your Saturday night sesh. Even without this Legg- up, police are getting their jollies in North Wales by strip searching students on route to Bangor University. In Manchester police are launching Club Watch schemes all over town, with plans to make CCTV a licensing condition. Elsewhere, Hackney council have set up a 24 hour weekend anti-rave hotline, which puts winging locals through to Noise Pollution Officers. On 25th January a tip-off led to five sound-systems being impounded in Stoke Newington.



The Music Press

Most of the dance music press appear to be either drowning in records or too off their cake to notice the repetitive beatz genocide taking place in clubs, disused Bingo Halls, empty quarries, fields, squatted mansions and private homes around the country. While the authorities continue to snatch and destroy sound-systems, sap the life and creativity out of clubs, and criminalise those on the dance pulse – music journalism is censoring the real issues under a blanket of glitzty club ads, DJ cult worship and sequinned wonder bra’s. In just one copy of a well known double-barrelled titled dance mag, SchNEWS found evidence of 90 pages of ads, 41 pages on club related stuff, 1,349 cleavages, and 3 pages on drug, underground and general news bit. Sorted!


Dancing to Whose Tune?

At one and a half grand per hour to keep going, police helicopters are expensive pieces of kit, to be used only for serious anti-crime operations. Some bewilderment then, was felt by an ecstatic crowd of party-goers raising appreciative arms up to the scintillating spotlight shon from the helicopter hovering above. While club lighting is usually expensive in itself, those at this party at a derelict farmhouse near Peterborough last summer, were treated for more than an hour to a dazzling aerial light display courtesy of the old bill. And though that party was not actually busted, the incident gives cause to ask again questions passing over the lips of party-goers across the country: why the hell are police channelling so much of their resources into checking people’s attempts to celebrate together? What is it that seems to make some coppers almost come with excitement at the prospect of a clamp-down?


Free parties are not new, by any stretch of the imagination; the same openness between people manifest by random chats and hugs at parties today was experienced by those at popular festivals down the ages. Pretty much the opposite of being on the tube in London, where passengers are almost always silent and avoid eye contact, gripped by the alienation that is the everyday reality for most of us. Can’t the authorities get their heads around the sense of ownership felt by people at free events, created by those within the dance community simply for the love of the party? How much more real is that experience than that of commercial clubs, where the will to dance is enclosed and removed from everyday life, then sold back to us for the price of a ticket? Perhaps though, that is precisely what those in power can get their head around. With the growth of the free party scene, people spent more time away from commercial `entertainment’ venues, getting their drugs of choice from the black market instead of from a bar. We empowered ourselves to put on our own events and discovered that they made those offered by the world of commerce seem boring. No wonder a backlash, then: free parties undermine some people’s pursuit of profit, and for a while threatened to execute the judgement that contemporary leisure was pronouncing against itself.


What is it that’s so empowering about beats? When dance music tears through our apathy with 150 bpm thrown out across a crowd, we begin to live more intensely, as anyone who’s felt it will tell you: music unites, and inspires people to let themselves go. To say that that should only take place within the walls of licensed clubs is to say that people should only be able so freely to express themselves within the limits imposed by corporate and other authorities whose interest in dancing is merely to fleece those of us who love it. For them, the walls and time limits of clubs exist to contain our creative desire for self-expression, making that desire separate from ourselves and lives, something that can only be bought into, instead of being collectively realised. Those walls trace the same lines of enclosure as those marked out by the walls of art galleries, which keep `art’ as something removed from everyday life, to be exclusively controlled by a few. At the Reclaim the Streets party last April, the Immersion rig gave it some on the doorstep of the National Gallery, starkly contrasting that bastion of high culture with something joyously participative, embracing of all the people there. It’s no coincidence that Reclaim the Streets parties when they began took the soundsystem as their central part, bringing to the everyday public space of the streets this instrument of a free culture whose public, inclusive celebration had elsewhere been the target of so much repression.


But it’s not simply about being anti-club; many club nights are wicked, put on for fair prices by people with attitudes as good as the sound folks they attract. The issue is one of control: loads of us like to go out and dance a lot. So on who’s terms do we do this? Undoubtedly the reason the police and general authorities want to herd us all into clubs is because that is the arena in which they can best control what we do. The crux of it all is this: that dance culture, at its best, offers people a glimpse, immediate experience of a way of being together vastly different from the reality of most people’s lives, where the spectre of money continually haunts the space between us. What would it be like if people hugged and communicated so freely on the tube? These different ways of relating to one another are both a cause and an effect of the concrete realities with which they are bound up. With most of our most basic resources – land, information, the space around us – annexed by a minority social class, the rest of us look past each other in our efforts to compete for a bigger slice of the cake. Of course we feel alienated from one another – all that we share is our lack of control. Whether or not we’re aware of it, each time we put on a free party we take back a space to make our own, and declare autonomy from the market system.


