THE STORY

THE MOTHER FREE FESTIVAL 1995

The Criminal Justice and Public Order Act had passed into law with Royal Assent on Nov 3rd 1994. The campaign of opposition against it had proved to be the catalyst for uniting a massive national network of ordinary people against the legislation, and the government that had seen fit to implement it.

The winter and spring of 94 and 95 had seen free parties happening unabated practically every weekend. The idea of a big free festival that would be a direct V’s up to the legislation, and a celebration of the culture it had criminalized, was an idea that captured the public imagination. It would be the The Mother of all free festivals.

Discussion began around finding a suitable site that would hold such an event. The question was just how to provide the infrastructure necessary to make it safe, secure, hygenic and fun for all concerned, as well as keeping its existence secret, in order to make sure that it actually happened.

There were quite a few umbrella groups involved in the creation of the Mother, and unfortunately that diminished the kind of unity of purpose necessary to make such a thing happen. An element of the People’s Popular Judean Front versus the Judean People’s Popular Front began to appear, with each faction keen that the revolution was seen to be its own individual responsibility.

Also, there had been infiltration of these groups by undercover, directed to keep authority in the loop as to the word on the street. Nevertheless, preparations continued apace, and after a couple of research visits to the West Country, a venue was decided upon.

Some years previously in 1992, a massive convoy of traveller ravers had been prohibited from entering Glastonbury. This left a big problem for the local constabulary as to where to put them. The convoy of vehicles containing Spiral Tribe, Bedlam, DiY, Lazy House, Circus Normal and Circus Warp were subsequently directed to an old airfield on top of the Blackdown Hills called Smeatharpe, where they duly held an alternative Glastonbury.

It seemed to make sense that if the authorities had chosen this place as a venue suitable for such an event before, then it might make sense to utilize it again. Glastonbury ‘95 was awash with excitement at the prospect of the free festival to come. Everyone you met was talking about it, many people planned to leave that event and go straight to The Mother.

Unfortunately, it was not to be. With intelligence in place the Police launched Operation Ornament, and by the time people started to arrive at Smeatharpe they had taken over the local village hall, set up a mobile control center, and every available entrance to the airfield had been blocked in some way or another, with two huge lorry containers left in front of the main access.

There were roadblocks in place on every major road for a ten mile radius, stopping likely looking people and conducting searches. One girl

subsequently reported that she had only escaped having her body cavities searched on the side of the road by a male policeman, by explaining she had her period. DiY’s rig got confiscated.

The army turned up in a field in Somerset belonging to a local landowner that previously had been a party venue. The field was being used as a holding area for people waiting for news that the site had been established and road blocked the people inside preventing anyone from leaving.

In London there were a series of dawn raids on the houses of people believed to be involved in organizing the party, including Debbie from United Systems and Michele from Advance Party, and eight people got charged with ‘conspiracy to cause a public nuisance’ The charges were later dropped.

Computers and telephones belonging to the Advance Party were confiscated, as was their English Bull terrier Bocky. During interrogation they were informed that their phones, and the phones of their closest associates, had been bugged for some time.

We got to know about this when Michele and her colleague Andy turned up at what was left of the Mother some days later, and told us about being busted by MI5, who worked in collaboration with the Special Demonstration Squad of Special Branch.

We’d had some kind of idea already though, as our landline had been behaving weirdly for a while in Bristol. In response, we had taken to having random conversations to whoever might be listening to indicate that we knew about the intrusion on our privacy, and thus could be communicating misinformation.

The amount of people who turned from all over the country was staggering. The roads were full of people looking for a party. A local paper subsequently reported that officers had stopped “demonstrators from as far a field as Wales, Yorkshire, East Anglia, Lincolnshire and Surrey.”

A couple of days before that a rig from Leicester had turned up at our house in Bristol on its way to the area looking for tools to fix an engine problem. The geezer fixing the truck was a bespectacled kind of chap who was into graffiti called Robin. He was also local to Bristol.

After driving around Somerset all night getting through roadblocks right, left and center, hooking up with various different contingents of party people, a call came through while we were at a small party on a farm in a village called Fiddington.

People with some local knowledge had successfully led a convoy of vehicles and some rigs onto Steart Beach near Bridgwater. This had been a great party venue for some years.

In the car we’d been using we drove over there, and met up with the people on site. Swiftly establishing that nobody had noticed their presence yet, we left again to go and get our truck, so that we could return and join them for the long haul.

By the time we got back there were roadblocks in place, preventing access to the beach from the usual roads. We drove to the next village down the road and made for the coast, as we had done a couple of parties in the fields between what had become the festival site and the village, and we knew there had to be a way in without using roads.

Hidden away just next the track that we needed to drive down was a big mobile control center with a satellite dish on the roof. It was pretty much alone. So we stopped and went to speak to the people inside. The inside of a mobile control center is a pretty interesting place to get a look at.

We explained to the chap inside that we’d been on site earlier, that we’d left a broken down truck there, with my fictitious teenage sister looking after it until we could return with tools to fix it, that we had been refused access to the site, and now were very concerned as to her welfare. We’d had enough, and just wanted to rescue her and go home. Our next question was whether we could walk across the fields to get to site with some tools.

The friendly policeman was very accommodating. He got out a map and showed us that it was impossible to drive into site from where we were but walking was possible. Thanking him for his patience and kindness we asked if we could drive down the track so that we would have a short a walk as possible with the heavy tools. He kindly gave his consent before going back to his job.

Happily we drove off down the track looking for the fields we knew from before. In the daylight it all looked different, and the one that we wanted we’d got into from a different access. It had also been ploughed since we were last there. The only way into it was down a steep bank and a narrow gate. I was worried the truck would tip over on the gradient into the gate, but came up with a solution.

