The best thing about putting on a free party
is that all your friends are there. Word of mouth is usually
the best way, and you’ll only get friends and friends of friends
etc. Advertising in other ways may attract unwanted ‘guests’.
To help each and every one of your crowd correctly to experience
the ‘dance energy rush’ in an environment of relative comfort
and safety here’s a few tips:
Always check squatted venues at least a day
or two before the party for:
Safe floors, ceilings walls, broken glass,
electricity etc. (we found misguided revellers using a hanging
live power outlet as a swing!), running water, flushing toilets
and sufficient fire exits.
It’s all dull, and some of it’s expensive,
but there’s nothing that kills a party more effectively than
someone dying in blood-soaked agony on the dance-floor.
If you can’t think of any good music to play
— let someone else do it. If, after announcing your intention
to organise the party in the pub on Tuesday night you aren’t
bombarded by endless DJ’s, all of whom who will guarantee to
‘rock it’ with their ‘fuckin’ mental’ collection of ‘white labels’,
then, and only then, resort to "Now that’s what I call Absolutely
the most ‘avin it, Hardcore Industrial Ultimate Rave Dance Anthem
Classics in the pan-dimensional multiverse before and since
the Big-Bang" from K-Tel.
Your sound-system should have three important
qualities — bass, midrange and treble. Many have only two or
even one of these, but all three will seriously enhance your
listening pleasure. Alternatively, soak your ears in Ketamine
and Brew and lie face down in the scoop bin which was all you
could afford with your last Housing Benefit cheque and forget
about the irrelevant higher frequencies.
A good choice of venue will greatly enhance
everyone’s fun. Beautiful countryside makes a cheap and effective
backdrop. A sunrise is infinitely less expensive than a laser
and a squillion times brighter. Indoors, everyone will be happier
if there’s somewhere reasonably comfortable and quieter to sit
Drugs of all sorts may be available at your
party, and will have an affect on the atmosphere. If you’re
planning to sell alcohol, remember the penalties can be severe
and the police may use this to get you if they can’t use party
related laws. If you’re bringing the sound system you’ll be
the first to be searched for illegal drugs. A good way round
the sale of alcohol problem is to buy it in bulk, which everyone
can ‘chip in’ for in advance (e.g. from France) and have a list
of people who ‘chipped in’ ready to show the police if necessary.
If you find that there are dealers at your party are selling
drugs, no-one will thank you if they get sold horse tranquilliser
as ecstasy. Take some ecstasy testing kits if you can, for the
safety of those who will take it, but don’t carry any illegal
drugs with them (obvious really!)
Avoiding grief is the biggest challenge faced
by anyone putting on a free party in Britain today. No matter
how careful the organisers are to be safe and conscientious,
some people just can’t handle seeing other people having a good
time — especially if they’re not invited! Outdoor and indoor
events face grief from the police (Criminal Justice Act, Public
Licensing Laws), angry neighbours, uninvited guests and the
The ideal location is one where no-one can see the party or
hear the music other than those attending. Sound travels a long
way outside, partying in quarries and deep valleys can be very
effective at limiting the range of noise disturbance, whereas
trees reduce the volume much less. As a rule of thumb, if you
can see a building from the soundsystem then they can hear the
music. The amount of noise which constitutes a disturbance has
frequently been debated. Some moaning ninnies will strain to
hear a faintly audible whisper of a kick-drum, with the windows
open and consider this an infringement of their rights as a
miserable, party-pooping, tory (probably) land-owning killjoy.
On the other hand pick your site badly and you could keep hundreds
of people awake all night needlessly.
The C.J.A. allows the police to insist you leave the site if
they think that the party may cause serious distress
to local people. Serious distress has not been defined in
law and presumably if the police eject a party from a site which
would not have caused a problem, they could be taken to court
over it, but as yet no-one known to us has had the time or the
means to try this. To order you to leave the land, the order
has to come from a superintendent or higher ranking officer,
although this often comes as a signed standard letter. In one
case, the soundsystem refused to leave land when issued with
this order in East Sussex and in the morning the police confiscated
some of the system. If you successfully argued that no distress
was or could be caused by the party you might get compensation
for the loss of the rig and get it back, but this argument has
never been tested in law (to our knowledge). Under the C.J.A.,
a confiscated soundsystem can be destroyed if the owners are
convicted, and the maximum sentence for organising a ‘rave’
includes five years in prison. These laws apply whether or not
you have permission from the landowner of the party site, although
the police are less likely to prevent parties on land with permission.
Outdoor events are not subject to the same licensing laws as
indoor ones, although a marquee might be construed as ‘indoors’
for such purposes.