Party-goers everywhere should have no illusions about why their scene is being so heavily targeted by those in power. So how much does your culture mean to you? Across the country, in the various invisible territories of abandoned halls and darkened fields, beautiful free events are being surpressed by those with one hand pointing to the guarded club door, and the other gripping a side-handled baton. But people’s will to dance is as relentless as their determination to think and organise for themselves.


Clubbing in the Nineties

As the general election has ended, the govt. Are fighting our nation’s “declining morality” with the puritan revolution they hope will make clubs clean up, clampdown on the punter, or shut up shop. Recently, Brighton Borough Council refused to grant the licence for this year’s “Festival of Freedom”. The decision was made in the light of newly released govt. Guidelines concerning dance events, which the police waved in the air at the meeting. There are now two sets of government proposals to regulate festivals, parties and clubs.


The first, supported by the Home Office, is entitled “Dance Till Dawn – Safely. A code of practice on health and safety and dance venues”. The second is the “Public Entertainment Licensing (Drugs Misuse) Act” which is the brainchild of Barry Legg, Tory MP for Milton Keynes SW.


The “Dance Till Dawn” paper is a series of guidelines and recommendations from local authorities to consider when granting public entertainment licences. Organisations like Release, Lifeline, Festival Welfare Service, Megadog and the Scottish Drugs Forum have all had some input into it which has resulted in the inclusion of elements such as the provision of free drinking water, ventilation andchill-out areas. The rest of the bill includes stringent searches, anti-drug notices, strict security, exclusion of convicted drugs offenders, installation of cameras – the tapes of which will be routinely inspected by the police. DJs now also face losing their licence for playing a record that is too fast as these guidelines say they have a duty to play slower pieces if dancers are getting “over-excited or exhausted”. The DJ can be held criminally liable if he/she doesn’t.


The strict security and searches for all dance events costs a lot of money – which will force some promoters under. Festivals such as the Hackney Homeless and Deptford Urban Free have already been affected by this, as has the Brighton Freedom Festival.


Legg’s act, launched at a press conference with Leah Bett’s parents by his side IS NOW LAW. It provides councils with the power to shut down clubs immediately if the police suspect that drug taking or dealing is happening.


Other contradictions and likely “side-effects” of both bills include the provision of drug advice (is this an admission that the organisers are aware of “drug misuse” at the event, and as such, is the event liable to immediate closure ?) and the increasingly desperate competition between rival promoters (will this lead to “snitching” tactics and just how much proof will the police need to close a club…..)



These Bills will not stop people partying or taking drugs. If anything, the dance scene will head back to its roots – underground. The Criminal Justice Act outlawed the “free festival or party” forcing those that still wanted to meet each other into clubs. Yet even here, we are still being hounded…..


Perhaps a quote from David Evans, MP for Welwyn Hatfield best sums up the attitude of the people who are trying to quash us :

“we have recently heard much about the crime-fighting concept of zero tolerance. Zero tolerance cannot be applied selectively. All minor offences must be punished. Being found in the possession of a quantity of drugs should be treated as a serious offence, irrespective of whether it is a small quantity or a first-time offence. If individuals fear being caught with drugs, they are less likely to purchase them, thus hitting the dealers. However, the system currently in operation does not punish possession, that is wrong. I propose a system of zero tolerance for drug abusers, which would mean that those found in possession of an illegal substance would be given an automatic jail sentence. If I thought that it was remotely possible, ?I would advocate the death penalty for those in possession of drugs. That works in Singapore and Malaysia, so why not here ? “


These are the kind of people we are still up against. Yet another attempt to “clean us up”. We need to enlist the support of club owners and dance organisers, for it is also their jobs and their lifestyle that are on the line. Read these “guidelines”.


“Dance Till Dawn – Safely. A code of practice on health and safety at dance venues” is available from the London drug Policy Forum (0171-332-3084/3484).


All Systems Go!! – East Midland Sound Systems
Desert Storm in the fucking area!
Mutoid Waste Company
`The Mother’ rave – Castlemorton Revisited?
“Resistrance” – Bristol System
Licencing Events
Seizure of vehicles & sound equipment
Continuing adventures of the Exodus Sound System (1) (2) (3)