One of us got out and opened the gate and guided me inch by inch down the slope. The others got up on the top side of the truck with the idea of weighting it down. It worked, and we made it through the gate with inches to spare on either side.

The truck had a fantastic crawler gear for in first, designed for use uphill with a heavy load on. I stuck it in that and set off at a snails pace through the plowed field. The steering wheel was pretty much impossible to keep hold of and so I just let go and let the truck do its work.

We saw an open gate into another field and went through it onto a grass track that ran along the hedge that lead to another open gateway into yet another field. Once we got through that, the track led up a steep bank. That was the road into site on the inside of the roadblocks.

At the top, adrenalin racing through me, we turned right and headed foot to the floor for the all the rest of the people who had made it onto the beach for what was left of The Mother.

As I turned I could see a riot van speeding towards us from the roadblock, blue lights flashing, siren going, with a man with a video camera leaning out of the passenger side window, but clearly there was no stopping at that point.

Two cars had left the main body of vehicles on site and were coming towards us. They went past us towards the oncoming riot van and pulled across the road making a roadblock themselves. As the riot van was forced to slow down by their presence, they pulled away again at speed and followed us back into site.

I’ll never forget the beautiful girl who was driving one of those cars, as she was one of those friends you make forever in your teenage years who will never leave you, although she was one of those who shone far too brightly for way too briefly in the end.

Site was cheering when we arrived and we were the only people in or out of there for a week in the boiling hot sun. It was just too dangerous to leave. At one point a representative arrived on site to let us know that a violent eviction was imminent unless we left. That clearly was an invitation to get busted.

Knowing that the airwaves were being monitored, we got on to a mobile, called just about every media outlet and friendly charity we could think of. We told them that we were about to be attacked by the police and could they please help by reporting it. Needless to say the violent eviction never happened. The next day a single lone unobtrusive man in car came by to say hello and check us out. Everyone was nice to him of course.

One evening some clueless lads were trying to help a lady in a car that had cracked its petrol tank getting in to site. They pushed the car into what was the dance floor for one of the rigs. It was leaking petrol so badly they had the bright idea of burning off the fuel on the ground.

To stop the flames they built a sandbank to separate the car from its fuel trail, and lit the leaked fuel some distance away. The flames sped down the track, jumped the bank they’d built. and the car ended up blowing up on the dance floor.

I was sat quietly on the roof of a truck in the dark on the outskirts of site watching the flames at some point a little later. There was a rustling in the

bushes of the hedge bordering a field nearby. Very quietly a squad of six camouflaged soldiers appeared out of the night beneath us.

We stayed stock still, and quiet. The soldiers more occupied in checking out what was going on with the car on fire, and a couple of minutes later, they melted back into the field from where they had came and disappeared.

At one point a very excited friend turned up in my truck with some amazing news. He’d just met Joe Strummer from The Clash camping with us on the beach. I couldn’t believe it. I Fought The Law was one of the first singles I’d ever bought at school, and I meant to go and say hello. Something ended up happening though that needed dealing with, and I forgot all about it until it was too late. Joe used to live in a village just up the road from Steart so it was no surprise.

In the aftermath it turned out that there had been similar attempts at The Mother in Corby and Sleaford up north, both of which had been busted. We’d all hoped that the Mother would have children. In a sense she has. But they are not free.

The comforting thing is that now, thousands upon thousands of people buy into festivals, every weekend of every summer. They also support a massive industry of creativity involved in festival production. That creativity is something that makes the inhabitants of our island utterly unique.

The free trade and free association models of old school festivals have been subsumed by the imposition of capitalism and authoritarian control. Festivals are now big business creating huge revenue streams for banks, insurance companies, councils, media, security companies, the police, and of course those clever individuals who can manage all the huge cash flow needed to produce festivals to current licensing requirements. Plus, pretty much all those attending have to have their identities and contact details digitally logged. I always wonder who has access to that data?

Gone are the days when you could just turn up in a beautiful field, invite your friends and have a party somewhere secluded. If you do, and plenty of people still try, you are guilty of breaking the rules of the market and your rigs will be confiscated, your guests will be persecuted, and the riot police sent in. 

THE STORY

3rd ANTI CRIMINAL JUSTICE BILL MARCH '94

By the time the third march in London was planned other Sunny commitments had already been put in place so taking the rig again wasn’t an option. That commitment was a nationwide tour of music, art and performance to promote awareness about the civil liberties implications of the CJA called The Velvet Revolution Tour.

The night before the 3rd march we were at Middlesex University Students Union pulling an all-nighter. With a few hours’ kip under our belts after the get out, we got in my truck and excitedly headed towards the center of town for another round of personal political responsibility.

This time the march would end in Hyde Park instead of beginning there. Clearly the Police strategists wanted to keep such a large volume of people well away from Downing Street after the events of the 2nd march. Keeping that in mind, and taking advantage of the relative quiet early in the day, I found a parking space right outside the Brazilian Embassy in a side street just off Park Lane.

From there we headed to Whitehall on foot, where we found our colleagues from the previous marches assembling and preparing to leave. From the outset the police presence was massive. Literally a battalion of riot vans were on hand, windscreen shields down, to bring up the rear of the march. There were policemen everywhere.

On the other hand, it was clear that this was going to be the biggest march yet. An estimated 100,000 people were in attendance. This was a social issue that had taken hold in the minds of the general public, motivating yet another large increase in the volume of those taking time out from their lives to make their opinions felt to government.

Once again the march itself was a huge rave carnival of colour and sound, representing a massive cross-section of British society. Instead of walking you just danced through the streets of the capital, with everyone around you following suit.

The SWP had really gone to town as well. There were organized stations of groups of their people handing out Kill The Bill placards by the thousand. It took hindsight to understand just how effective this tactic was. They made it seem like they had massive involvement and support, when the reality was somewhat different, as we had never come across them during the organization of the events before.

To our knowledge it was the selfless hard work and vision of the Advance Party, The Freedom Network and United Systems that deserved respect and acknowledgement for keeping it sweet, keeping it right and remembering that this was a peaceful fight.

At the bottom end of Park Lane things just got amazing. Further up there were several big rigs on lorries, waiting to be granted admission to the Park, and the atmosphere around them was crackling with positive energy and the rhythmic deep house beats of our mates from Sheff, the Smokies. I remember feeling gutted that we couldn’t have a rig there. It just would have been massive, but then again, thank goodness we didn’t.

The Park itself was mobbed with people. After a laborious struggle to get to through everyone to try and say hello to the mighty Immersion sound system who were hosting the speakers stage, and grab some pictures of the immense crowd with a view from above, it soon became apparent that much more fun was to be had with the rigs in Park Lane.

Back with Smokescreen, the crowd next them was liberally peppered with familiar and friendly faces. Hugs and love were freely available, even from people you didn’t know. Complete strangers were turning up who recognized us from the previous marches to say hello, and make it clear that they loved our presence and what we had brought to the proceedings.

People were in the lorry dancing, with every available space taken up. People were on top of the lorry, so many of them that the roof was flexing under the weight of their dancing. Whistles were going off everywhere. Every bus shelter had people dancing on their roofs. Getting through the crowd though was no problem given the density of people, because pretty much everyone was polite.

In the central reservation of Park Lane a line of menacing looking TSG turned up and formed a line nearby. Masked up for the most part, with visors up and holding shields, they just stood there impassively. Of course people started to harmlessly play up to them, dancing up and down the line, making it clear that their presence was unnecessary and that people were not going to be intimidated.

All of a sudden a ripple went through the crowd and heads began to turn to look down Park Lane, particularly those people who had a high vantage point on top of the bus shelters. Climbing up the back end of the Smokies lorry and I held on with one hand to see above the crowd. There was a thick cloud of what looked like smoke. It could have been tear gas for all I knew, as it was a distance away. There was sudden movement in the crowd and more smoke appeared.

That was going to be it. There was going to be trouble. I had a girlfriend to look after but also photos to take. Then it all did just kick off. Police horses were clearly charging the crowd in the Park. TSG seemed to appear from everywhere ready for battle. I remembered the words of the copper in the car park of the mobile control centre at Chipping Sodbury earlier on in the year.

I headed down Park Lane to get a better view of what was happening down where the smoke had appeared. People were screaming and shouting in Hyde Park behind the railings, trapped against them by the violence of the Police behaviour in the Park.

Down by the Grosvenor Hotel there was a line of riot police who were repeatedly charging the railings that those very people were trapped against. They were reaching over to batter people who couldn’t get away with their riots sticks, before retreating as people tried to resist.

One man stepped out in front of the line of police as they regrouped in between charges. He began to implore them to stop what they were doing, stressing that everyone came in peace, and that they should behave accordingly.

I walked to the gap behind him conscious that we could both be in for a beating and shot a few frames from directly behind him. He was silhouetted in the headlights from the police support vehicles on either side of the line as he was making his speech to them.

At that point there was a decision to be made, people were being attacked everywhere. My girlfriend and I started to walk hand in hand back up Park Lane to go back to my truck outside the Brazilian Embassy, and hopefully its safety.

It was just too dangerous to not be wearing a police uniform. Somehow we got back to the truck without being molested or accosted. The scenes around us were heartbreaking. It felt like a harsh end to beautiful dream.

The idea that the violence might have been deliberately sparked by police agents provocateurs planted in the crowd was already there, but back then it seemed harder to believe.

Recent revelations of the activities of the Special Demonstration Squad make it easier to believe. Their deep cover infiltration of people with alternative lifestyles and beliefs; combined with the fact that I had already been mistaken for an undercover copper by actual policemen only a matter of months before; makes the reality of that idea much more concrete and valid.

It is distinctly possible that undercover officers orchestrated the flash point for violence. How better to discredit the campaign of opposition and the sections of society targeted by the legislation? There is also a documented history of such police violence being employed against those sections of society targeted by the CJA legislation that continues to this very day.

Back in the truck we made tea, keeping an eye out through a tiny gap in the front curtains, and out of the high back window, on what was going on around us. There was no going outside again, at least for a while, as pretty soon the street we were in became a solid mass of TSG heading for the Park, all tooled

up as the dogs of war were unleashed, and the Act hadn’t even come into force yet.

We sought comfort in each other and as the riot raged outside we made love in the back of the truck, the violence kept at bay by each other’s warmth, and by the walls of my old Dodge Commer walk thru. Outside, nobody would have a clue we were inside.

The next day the papers and the national news media were screaming with rabid headlines. They finally had the sensationalist subject matter that they love so much.

Kill The Bill! The headlines raved, as if ordinary people had weapons, armour and the training to use them. The Battle of Hyde Park had been fought right in the heart of London, only it wasn’t a battle, it was another massacre. My friend Danny Penman, from the Independent, was hospitalized by police batons. What had happened to the women, children and families who come to the party? 100,000 people had been there.... 

THE STORY

HARVEST FAYRE CILGERRAN WALES '94

The news came in that anybody who was involved with the roads protest at Solsbury Hill who fancied a bit of a rest would be welcome to come to the Harvest Fayre up in Wales. So needless to say when the time came we all piled into my truck and made the long drive up to Cilgerran.

On arrival at the gate without mishap on the journey, someone jumped out, had a quick word with the people on the gate and we were in.

It was a beautiful green field site not far from a lovely little village in upper mid Wales. Wales has always been a bit of a mecca for hippie type free parties and festivals. They have the space for one thing. It’s easy to find land hidden away from local residents in the wild, dramatic landscape.

Plus there were loads of enclaves of like-minded people who had land and who had found refuge there. Tally Valley or Tipi valley by its other name wasn’t too far away, and there were lots of sites in around Hereford, Leominster, Brechfa, Llandeilo and Machynylleth.

One of them subsequently became the Centre for Alternative Technology pioneering the use of wind and solar power. Later, I loved the idea that a friend from there was being flown around the country in helicopters accompanied by Government ministers at one point.

We’d heard tales of the brilliance of a Spiral event at Bala lake, which was not too far from Cilgerran , and consequently were excited to see what the weekend would hold. It felt great to get away and what a weekend it was.

There was a hippie section, a rave section well away from the hippies, and a massive open area devoted to tipis and a big pagan type harvest ceremony that would be the centerpiece of Saturday night’s entertainment.
Some friends from Bristol who had deep connections with Wales had a tent there already with a rig all flouro’ed up by Chris and Donna who still run what has become Tribe of Frog, and two of our DJ friends were there to meet us with their deep house tunes.

I lost my hair forever at that festival. Up until then, it was long, in a ponytail, forever under a cap. Someone had some of those mental golden microdots again, and though I’d passed up before due to responsibility in London, I’d seen their beatific effects in full effect. In the clear sunshine surrounded by friendship, the blue of the sky and the green of the grass it was clearly time to try them out.

We met a geezer sat on a hay bale in the middle of a field. He was shouting at any one passing. “Come here you bloody hippies! Come on over here! Get a life, get a job, get your fucking hair cut! Lose those dreadlocks. Smarten up and fly right. Get your fucking hair cut!”

That did it for me. He had a set of clippers attached to car battery with no guides so it was all or nothing. Some time very shortly later I had nothing left on my head but a Grade 0 crop. It was liberating, the biblical tale about Samson and his hair was patently rubbish.

The musical highlight was three huge buses parked in a u-shape, one across the back flanked by two parked at right angles on either side creating an enclosed dance floor with a rig that didn’t stop for the entire time we were there.

At some point we thought we’d met the Chemical Bros, as we made friends with two guys calling themselves the Dust Bros, which was the name that famous duo originally used. Our illusions didn’t last for long though and it soon became evident why they’d adopted that nickname.

The other very exciting rumour on site was that The Ramones were on site after one of the gate staff let a chap in who told them he was one of the famous punk idols we’d grown up listening to. The gate geezer even maintained he looked like one of the Ramones.

As dark fell on the Saturday night, people gathered around a huge corn statue that was straight out of the set of the Wicker Man but with outstretched hands making it look like a rave version.

Around the statue was a maze made out of sand. The sand was then soaked in paraffin. After a procession of pagan type dancing and music arrived at the statue, someone lit the sand on the outskirts of the maze.
As the flames travelled into the maze everyone followed them using the pathways between the sand dancing whooping and making music with drums and recorders until the statue was surrounded in celebration until the flames died away as the paraffin evaporated. Why they didn’t burn the statue too I couldn’t quite understand, but hey, at least it lived to see another day.

Chris Pace, the guy behind the Harvest Fayre, ran another one in 1996 that we went to on a different site at Fishguard. That didn’t go so well. It rained massively. There was a scarily big police presence on the outside. In the middle of Saturday night Zion Train played the main stage. In the middle of their set they stopped the music, announced that everyone was now playing for free, and it was now our very own free festival. A massive roar of approval went up from the crowd.

THE STORY

2nd ANTI CRIMINAL JUSTICE BILL MARCH '94

After the success and peaceful carnival nature of 1st march against the CJA, we were invited back to take part in the 2nd national demonstration against the legislation in London on the 24th of July 1994.

The first march had attracted virtually no media coverage. There was no violence. There was no PR value in giving it space in a mainstream media dedicated to hysterical reports about the killer nature of ecstasy, the scourge of illegal drugs, the activities of rampaging hordes of crusty traveller ravers and the plight of poor old ladies being displaced from their homes by villainous, destructive squatters.

The 2nd march was much larger than the first, which had attracted maybe 20,000 plus people. The word had clearly gone out on the bush telegraph that existed in rave culture at that time, as word of mouth was everything. Practically every major city in the country was holding, or had held, its own local anti CJA demonstration. Post event estimates put the attendance at between 50,000-80,000 people depending on whether the sources were establishment or not.

The Socialist Worker Party had also got on the bandwagon and annoyingly branded the demo with placards saying Kill The Bill, which in retrospect was kind of not cricket. This time we were in a 7.5t curtain sider rather than a flat bed, in case it rained. We needn’t have worried. It was blazing hot. This time we invited local Bristol crew Mutant Dance to come along and jazz up our rig with their crazy flouro madness. Hyde Park was simply singing with people as coaches arrived from all over the country to gather in opposition and voice their protest.

There were a lot more rigs too. Oops from Reading, Exodus from Luton, Smokescreen from Sheffield along with a DiY crew from Notts, who gave everyone All Systems Go t-shirts. Traveller type folk heroes the Tofu Love Frogs had also got a rig on their lorry representing the London contingent, along with a pink armoured car that turned up from somewhere.

It took ages to get going and the route to Trafalgar Square was much more convoluted than on the previous march; taking us away from the major thoroughfares in an attempt to make the demo less visible. There was also a massively increased and threatening Police presence. Lines of them were blocking every road off route with riot vans of reinforcements as back up, the passive aggressive threat of impending potential violence implicit.
The streets of London were turned into a massive rave. The march seemed to stop and start along with the builds and breaks of the music. The Smokies with their bouncy throbbing deep house vibes full of disco love. Exodus with huge jungle breaks sending the crowd into a series of exhilarating, roaring peaks.

