Rave History

by : Peteunea Platter

What is a rave?

An all night event, a rave is where people go to dance, socialise, get high and generally have unhibited fun with other likeminded people. Some say it's about the creation of a community, togetherness and re-connecting with something perceived as lost (anyone remember the glory days of Northern?). Others just say it's about necking loads of pills and getting wasted with your mates in a field.

Where rave?

Normally in an unused warehouse, club, beach, field, aircraft hangar or a sports arena - anywhere which could accommodate a huge sound system and lots of people. In the heydays of the late '80s, the larger Do’s attracted tens of thousands of people. The venue would usually remain secret up until hours before the rave was due to begin as means of keeping the police away. Organisers would often have backup sites in mind in case the cops caught wind of them - which they did with increasing frequency.


The word rave first came into use in the UK during the late 50's, referring to the wild bohemian parties of the time. It was next briefly revived by the mods, but didn't come back into usage until the mid eighties illegal London warehouse party scene. However it seems likely that the term 'rave' came from Jamaican usage rather than a revival of any previous usage in Britain.


Rave crowds are mostly (but not exclusively) young from all sections of society .


Rave music is now tagged 'dance' music, or as some government pension-planner put it, music with a distinctive 'series of repetitive beats'. Early ravers made the discovery that the combination of ecstasy and music with fast, repetitive beats was a marriage made in disco heaven. The big Do’s have a line-up of top name DJs as well as some live performances by dance music bands.

Why so successful in UK in the 1980s?

Theories are many as to why the UK went wild for raving in the late 80s and beyond. It occurred during a period of major consumerism and individualism. Thatcher was telling everyone to look after number one (“no such thing as society"!). There was bound to be a reaction to this - a bunch of English DJs had just got back from Ibiza where they had tasted rave culture & ecstasy first hand. Within a year rave culture had flourished. Instead of money and power, rave called for empathy, intimacy, spirituality and the joy of losing yourself in the crowd. (Remember Northern, anyone?) Interestingly, check out a 1986 novel ‘The Last Election’, by Pete Davies.

The End?

By the early '90s, the police, Tory government, middle England and tabloid press had all had enough of rave culture. Thatcher’s government acted, passing the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act (1994).

Addressing the issue of raves, Sections 63, 64 & 65:

A 'rave' is defined as a gathering of 100 plus people, at which amplified music is played which is likely to cause serious distress to the local community, in the open air and at night. These sections give the police the power to order people to leave the land if they're believed to be: