Free party

Free party

A free party is a party "free" from the restrictions of the legal club scene, which typically involves a sound system playing electronic dance music from late at night until the time when the organisers decide to go home. A free party can be composed of just one system or of many and when the party becomes a festival it is called a teknival. The parties can be thought of as autonomous zones where all the people present create and enforce the rules. This means that drugs are readily available and noise levels are usually illegally high. The word "free" is used in this context, to describe the entry fee but it's also used to describe the atmosphere, as in free from external laws and restrictions. Having said this, most parties do not ask for money since these are not commercial ventures although some (most often indoor events) do ask for a donation on the door to cover costs (e.g. fuel). Motivations for organisers range from political protest, for example free parties were a big feature of the M11 link road protest, to those that are run by people who just want to have fun. Typically organisers make little profit and sometimes even lose money putting them on. The term free party is used more widely in Europe than in US, in Canada and some parts of Europe they are referred to as Freetekno parties.

A free party might have once been described as a rave. The origins of the two are similar but since the birth of the nightclub in town centres the use of the word rave has fallen out of fashion in Europe.


:"See also Rave"

After the emergence of the Acid House parties in the late 1980s up to 4,000 Timeline and numbers cite book
last = Reynolds
first = Simon
year = 1998
title = Energy Flash
publisher = Picador
id = ISBN 0-330-35056-0
] people were known to attend a rave. These events happened almost every weekend. The noise and disturbance of thousands of people appearing at parties in rural locations, such as Genesis '88, caused outrage in the national media. The british government made the fine for holding an illegal party £20,000 and six months in prison.

Police crackdowns on these often-illegal parties drove the scene into the countryside. The word "rave" somehow caught on to describe these semi-spontaneous weekend parties occurring at various locations outside the M25 Orbital motorway that now attracted up to 25 000. It was this that gave the band 'Orbital' their name.

In the 1990s raves began to expand into a global phenomenon. Around 1989-1992 people who had travelled to attend the first raves began setting up promotion companies in each region to organize their own parties. This happened on a grassroots basis, often informally. By the mid-1990s, major corporations were sponsoring events and adopting the scene's music and fashion for their "edgier" advertising, making the scene become more commercialized.

After sensational coverage in the tabloids, culminating in a particularly large rave (near Castlemorton) in May 1992, the government acted on what was depicted as a growing menace. In 1994, the United Kingdom's Criminal Justice Bill passed as the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 which contained several sections designed to suppress the growing free party and anti-road protest movements (sometimes embodied by ravers and travellers).

By the early 2000s, the term "rave" had fallen out of favour among some people in the electronic dance music community, particularly in Europe. Many Europeans identify themselves as "clubbers" rather than ravers. The term 'free party' has been used for sometime and can be seen on the Spiral Tribe video 'Forward the Revolution' in 1992. It tried to disconnect raves from big commercial events of the early nineties to a more anarchist version of a party.

Some communities preferred the term "festival", while others simply referred to "parties". With less constrictive laws allowing raves to continue long after the United Kingdom tried to ban them. More anarchic raves continue to occur in Central Europe and France, where the law says there can be only 4 teknivals per year (2 in the south, 2 in the north). In France the larger teknivals can attract up to 30 000 [cite news|url= |title=French ravers force police to retreat|publisher=BBC|date=2002-08-16 |accessdate=2006-06-24 ] people in a three-day period. The terms free party and squat party have become the predominant terms used to describe an illegal party.

The term "rave" is still often used to describe an unlicensed party in some parts of the United Kingdom, particularly the South East - perhaps because larger licensed "rave" events have become less common due to anti-drugs enforcement causing venue owners to be wary of hosting them.Free parties tend to be on the boundaries of law and are strongly discouraged by government authorities, occasionally using aggressive police tactics. [cite news| date=2005-08-02|url= |title=Czech PM defends rave crackdown |publisher=BBC]

Typical Party

Free parties are much like other rave parties, their main distinction being that the venue is free to use. The result is that they are often held in isolated outdoor venues or abandoned buildings, where they are also known as squat parties. If the building has a power source that is used but if not then the organisers will use generators.

