In the final episode of Big Night Out, Clive Martin is back in the UK exploring the underground rave scene.
The nightlife in big cities around the world is dying. The lockout laws being rolled out across Australia aren’t unique to us, as we’ve seen throughout the first series of Big Night Out, but we’re yet to see the extremes young people are willing to go to for a good time like in the UK.
Martin is in London, standing in front of a floral tribute nestled against a building. The clubbers of London are in mourning because one of the key nightclubs, Fabric, has closed.
Fabric is the latest venue to be shut down as property developers seek to transform clubs into condos, and they have the backing of city officials, all intent on enforcing the law to find way to kill another dance-floor. With less places to let loose, nightclubs are going underground. Party-goers will always find an alternative.
So where are they going? Rogue groups of party planners use loopholes in London’s complex squatting laws to host rave parties in properties listed as ‘to let’. The venues are mostly empty warehouses in industrial estates. Party planners find the properties listed online and scope out a way to gain entry without breaking in – thus not making it illegal. If a place is accessible, they organise the sound system, DJs and then promote the rave via social media. It’s like a well-planned heist, but they’re in no hurry to escape.
Martin attends an underground rave in London and spends time with the planners who all have code names that make them sound like WWE Pro Wrestlers. One goes by the name of ‘Havik’, which makes one wonder what his finishing move would be.
It’s fascinating to see how much effort goes into putting these raves together. The planners have a deep understanding of property law and talk like they’re preparing to go to trial. The underground rave scene also totally changes the dynamic of what a ‘night out’ means. Rather then heading into central London to party, young people are loitering around industrial estates and train yards waiting to jump a fence. It seems more productive to throw a house party, who wants to do all the cleaning up? These are disposable raves free of any responsibility. There is no duty of care, like in a nightclub, because in those spaces people are encouraged to let loose safely due to the strict laws the venues must abide by.
The underground raves aren’t without tragedy; there have been deaths, most due to drug use. At these events the responsibility lies with the participants, not the organizer, and the blame game becomes a tricky grey area.
Outside of London, the trend of underground raves is growing and Martin heads across the border to Denbigh, Wales, where a large party is being planned in a woodland area. The planners have the same vibe as their London counterparts but their major advantage is distance. The Denbigh party is in the middle of nowhere, so it’s an even bigger trek for revelers but they make the effort and love being miles away from the police. A large contingent drive cross-country from Liverpool to Denbigh – why isn’t anyone going to their local pub anymore? The Liverpudlians explain the clubs and bars in their hometown are far too aggressive and it’s not fun to go out anymore. The underground raves are more peaceful and hedonistic in comparison, and without any restrictions, which is code for: do any drug you want. Everyone Martin encounters is searching for a little more freedom while getting sloshed and are willing to cross borders to do it.
Back in London there is more news of nightclub closures. It’s clear the local council is starting to politicise the shut down of underground raves as a way to prove they’re making the right decision to cleanse neighborhoods of these venues. The reason why most places get shut down is because of drugs. The theory is: shut down the clubs; stop the spread of drug use in the community. The closures also work out well for developers looking for a prime new central London location to build a block of flats. The drug problem has now gone to these underground raves, which offer a smorgasbord of options for people looking to get off their face. The problem hasn’t gone away, it has changed its address.
People want to party and Big Night Out reveals the extremes many are willing to go to for a chance to let their hair down. The pub/club scene of any big city contributes to the culture of the place - London is an example of how a town gets the life slowly sucked out of it by gentrification. All work and no play make Jack a dull boy, unless Jack has been out all night raving in a rail yard.
Big Night Out airs on Tuesday night at 9:20pm. Previous episodes are streaming on SBS On Demand: