A sunny weekend in June saw thousands of young party-seekers descend on two quiet patches of Manchester countryside. Illegal raves were making headlines again. Over four-thousand revellers occupied a tucked-away field in Daisy Nook near Ashton-Under-Lyne. A few miles south, more ravers pirated an industrial wasteland in Partington, Salford.
That weekend both illegally held parties made national news. There was an alleged stabbing, followed by local resident uproar at the litter left behind and the lack of regard for social distancing. These underground parties were an apparent finger-up to lockdown rules imposed during a global pandemic. Just like in the late 80s, early 90s, illegal raves were headline gold – but this time, for different reasons.
Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government ruled the country for over a decade. It was the golden years for free market economics, capitalism and a culture of self-indulgence. Under Thatcher, it was every man for themselves. Competition was culture – and with that came counter-culture.
Rave spirit had bubbled in the working-class community. Togetherness and compassion. Those left behind from Conservative austerity and financial advantage had to find their own indulgence. Throwing parties in fields, farms and factories was the recreational tonic these young people sought.
But now – after another decade of Tory rule – that selfishness and competition is back. Can you blame Thatcherism this time?
Instagram has exploded. It’s every young person’s digital identity. In this influencer world, kids are fighting to better their online self. Travelling to better places, wearing better clothes, going to better parties. Instagram competition is toxic.
So now we have illegal raves coming back into mainstream culture – why can’t the spirit be there, too?
Counter-culture happens only if people actually oppose the culture they’re countering. Young people love Instagram. It’s on course to topple its father Facebook over the next couple of years. ‘Do it for the Gram’ has taken over. People are no longer sharing: they’re competing.
The mainstream music industry is reliant on social media shares. One of the world’s biggest festivals Ultra in Miami actively encourages its party-goers to take as many videos and pictures as they can. Share, share, share. Let everyone know you’re at Ultra. Soon enough you’ll have FOMO ridden youngsters booking their ticket for next year.
There has to be balance. Preserve that inch of rave spirit and still help your favourite, DJ, party, festival or venue survive so you can enjoy it next year. But be mindful. Listen to the music, listen to your friends and be present. The best moments happen in the moment; not through a phone camera.
Illegal raves are back, yes. But how many Instagram stories and Snapchat snippets did you see over that weekend?
The spirit is still there. Take your picture, your video, your Facebook check-in (let’s just hope your parents aren’t on there), then put it away. Instagram culture may be with us for a long time. Let’s counter it – just like the pre-millennial party-goers before us.