Often free parties involve a lot of (mostly illegal) dance drug use. The music played at free parties is very bass heavy. It is for this reason that they are usually held in isolated venues or places where police interference is unlikely, such as protected squatting residences (particularly in the UK, where police used not to be able to enter a squat easilycite web| url= |title=Public Order and Trespass section 58 Raves |work=Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003 |publisher= Her Majesty's Stationery Office |accessdate=2006-01-17] ).

The types of music played are usually various forms of dance music with fast repetitive beats, but, due to the lack of a commercial interest, the genre chosen is often far from popular main-stream tastes and is decided purely by the tastes of the DJs who play for the sound systems putting the event on. Each sound system has its own music policy, following and entourage. The current trend is towards breakcore and gabba or, in another musical direction, psy-trance but many sound systems still play traditional techno. Some parties in England now incorporate elements of performance art ("synthetic circus") as well as electronic dance music.

Due to the lack of licensing restrictions, these parties often start after midnight and continue through the night until morning, often longer. Parties lasting several days are not uncommon; some large teknivals can go on for a week.

Law and Police

:"Missing laws regulating free parties outside the UK, see "


Under the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 [cite web|url= |title=Public Order: Collective Trespass or Nuisance on Land - Powers in relation to raves |work=Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 |publisher=Her Majesty's Stationery Office |accessdate=2006-01-17| year=1994] where the definition of music played at a rave was given as:

Sections 63, 64 & 65 of the Act targeted electronic dance music played at raves. The Criminal Justice and Public Order Act empowered police to stop a rave in the open air when a hundred or more people are attending, or where two or more are making preparations for a rave. Section 65 allows any uniformed constable who believes a person is on their way to a rave within a five-mile radius to stop them and direct them away from the area; noncompliant citizens may be subject to a maximum fine not exceeding level 3 on the standard scale (£1 000). The Act was ostensibly introduced because of the noise and disruption caused by all night parties to nearby residents, and to protect the countryside. It has also been claimed that it was introduced to kill a popular youth movement that was taking many drinkers out of town centres drinking on taxable alcohol and into fields to take untaxed drugs.

The number of people attending and organising such an event for it to be deemed illegal were altered in the Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003 section 58 to cover indoor parties and outdoor parties of more than 20 people. It is also a crime if, within 24 hours of being told by a police officer to leave a rave, a person makes preparations to attend a rave.

More recently in the United Kingdom, Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (ASBOs) have been used against unlicensed rave organisers if the police receive repeated complaints about noise and littering from locals.

Despite these laws, free parties continue to exist. They do so in a number of ways. They can be small (with fewer than 100 people) and remote so that they are unlikely to cause distress to the local residents. If the police find out about the party and turn up, it is rarely worth the use of resources to attempt to arrest people and seize equipment. The people at the rave would then have to leave without having time to tidy up and potentially still incapable of driving safely. The other way free parties continue is to be large enough to make breaking them up difficult. When there are more than 500 or so people then there is a potential for a riot. [cite web| date=2005-08-05 |url= |title=Police back off after rave threat |publisher=BBC|accessdate= ] A typical police response to why a rave was not stopped is: "officers had decided not to stop the rave because they had only received one complaint about noise and the amount of resources needed to stop it would not be justified." [cite web| date=2006-01-01 |url= |title=Hundreds attend illegal city rave |publisher=BBC|accessdate= ]

In August 2006, an unlicensed party organised by Aztek, One Love & Brainskan Sound Systems in Essex, England was broken up by approx 800 riot police, resulting in injuries on both sides. This was one of the largest confrontations between police and ravers that had occurred at an unlicensed event for some years. The Chief Superintendent in charge of the police operation said "These sorts of raves are quite unheard of in this county - I have not seen this sort of violence since the old days of acid house." [cite web| date=2006-08-28 |url=,,1859790,00.html |title=200 riot police break up illegal rave |publisher=The Guardian|accessmonthday= November 3 | accessyear=2006]

quat Party

A squat party is a party that takes place either in a disused building (broken into and secured for the party) or in an already existing squat.