Once again it was a massively celebratory and peaceful affair. The only small flashpoint occurred after the march had reached Trafalgar when a small contingent tried to scale the gates of Downing Street just down the road. This clearly caused some unrest and gave the Police their the excuse to wade in on a small scale. They charged the crowd there with Police horses, before 14 people were arrested.

That mini event also gave the press something to focus on in their subsequent reporting of the event, which clearly also featured the SWP’s Kill The Bill placards. In public order situations like that however, it is never possible to assume that people are who they appear to be. Possible infiltration by the forces of evil was on everyone’s minds.
In the Square Tony Benn spoke again, while people played in the fountains, accompanied by a selection of other politicians and union types keen to get themselves some exposure, including one Jeremy Corbyn.

We missed all that however, as having developed their strategy since the first march where Trafalgar Square had danced, had fun and raved without incident to our rig and Desert Storm; the Police had requested that all the sound systems be directed away from the march before it reached the square.
At the first march, one of the lines of defense to the Police when they were trying to move us on, was that it was far better to have us there and keep people dancing, giving them a positive focus on fun, rather than provoke a potential public order situation by sending us away. A sentiment clearly they ignored this time round.

That meant a detour south of the river, on a magical mystery tour away from the route that the rest of the march took, before heading back over London Bridge. Then came the instruction to head towards Victoria Embankment, taking us right in front of the Houses of Parliament , and the gift of allowing us to take the rave to the very institution that was acting to outlaw us.

The volume got turned up, and we waved at the row upon row of empty windows, wishing the MP’s were in session, but clearly being MP’s there’s no way they work weekends in that particular house.
This time we decided not to do an after party, but as Claremont Road was still a thriving center for everything counter cultural we headed up there to take part in the festivities along with what seemed like half the march.
Late into that night we finally left the city in a friends big green hippie bus, and made the journey under cover of darkness back from one roads protest to another, finally reaching Solsbury Hill in the dawn of next morning, just a short trip from away from home.

THE STORY

1st ANTI CRIMINAL JUSTICE BILL AFTER PARTY '94

Knackered from the events of the Mayday march, we headed north to hideaway at a friends place in Kentish Town. A few hours chilling out came to an abrupt end with the telephone call we’d been expecting. We had a destination and a purpose once again. It wasn’t long before we were behind the wheel of the 7.5 tonner heading for Wanstead Common in East London, not too far from the newly familiar neighbourhood that had seen us evicted from the cold winter roofs of Wanstonia.

It was pretty much dark when we got to the trees of the Common, to find cars and trucks parked all over the place and were guided off the road into the forest. The buzz that greeted our arrival was enough to bring a smile to our tired faces, as were all the offers of help in setting up.

Its pretty hazy now but we got the rig going on the back of the truck once again for a bit but after some problems with the PA, and the arrival of a couple of other rigs, including the wicked Desert Storm CF from earlier, we decided to knock it on the head and use our generator to power them instead.

To provide light I got up into the trees with a load of festoon lighting and strung that up around the place. This big black Merc truck had turned up purpose built to house a rig, it had an amp rack bolted in to the back of it to keep the amps permanently in place and air cooled. The speakers came out on either side of the back doors and the decks sat on the back doorway with Dj outside, back to the crowd. Our music was generally pretty fluffy. What they played was definitely not.

I was in the back of the Merc checking out the amps when everything was finally wired up. There was a geezer ready with his records on the decks and as the generator fired up and the power came on to the rig and the lights pure noise exploded into the night and the assembled crowd went mental in unison.

It was like a flash going off down a dark tunnel so all of a sudden I could see. Trash that fucker trash that fucker trash that fucker trash that fucker was the screaming line that opened the tune. Hard gabba that I’d scarcely ever heard before and definitely not at volume close up. It was more like a mosh pit in the crowd at a punk gig than any rave I’d been too. Loads of people in black, pierced, tattooed, with big-soled boots and shoes going mental the instant the music started. Beautifully mutant.

We made some connections that night. The Spirals were doling out these golden microdots that looked like shimmering eye make up if you crumbled them between your finger tips. In the morning there were lakes that you couldn’t see in darkness and a beautiful sunrise, despite the music it was properly tranquil, nobody came to complain and there wasn’t a sign of being busted anywhere. Literally everyone had a go at filling a bin bag afterwards too.

THE STORY

1st ANTI CRIMINAL JUSTICE BILL MARCH '94

It was an early door’s start that morning. The hire lorry needed picking up, followed by the rig and décor. Then it was the drive from Bristol to London in a variety of vehicles.

For weeks beforehand we’d been preparing, sitting in circles on the floor of various living rooms night after night; making and assembling literally thousands of Raver Saver packs by hand, in a production line, to give away on the march.

The elements were contained in little plastic sealey bags. We’d designed little fold out information sheets with useful info on them that echoed the format of our flyers. There were friendly lawyers phone numbers, rights on arrest info, epaulette identification guides so you could recognize the rank of given police officers, a form to write down info in case of arrest and a great quote about money from Joseph Campbell; all in a cute graphic package. On the front was a symbol of a copper, with the words Get Out Of Jail Free.

Also in the pack was a folded big rizla, a couple of non safety matches, a small yellow sticker with an appropriate word on it, a silver holographic sticker that had been re-purposed from its original use as an identification device for people attending the Tory party conference that year; a menu detailing the contents, a roach card, a multi vit, a chewing gum and either a sunflower seed or a cannabis seed to plant later.

One of us had designed a poster for the march for Liberty with an image of the palm of my hand on it, made to look like a turkey. It was a reference to the repressive nature of the discriminatory ideas contained in the proposed policy creation.