Wherever you party, cleaning up afterwards is essential. Why
should we fuck up the countryside for a party —after all industry
and roads do it much more effectively. Cleaning up keeps on
the good side of locals and helps perpetuate the outdoor free
Partying indoors throws up a whole new legal minefield. Theoretically
any gathering in a building with music and dancing to which
the public have access is subject to an entertainment licence
under the neatly titled Local Government Act (1982) Miscellaneous
Provisions. Prosecution under this act is at the discretion
of the Local Authority (usually) and in most cases this is too
expensive and time consuming for them to undertake. However
if pushed this will happen and it’s very hard to fight. The
only defence is to show that all reasonable precautions were
taken to ensure that no uninvited guests had access to the building.
In the eyes of the average magistrate, this means having 6 or
more bruisers in bomber jackets with headset walkie-talkies
strutting around as though they just stepped off the set of
Bladerunner. Taking money on the door also implies a licence
is required. To the best of our knowledge, no case of this kind
which has gone to court has ever been won by the defendant.
The maximum penalty is £20,000 and/or six months, although a
fine of a few hundred is more usual. Once again ownership of
the building makes things easier although this law still applies.
If you can prove that all the people at the party were invited—you
do not have to have a licence.
The other angles the police may use to try and stop the event
are breaking and entering and abstraction(?!). If you’re cracking
a squat for a party do it at least one or two nights before
the event, so if you get caught you’re only looking for somewhere
to live and not standing with a jemmy in one hand and a record
box in the other. A discrete window can be left open for access
on the night of the event. Most buildings are accessible without
causing damage, if you break a lock or something getting in,
this is enough to get you nicked for criminal damage - so replace
it. Locks don’t cost much and might be useful on the night.
Once you’re in get the tools (jemmy, bolt-croppers, screwdrivers
etc.) off the premises immediately.
Abstraction is stealing electricity. Check
the state of the power before the night of the party.
If there is power in the building go to your local electricity
board shop and pay for some (£2O will do) in advance. They will
normally accept the advance payment, and rarely inform anyone.
If the police suggest that you’re stealing the lecky, you can
produce a receipt! If possible have a generator on hand as a
Often, the key to success seems to be not to
give the police a reason to stop the event. A long-term empty
industrial building, a few streets away from any residential
areas can be partied all night without any authorities being
aware. If you are careful about not inflicting too much damage,
clean up afterwards and put your own locks on you might be able
to party it again in a month. However, too many parties in the
same building brings other problems and soon the crowd will
expand to include small time local mafia and other thugs who
have their own unpleasant profit motives for attending. A good
phone network of friends and moving the venue each time will
keep numbers manageable and idiots away.
In general when dealing with the police, environmental
health and any other officials or general busybodies and members
of the public, remain calm and courteous at all times. This
is a disarming tactic which will render even the most puffing,
ruddy faced retired ex-colonel’s barking complaint ineffective.
Listen to what the police say, reason intelligently and don’t
believe a word of it without consideration. They will lie to
you, steal your genny from behind your back and to hell with
the law if it serves their purpose.
If you think your event might result in a prosecution
— take measures to protect yourselves against potentially biased
court proceedings. Take photographs of all the safety precautions
you have undertaken, and have a reasonable number of visible
stewards. Don’t take money on the door, clean up afterwards
and take photographs of the site afterwards. If possible have
a camcorder available to record the event particularly interactions
with the police.
Lastly a few DO’s and DON’Ts:
DO hassle stressed people with head-torches and screwdrivers
when the music’s mysteriously stopped saying "Oi mate, can I
borrow your miners helmet to skin up with."
DO poke bits of metal into unknown boxes on the wall with coloured
lights, saying "Beam me up Scotty".
DO gather round the police when they arrive, waving empty bottles
and shouting "Remember the Beanfield, bastard pig wanker?"
DON’T help clear anything up at the end, but instead lie around
in a pool of piss and dog turd informing the organisers that
they’re slaves to the system.
DO arrive at a pitch-black Welsh hillside in November with
only a small nightie, high-heels and two pills (previously ingested
DO believe the police when they tell you the party’s cancelled
(as they never lie), and on no account bother to try to find
a different way onto the site, returning 40 miles to your flat
to watch telly.
DO park across the access road to the party so that ambulances
can’t get in.
DO give out printed flyers saying "Illegal Rave" in large letters
a week in advance to give the police ample time to plan their
DON’T pick outdoor sites with ample parking as muddy dodgems
in the morning is a top laugh and modern ambulances have wings.
DON’T bother with a tarpaulin to cover the rig as it never
rains in Britain.
DO put generators inside buildings as Carbon Monoxide heightens
the effects of ecstasy
DON’T bother bringing any water to the party. If someone dies
of dehydration it’s their own stupid fault ...your honour.
Good Luck and Enjoy!