Squat parties are usually advertised either by word of mouth, postings on internet bulletin boards, flyers handed out at other similar events and through phone lines set up by the sound system(s) organising the event. This is for security reasons, since the organisers do not want the authorities finding out about them and trying to stop them. Other events might be much smaller acoustic nights run more like a cafe. Squatted buildings are often used as social centres and creative spaces for people to use.

Most squat parties usually run for 12 to 24 hours, finishing when the organisers have had enough or if they are shut down by police. Most large cities in the UK have a squat party scene but London is the most active cities by some extent. The majority of London squat parties occur in mainly industrial sectors e.g. East London, as abandoned warehouses make ideal venues and a smaller chance of residential noise complaints. The London squat party scene of recent years has seen an influx of European travellers, largely from the East, where there is also a large rave culture, for example events such as Czechtek.

Squat parties are typically either free or charge a small donation on the door. Typically the organisers also try to make additional money through selling alcohol inside.

Squat 'eviction' parties occur when the squatters residing in a building have been given a final date for their eviction, and as a final act of resistance organise a large scale party and protest in order to try and withstand the police or bailiffs.


Drugs sale and use is long standing and accepted, especially ecstasy, cannabis, LSD and ketamine. Drugs are available at almost all free parties and people use them whilst dancing to bass heavy music all night long.

In early years 'uppers' such as MDMA were the most common drugs taken at parties, however over the last fifteen years there has been a steady increase in the popularity of ketamine as the drug of choice for party-goers, most noticeably in the London acid techno scene, where ketamine has a massive presence and has been said by some [cite web| date=2002-07-18 |url= |title=ketamine killing the rave scene and don't you know it |publisher=Taken from Party Vibe internet forum |accessdate=2006-04-23] to have spoiled the atmosphere found at earlier parties. Since 2000 ketamine has crossed over from being almost entirely a drug found in the free party scene to one commonly found in mainstream clubs as well. [cite web| date=2005-10-06 |url= |title=New drugs survey reveals emerging ketamine market |publisher=DrugScope |accessdate=2006-04-23]

There are people involved in the rave scene who are straight edge, though they're rare. [cite web| date=2001-01-17 |url= |title=Critical mess |format= |work= |pages= | |accessdate=2006-04-25]


Due to the drug culture and unregulated environment, security has become a problem for many party organisers. Some free party sound systems hire private security at events but security is only an issue in squat parties or very urban outdoor events. Outdoor parties have very little trouble.

Parties become autonomous zones, with self policing and control being established by all attendance. If people make trouble calling the police is not an option so sometimes the music is stopped and the trouble makers are simply told by all the party goers to leave. [cite web |url= |title=The Free Party How To Guide |accessdate=2007-05-21 |date=2001-01-01 |publisher= [ Partyvibe] ]


Typical parties in the London scene range from small parties with a couple of hundred people up to huge multi-riggers involving a thousand or more people. The number of sound systems involved also varies - small parties may have just one or two sound systems, larger parties may have anything up to 20 or more, including several "link-ups" where two or more sound systems will combine their rigs into a single large system.

Although London is the central location for squat parties they exist outside the capital. Outdoor parties are popular all over Wales and the South West and can attract up to a thousand people. Outdoor parties are organised so that noise pollution is not a factor. If the local residents complain then the party is much more at risk of being stopped. In most big cities there is a underground counterculture centred around free parties which are predominantly outdoor parties in the summer and squat parties when it is too cold.

ee also

* Freetekno
* Czechtek
* Rave party
* Teknival


External links

* [ Partyvibe] Free party resource.
* [ How to Have a Free Party] - SchNEWS DIY Guide
* [ Fantazia Free Party information] - Reviews of Castlemorton etc.
* [ Squatjuice] online bulletin board about the free party/ squatting culture.
* [ Survivors of Hardcore Belgium and Toronto] hardcore & speedcore party organizers
* [ Dungeons Flyer Gallery] Oldskool flyers

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