A summons had originated to take the rig on the march by the Advance Party, and a lady from United Systems, that we’d met earlier in the year during our involvement in the No M11 link Road Protest. We were pretty much unknowns being from the West Country.

Hyde Park was buzzing when we arrived to set up the rig on the lorry. People were everywhere, the sun was shining, the grass was green. There was an overwhelming sense of community and friendship from the people around us.

This was an opportunity to congregate and voice democratic opinion against the impending Tory legislation to criminalise the free parties that were successfully happening across the country pretty much every weekend; parties that we had all had so much harmless fun at. They were the real time social networking events of the time, catalysts for friendship and the sharing of ideas and common ground.

This was a government as ever dedicated to enshrining injustice within law, while claiming it was actually justice. The idea that it would make criminals of us all overnight, as well a whole generation around the country, simply for
wanting to hang out and dance together in a new kind of previously unseen community within which we all felt at home; was self evidently wrong.

Politicians always pretend to the moral high ground, when in reality they are mostly mired in the foul swamp of corporate corruption. As our current Prime Minister is so fond of reminding people, in a democracy everyone has a personal political responsibility to do what they feel is right. This is true, even if it is inconvenient to the agendas of Parliament. That is the nature of freedom in a democracy.

The march set off in a massively carnival atmosphere and we were allocated a position at the rear by the stewards. There were a couple of rigs, one a customized Bedford CF by Desert Storm.

People were looking on in amazement. There was impromptu dancing to our music on the streets of the capital. The back of the truck was crowded and bouncing. Down Marble Arch and into Piccadilly we went, occasionally halting for stragglers and latecomers to catch up, occasionally urging forward to keep the crowd together.
The thing about demonstrations is that they are like icebergs. Only a small amount of the support for them is visible in those actually attending. Most people have lives and responsibilities that prevent them from being able to go. They are the ones hidden under the surface, the uncounted.

Stood on top of the speakers going through Piccadilly Circus there was a massive line of policemen presumably put in place to prevent any deviation from the agreed route but we were heading for the heart of the city, Trafalgar Square, to hold a rave at the very gates of Whitehall.

As we arrived we were directed to pull up at top of the square in front of The National Portrait Gallery. The square was full of people. Desert Storm were actually in the middle of the crowd down in the square itself. We turned off the music to allow the speakers at to say their peace. Tony Benn was the last person to speak out in opposition. When he concluded, that was our signal. We turned on the music and at that point, that was the moment. Our 8k of speakers began to do their job and nothing was the same ever again.

The roar of the crowd as they turned everyone punching their hands in the air in communal celebration, sent adrenalin through my body up my spine. The hair on the back of my neck stood up in a rush like I’d never known while stone cold sober. For a couple of hours we played, our designated driver unfortunately lost in the crowd, so we couldn’t move, despite the Police advice that we should do so and bring proceedings to an end.

When we finally did move, we did a lap of honour around the square before heading up Tottenham Court Road and back down Oxford Street, with the music pumping all the way to de-rig the truck back in the Hyde Park and rest. Our opinion voiced, our civic duty done, with not a trace of civil unrest anywhere.

THE STORY

FOREST FAYRE COLEFORD '94

Forest Fayre was meant to be a pay festival. It was mostly organized by Sid Rawle, one of the prominent figures in the Stonehenge Free festival which the precursor of the modern festival industry. That is you were meant to pay, but the free festival ethos that dominated events in those days meant that we just got in a truck, and somehow just got allowed in.

The big draw for us was Circus Warp, one of the rigs who made the Castlemorton free festival what it was, and Lazy House, another legendary free party crew from Devon, although the Fayre was somehow connected to more the hippie end of the scale via involvement from the Rainbow Circle in its organization, or disorganization, if you read the rabid press clippings about it from the time.

There was a lot of politics back then between old school hippie types and newer school people who were into raving, and the entire cultural phenomenon was the subject of hysterical treatment by the media designed to whip up public fear, suspicion and resentment.

“New age travellers’ whoever they might be, were referred to in the press and by politicians as “scum”, “vermin” and “subhuman with no rights” for instance, which is so not politically correct by todays standards. But then again there were good reasons for authority wanting to vilify the culture in the public mind.

But that was then, and this is now, and the grand culture that came out of those times is now a massive industry success story in the face of recession; relicensed back to the public and bought into by hundreds of thousands of people every weekend of the summer.

Whatever the Forest Fayre was, it was exceptionally muddy and a lot of fun.

THE STORY

WANSTONIA EVICTION "NO M11 LINK ROAD" CAMPAIGN '94

Running concurrently with the campaign of opposition against the CJA, there was also a countrywide resistance to the program of road building brought in by the last Conservative regime.

The No M11 link road protest kicked off when the government started to demolish property in the path of the link road across the communities of Leyton, Leytonstone and Wanstead in East London, in order to make way for the road building. The area was rich in squats, artists and creative activity.

Environmental protest during this time was a fusion of art, rave culture, civil disobedience, direct action, occupation and green thinking. There were protests against road construction across the country, each one feeding off the skills learnt and invented at each site. Sunnyside organised benefit raves to fund the protests in which we were involved.

Establishment media coverage of the events was simplistic, nearly always referring in a standard formula to “a small minority of anarchists and protesters.” One illustrative instance of this occurred at this time when we were invited by BBC researchers to take part in a televised debate on the protest.

They questioned us as to whether we were eco-protesters, anarchists, new age travellers or ravers. When the reply came back that we perhaps all of those social categories or perhaps none, they grew upset, and remarked that we couldn’t be all or none of them, we had to identify a category into which they could fit us for broadcasting purposes, or not take part. Needless to say we didn’t take part.

