Untold stories of northern illegal raves revealed in archive

Published
Blackburn rave sceneImage source, FLASHBACK
Image caption,
Thousands of people turned up to Blackburn's warehouses and mills to dance to acid house music

Stories and memories from the people behind illegal raves in northern England in the 1980s have been put together in a special online archive.

Thousands of people descended on empty mills for the parties in Blackburn, Lancashire, from 1988 to 1991.

DJs, revellers and police who raided the controversial events have recorded their memories for a new project.

Curator Alex Zawadzki said the archive would "bring acid house nightlife to living rooms under lockdown".

The online collection includes DJs Rob Tissera and Jay Wearden who headlined the nights.

The stories hark back to an era when dance music first exploded in the UK, with so-called acid house parties coming under government scrutiny.

A number of laws were later introduced to restrict unlicensed parties under John Major's Conservative government.

Organiser Tommy Smith's first memory of an acid house rave was on an estate on Pendle Drive in 1988.

"It was strange to see people who are usually sworn enemies dancing and hugging."

Image source, Flashback
Image caption,
Tommy Smith organised raves in Whitehead Street, where his friends were squatting at the time

Mr Smith began setting up nights at the former-nightclub Crackers, where he believed "something big" was going to happen.

He said: "It was only capacity for about 90 people but we had over 200. They were climbing up the drainpipe to get in."

The organiser then decided to use the buildings in Whitehead Street - where his friends illegally squatted at - to start the gatherings.

"Nobody ever wanted to believe this town, former cotton mill town was the epicentre of the acid house scene", Mr Smith said.

Image source, Flashback
Image caption,
Old tickets for raves in Lancashire have been collected and published on the archive

Former police inspector David France, 70, carried out raids and arrests at the time.

"It was a nightmare," he said. "It was one beat 'boom-boom-boom' all the time".

He recalls decoy cars being used to distract police from following them to the locations.

"There were quite a lot involved with selling drugs."

"You went into a venue and people were drinking lemonade. There was no beer."

Image source, Flashback
Image caption,
Newspaper clippings documenting rave arrests from the time have been collected for the archive

Punters' memories have been recorded, along with DJ Jay Wearden, who was 19 years old when he first played in 1988.

"There were massive convoys of cars going up to Blackburn," he said.

"It was the biggest group of people just going absolutely wild."

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