‘Sounds Wholly or Predominantly Characterised by the Emission of a Succession of Repetitive Beats’ – Criminal Justice & Public Order Act 1994
‘ALRIGHT PARTY PEOPLE! WE’VE BEEN IN NEGOTIATIONS WITH THE PIGS ALL NIGHT AND WE’VE AGREED THAT IF THIS IS OUR LAST SONG WE CAN ALL WALK OUT OF HERE. STICK AROUND TILL THE RIG IS IN THE VAN, LEAVE TOGETHER’
5 songs later, police armed with riot guns slowly entered and crept around the perimeter, surrounding upwards of 2000 people. We had over stayed our welcome.
Not that we had ever been invited to the abandoned warehouse on Manchester’s Salford Quays.
It was Valentine’s Day 2009 and whilst most of the country were out on dates they had felt obliged by social pressure to secure or were crying into a glass of wine, we were in search of a normal doctor.
That was our first experience of a free party.
A unique experience of complete freedom and unity, everything now made so much sense to our young minds. We had found elation in a grimy disused warehouse. The mask had been lifted.
As we squinted and stumbled through the bright tunnel of light the police had unmercifully orchestrated with the high beams of around ten riot vans, we couldn’t help but question their presence there. There was only good in that warehouse, albeit it was loud as fuck but we were in the middle of an industrial estate, miles away from any sort of residential area
Despite a severe depletion of serotonin levels our enthusiasm for what we had experienced carried to the next day, to this day and will stay with me until my heart beats no more. Free parties are just that – free. Freedom of expression. I feel better just for knowing these kind of events go on across the country and have the highest level of respect for those who choose to dedicate their lives to their organisation, living outside the law and in absence of profit, they aren’t shackled by greed like most of the population.
We had no idea what to expect when we called the party line – a number given out to a select few [hundred] people. Nor how to judge the thick manch voice giving fast yet detailed directions to the party – In the future that voice would ignite a shot of adrenaline through our bodies like no other, after hours of calling, when you hear that voice, that dirty Manch voice, it is on.
Once the message is received it is a race against time, it won’t be long until the police are also aware of the location or at least of the fact that a very large group of people are about to have a very good time. We race the police without sirens; by car, by bus, by train, by taxi, by bicycle or walk the 2 hour trek from a quiet Buxton train station to the picturesque valley which was once the host of well over a thousand people on a beautiful summers evening, morning and all too quickly, day.
The only siren we need is the rig, bellowing out a soul shaking bass, which is usually heard from at least 2 miles away. Calling out to the masses, the party is here. We are on. The rig is the beating heart of every free party, pumping out oxygenated beats to keep the party alive. If that doesn’t do it the electricity of the atmosphere, which is so tangible you could head-butt it, will ensure everyone is well and truly in sync.
The police have been present at every free party I have been to, they will turn up sooner or later – usually later. Their general practice is to watch on powerless, though I believe ‘supervise’ is the official term. On one occasion I recall a group of around 20 riot police, shields, the lot charge into a warehouse only to be rushed back out, completely overwhelmed by the amount of people inside – it was quite the spectacle. Other than that single event the individuals behind the uniform are generally very helpful and good natured, once they realise they are not at the scene of a crime. They are just following orders. I truly hope they can appreciate what they see.
Now, you may have been told that free parties are simply ‘a bunch of scroats in a field, taking drugs and loitering’ – these generalisations couldn’t be further from the truth. Firstly the venue is not necessarily always a field. We have been fortunate enough to attend parties in abandoned warehouses, striking valleys, under viaducts and an underground World War 2 bunker. Places worthy of a visit at any time if only to appreciate their unique beauty and character.
And I wouldn’t know how you’d define a scroat, I’d imagine it was a stereotypical image based largely on the way a person dressed, regardless, the people whom attend free parties come from an abundance of subcultures to unite for one massive knees-up, and these people are of an exceptional nature indeed. You have to be open minded, adventurous, committed and resourceful to name but a few qualities. Maybe that’s why everyone who makes it there is so fucking soundddddd. I’m not just saying that, it’s the truth. You aren’t going to a sweat box for 5 hours to drink overpriced alcohol and dance to shit music under the watchful eyes of egotistical bouncers. You’re heading towards a place you’ve never been, to party with people you’ve never met, for an undisclosed amount of time. Adventure doesn’t cut it. There is no moment which is known or familiar, anything could happen. You are alert. You are alive.
You are far away from society yet there is the strongest sense of community as the very nature of these parties ignites a certain comradery between everyone you meet on the way to the party and throughout the night as you fulfil the mutual desire to party, talk, share ideas and dance with like-minded people away from the rules and regulations of a deluded society.
There is a zero tolerance to dick heads, everyone looks after one another. There have been muggings in the past, as people make the un-savvy decision to wonder off on their own. Muggers are very quickly assured they are not welcome.
The humbling belief that once the party is over there should be no trace left behind isn’t just the organiser’s attitudes but that of the majority as after each party those who still poses the adequate motor functions amble around with bin bags as the crowds begin to disperse, even those who are unable to walk at this point will gather any rubbish in the close vicinity to make the job a little easier.
As far as drugs are concerned, there are copious amounts of uppers, downers and turn yourself a-rounders readily available should you choose to indulge – there’s no obligation, you can do as you please without judgement – that’s the point.
There are a lot of drugs at free parties because they are frowned upon/illegal elsewhere.
The fact that both drugs and free parties are shunned by society is derived from the fact that both things are misunderstood, as rather than trying something and forging an opinion of their own the majority will accept the biased views of any media platform they choose to lay their tunnel vision on. As it happens, both drugs and free parties make you feel very good about yourself, about life and about the future. When one is taken as an accompaniment to the other yes it enhances the experience, as it would if you were talking to your grandmother after sucking on a tab of acid. Though that’s not to say one is necessary to appreciate the wonder or indeed the importance of the other.
Drugs and free parties are married together by the media as a legitimate way to shun free parties in the eyes of the masses as the propaganda against drugs has a long and established history. This distracts people from the peaceful and life affirming gatherings that they are.
Free parties are illegal because there is no financial motivation for the government, a free party which was condoned by the government would have searches upon entry, high prices for taxable drinks, strict opening times and would be governed by people with supposed authority over the party goers. They’d probably call them clubs and funnel young people in en mass each weekend to spend their hard earned money. Who gives a fuck if they fight, shriek, vomit, piss and shit everywhere whilst getting liver damage, we’ve got it all on CCTV for the courts, justice shall be served.
You can make your own minds up on the subject, all I know is I’ve drank a lot of beers. I’ve taken a lot of drugs. I’ve been in a few fights and witnessed many more. I’ve seen complete and unreserved compassion and respect between total strangers. I’ve seen some awful states, of which parents would be ashamed. I’ve seen the most vibrant, expressive and energetic dancing. I’ve seen windows smashed just for the sake of it. I’ve seen a group of adolescents spend hours cleaning a valley. I’ve been to countless nights in clubs. I’ve been to several free parties. I’ve had my vision blurred. I’ve had my eyes opened.