It also seemed like in observed interview situations, no matter how intelligent and eloquent the chosen participants were at the time; during the editing process anything intelligent or relevant would be ignored in favour of the most stereotypical and dumb sounding interviewees, who always were selected for public broadcast.

Wanstonia was the second major eviction of the year long campaign of opposition. The culmination of the protest was the longest running civil eviction in English legal history, at Claremont Road. Protesters, local people, artists and all kinds of individuals who found in the campaign a focus for their resentment at the policies of the government of the day occupied the entire street to defend its eviction.

The cold morning of February 16th 1994 saw an army of roughly 1000 police, TSG and bailiffs move in to evict three houses in Cambridge Park. Each house was full of people opposed to the scheme from floor to roof. Each room was filled with people, the doors nailed and screwed shut with handles removed.

The stairs were also removed to prevent access to the upper storeys. The attic spaces were also filled with people, as were the rooftops. After a freezing night on the tiles we waited as the operation to remove us began. These pictures document that process. I'll never forget the shudder of the building underneath us as the diggers started to demolish the property we were on top of while we were still on its roof.

THE STORY

MOSS SIDE CARNIVAL '89

Along with St Paul’s and Notting Hill there's another great afro caribbean community carnival, and its up in Manchester. These images were made while I was still at college just half an hour down the road from Manc and all things mad.

As punk morphed into two tone while I was still at school and The Clash made White Man in Hammersmith Palais, reggae was a natural progression in listening pleasure before rave in all its mental loved up glory took over everything. Consequently carnival in Manchester was a logical event destination.

The Hac was in the same town and we'd taken in that too. There was even a drug store in Mosside that actually sold drugs, and the Robin Hood pub was just legendary. It’s still a wonder we didn’t get robbed or stabbed.
Probably one of the best gigs ever was at Manchester’s International 2. Trouble Funk really, really dropped the go-go bomb hard. The bouncer outside warned me to take care of my rucksack on my back because the local kids would work in twos.

One would distract you by talking to you asking for money, while the other would come up behind and use a razor on your rucksack to rob you. So should have taken my camera to that gig, but at that time photography was either arty student conceptual, or Edward Weston and Ansel Adams.

I hadn’t yet learnt that the thing that makes photography unique and valuable is what the person behind the camera brings to it. In the meantime check out the haircuts and the hip hop battle...

MOSSMOS

THE STORY

NOTTING HILL CARNIVAL '89

The first organized, outside, Notting Hill Carnival event, took place in 1966, the year I was born, but its roots extend much farther back in cultural history.

Year by year it grew bigger and more organized, without local authority permission, surviving many attempts to forcibly shut it down without success until 1987, when a more conciliatory approach was adopted for the first time after confrontation and rioting on grounds of racial discrimination.

1989 became known as the Police Carnival due to the large numbers of the force deployed to control it.
In search of broadening our horizons as teenagers some years previously we’d got in the back of an open top pick up and lay in bed on a mattress covered by a tarpaulin as we made the journey up the motorway from Somerset to the big smoke of London town. On arrival we sat up in the back as we drove through the city and smoked spliffs, waving to the onlookers on the city streets.

Friends from the West Country lived in a squat in Ladroke Crescent, where life was, quite frankly, a romantic eye opener. It wasn’t an everyday thing that you got hang out with people like Gene October from Chelsea. He’d supported the Clash and had hung out with all our youthful punk idols for real. His mates went on to form Generation X with Billy Idol.

People were coming in from Heathrow with blocks of hash sown into their sheepskins. The place was full of beautiful wasted hippie girls. You walked down the street and there was reggae and blue beat drifting from speakers outside cafes and record shops.

Rastas, hippies and punks just hung out together. The squat parties were eye opening psychedelic cultural melting pots were that lasted for days, if you were so inclined. Notting Hill and Portobello Road then was a place and a race of people you could fall in love with.

After college I moved there for a bit to work for a music photographer who made his name as photographer to the Rolling Stones and Hendrix. He was shooting production advertising by then, for all the big ad agencies, for two and half grand a day. Just one of my roles was to make the art directors great lunches.

Not being a fan of advertising, I didn’t last long, but the job taught me a lot. After year or so he sacked me for leaving a heater on low by mistake in the kitchen over Carnival weekend. It was only a couple of months after my friends had been on the phone from Castlemorton while I watching it on TV news in the studio, saying come! Why aren’t you here???

These days Carnival is legal, licensed, and over a million people turn up

THE STORY

GLASTONBURY '89

It was the first big self-motivated project during the second year of my degree in photography at art college. Being pretty much local to Glastonbury I wrote to Michael to ask if I could come and photograph the festival.

He said come down and say hi. So one weekend shortly after that me and my friend Lucy jumped in her old green Beetle and drove over to do just that. He said yes and gave me a job on the site crew for 20 quid a day plus food. What a touch. Michael always remembers Lucy, who is now picture editor at Glamour magazine, and he always teases me about not getting her to be my girlfriend.

I first went to the festival in 1987 when I jumped the fence with some friends. Over 25 years ago now, 1989 was the first time I documented the event that I have followed pretty much every year since. It was an introduction to a culture and a community living a mobile lifestyle that I've loved ever since.
One the hot topics of conversation that year was the arrival of the Police on site for the very first time. Until that year the event had existed successfully without any Police on site since 1971. That’s 18 years as a self-policing social experiment in alternative living, being and entertainment, clearly a precedent they couldn’t allow to continue.
I went back to college only just long enough to develop and contact the film. Then I made a sketchbook of cut out contacts for the crit, there was way too much material to consider making prints. As soon as I could I hitched back down to Treworgey Tree Fayre in Cornwall, as that was where everyone I’d met at Glasto was heading next. That was a whole different story.

I took a car door back with me on the train that we’d painted when it was part of a site vehicle. Somehow it had got ripped off at some point during the proceedings. The car it came from had a site-customized gearbox with three gear levers. One rod direct into the box for first and second. One rod direct into the box for third and fourth. One for reverse.

Perhaps the door came off during the stock car races we had afterwards in the empty fields. Some grinning hippie in a battered cap containing a greasy afro of curls called Fat Freddie had driven up behind me in a 4x4 and pushed me at speed into a hedge. The colourful abstract painting looked like Matisse’s dancing figures so it seemed to be an appropriate momento.

Coincidentally that year rave also arrived at Glastonbury in a big way with several large sound systems setting up on site. I danced to deep house at one of them through the night, the dawn and way into the next day making all kinds of friends. It was outside a big double decker that was meant to be a café up in the Green Fields. The speakers were hidden under trestle serving tables covered red gingham tablecloths so it looked just like a normal café from the outside. That year was also the year that my Dad lost our family home in the Thatcher inspired recession.

THE STORY

VELVET REVOLUTION TOUR - THE STORY

At some point during the busy year that was 1994 we got involved with Liberty, Charter 88 and the Levellers and were invited to help create a nationwide interactive tour of music, art and performance to promote awareness about the civil liberties implications of the Criminal Justice Act, called The Velvet Revolution Tour.

The plan was to open at The Hacienda in Manchester and finish at Heaven in London at Megatripolis, the night before the Queen was due to give Royal Assent to the legislation, playing as many dates around the country in between as possible. And so it was.

Over a summer of meetings and planning a great crew were assembled, drawn together by the willingness to stand up and be counted in opposition to the impending government plans.I had just been able to buy my first live in truck; making taking part in the tour possible for us. In 1993, knowing the CJA was on its way, I had managed to get onto a post grad in photojournalism at London College of Printing, thinking it would be handy to have photographic facilities to use in London.

I wrote a brief about the situation for a competition sponsored by the British Photographic Importers Association called the Jack Jackson Memorial Award, and won. The prize was £1200 and money for the truck came out of that. Later I had to present the results at the HQ of Kodak in Hemel Hempstead and ended up having dinner with the MD of Nikon. The VR rehearsals came first though.

Nestled up right next the The Forum in Kentish Town was an old squatted church called the Rainbow Centre. For years it was a social center and real community asset. It was a great park up in the center of the capital, somewhere you could always just rock up, find friendly faces, and a temporary truck home.

We did a few great free parties there. On this occasion it was a rehearsal space to gather and plan The Velvet Revolution while the bands used The Forum to rehearse in. The center is long since gone, as are most long-term large squatted buildings in London, casualties of government’s ongoing policy of closing all the potential free exits from the fascism of a mortgage market ruled by their banking masters.

Fresh out of London the bunch of hippie wagons, trucks and buses that contained all of us fired up for action Velvet Revolutionaries hot-wheeled it up the M6 to Manchester for the grand opening of the tour at The Hac. With a press launch at Dry Bar and a handy park up in some squatted tower blocks in nearby Hulme, we finally got the ball rolling. Even Billy Bragg turned up to help spread our message that government legislation would affect everyone’s civil liberties not just those of the minority groups that they were using as an excuse.

The opening night was immense. Clearly everyone was excited about playing one of the most legendary venues in the country. Smokin’ Jo in the Phone Bar downstairs playing Charleston while people danced on the tables was something else.

We had our very own troop of fully kitted out riot police on board to bust the venues we were playing in without telling the punters what was going to happen. One of our girls got carried away in her costume, marched out in front of an actual riot van passing outside the venue, and stopped them in the street before being bustled away by her more sensible colleagues, leaving the bemused coppers in the van to figure out what had just gone on.
From there in no particular order it was The Q Club in Brum, Club Oz in Plymouth, Marcus Garvey in Notts, Sheffield Students Union, Farnham Uni, Sussex Uni, followed by a free party in an old Sainsbury’s in Brighton with Blue Room and a remarkable Sunday after shindig lazing round in hammocks in the squatted actual Brighton Courthouse. Finally it was Heaven in London with Megatripolis, the night before we were made criminals by royal decree.

Everywhere we went, the strength of local feeling and support for what we were doing was phenomenal. Random people turned up with food at most venues because we were doing it all for free. Total strangers stopping to help and going completely out of their way to get us fixed when I broke down. Racing the Irritants in the night drive from Plymouth to Farnham.

Along the way were all the free party crews and spirit and community you could ask for. Smokies, Lazy House, DiY and Go Tropo to name but a few. In an out of venues time after time with the mighty Immersion speakers. Watching the students watch the Operation Solstice documentary on the Battle of the Beanfield where the need for legislation against this culture really began in the minds of authority.

Tom's amazing Sunnyside film twisting perceptions. Realizing the true depth of national opposition to the CJA. Notts Police on full alert nearly evicting us from the Garvey car park before the gig thinking we were rioters from outside Parliament in London come to cause trouble up north.

LS Diezel’s awesome pikey acid tunes. Electric Groove Temple, Exploding Cinema. DiY Pip an Emma in Heaven. One Eye Sam and his sculptures. Sid, Wayne, Vernon, Justin, Kenny, Bella, Martin, Tina, other Wayne, all unique people. The films I shot from Farnham, Heaven and the free party in Brighton have disappeared somewhere, its upsetting losing history.

Democracy lives in the actions of everyday people, not in the abdication of personal political responsibility to someone in a political management consultancy. This was diy culture in action and it felt like real freedom, especially because we had diesel cards that worked for months afterwards. Resistance is fertile and we are more possible than you can powerfully imagine...