Jump directly to the content
THE RAVERS RETURN

How criminal gangs are organising illegal raves and bankrolling DJs to sell drugs in lockdown

IN fields and forests across Britain, revellers are gathering in huge numbers to dance and take drugs – regardless of the dangers of coronavirus.

But the resurgence of illegal raves is not a sign that the “second summer of love” of 1988 has returned.

⚠️ Read our coronavirus live blog for the latest news & updates

Criminal gangs are bankrolling illegal raves to boost their profits during lockdown
11
Criminal gangs are bankrolling illegal raves to boost their profits during lockdownCredit: Getty Images - Getty
Nearly 1,000 revellers attended an all-night rave on a residential street in Stokes Croft, Bristol, last month
11
Nearly 1,000 revellers attended an all-night rave on a residential street in Stokes Croft, Bristol, last monthCredit: SWNS:South West News Service
A rave under a bridge on the M1 in Leeds was broken up by police who had to shut the motorway last month
11
A rave under a bridge on the M1 in Leeds was broken up by police who had to shut the motorway last monthCredit: Ben Lack

Instead it is the result of a cynical attempt by criminal gangs to boost their profits during lockdown.

With clubs shut and festivals on hold, gangsters have lost a lucrative market for their illegal drugs.

Instead they are bankrolling raves organised on social media, which are being eagerly embraced by a generation of bored youngsters desperate to party due to lockdown.

But with horrific stabbings, a woman raped and a fatal drug overdose in the past few weeks alone, these festival-sized gatherings are already proving disastrous.

Manchester, Leeds, Staffordshire, Liverpool and Bristol have all seen pop-up raves, with the location and timings communicated via Whats-App groups at the last minute to avoid detection from authorities.

Crowds of up to 4,000 then descend on derelict warehouses and rural fields where professional sound systems and lighting rigs are set up like a club, and drug dealers work the dancefloor.

Hundreds break lockdown at an illegal rave in woodland near Kirkby and Rainford, Merseyside, last month
11
Hundreds break lockdown at an illegal rave in woodland near Kirkby and Rainford, Merseyside, last monthCredit: Kirkby News and Information/Facebook
Two men were stabbed at a rave on the beach on the Isle of Sheppey last week
11
Two men were stabbed at a rave on the beach on the Isle of Sheppey last weekCredit: Wayne Norcross/Triangle News
Hundreds of people gathered for an illegal party on Streatham Common in South London last week
11
Hundreds of people gathered for an illegal party on Streatham Common in South London last weekCredit: Reuters

Last week at least 22 police officers were injured as they tried to shut down an illegal block party in Brixton, South London.

Footage showed revellers smashing up police vehicles and chasing after cops as they retreated from the chaos.

On Friday, their colleagues in Notting Hill, West London, had missiles hurled at them by a violent mob as they tried to disperse crowds at another illegal party.

The Metropolitan Police said there would be an “enhanced policing operation” as a result.

In Bristol, 1,000 revellers attended an all-night rave on a residential street where a DJ blasted out club classics into the early hours.

With many revellers wearing bucket hats and bumbags, comparisons have been made with the rave culture of the late Eighties and early Nineties.

COVID-19 HOTBED

Back then, with a lack of proper clubs and a flood of ecstasy pills, acid house music became the soundtrack of all-night parties held in huge and often secret venues until the police clamped down.

But the surge in raves in the middle of a pandemic has prompted scientists to warn that they could be a hotbed for spreading Covid-19.

Jonathan Ball, professor of virology at the University of Nottingham, told The Sun: “Any mass gathering is a bad idea. We seem to have forgotten how quickly this virus can spread.

“Social distancing has kept it in check but it hasn’t disappeared and as people start to interact more, it gives the virus the opportunity it has been waiting for to more easily jump from person to person.”

Coronavirus is not the only risk to revellers.

Security does not appear to be a priority for most event organisers — with devastating consequences.

Big groups turn up, fights happen and there’s no security

Kev

Joe Robinson, 20, died of a suspected overdose at a quarantine rave in a field near Daisy Nook Country Park near Oldham, Greater Manchester, last month.

It followed an earlier gathering at an industrial estate in Carrington, Greater Manchester, where an 18-year-old woman was raped and three men were stabbed.

Police were pelted with objects as they tried to intervene.

The Greater Manchester force recently stated that some of the 13 illegal raves they managed to stop in a single weekend were linked to organised crime.

It is a lucrative business — a report claimed the promoters of the Daisy Nook rave made around £40,000 on the £10-a-head tickets.

One raver who was there said he was told there would be 400 people attending — only to find it was more like 4,000.

A 20-year-old man died of a suspected overdose at the end of a rave at Daisy Nook Country Park, Oldham
11
A 20-year-old man died of a suspected overdose at the end of a rave at Daisy Nook Country Park, OldhamCredit: MEN Media
Two men vandalise a police car as cops look on after a party turned into violent confrontation in Brixton
11
Two men vandalise a police car as cops look on after a party turned into violent confrontation in Brixton
Police were pelted with objects as they moved in to end a gathering on the streets of Notting Hill, West London
11
Police were pelted with objects as they moved in to end a gathering on the streets of Notting Hill, West LondonCredit: Instagram

He said: “It was an absolute free-for-all. No police, no security, nothing.

“There were pills, ketamine, coke and obviously the standard that appears throughout these raves — the balloons and stuff, canisters (for inhaling “hippy crack” nitrous oxide).”

Former undercover cop Neil Woods told us that drug dealers see raves as a “huge opportunity” and added: “The police can’t tackle this.

"Most of these parties, by the time the police hear about it, there’s two or three thousand people in a field.”

But some organisers insist they simply want to give people a good time after months stuck inside during lockdown.

A recent investigation by media firm VICE found people attending one indoor rave had their temperature taken before being let in, as an anti-Covid-19 safeguard.

INVITE-ONLY

And a man known only as Kev, the organiser of an upcoming 18-hour secret rave called Freedom In The Sticks, said he will be offering hand sanitiser to party-goers and enforcing two-metre social distancing.

He added: “Some organisers are not putting people’s safety first. Big groups turn up, fights happen and there’s no security. You need to make sure people are behaving themselves.

“At these illegal ones any Tom, Dick or Harry can turn up and it makes the whole rave scene look ugly.

“I’m putting my heart into it. There’s a good squad of us and we’ve all got good intentions.”

Freedom In The Sticks will also have security staff and guard dogs and the event will be held on private, fenced-off land.

Kev added: “We want it to be peaceful and no bad vibes. It’s about the music.

I believe we still have to live our lives and take precautions when possible, but still enjoy life

Rosie

“People want a release and to let themselves go. Enough is enough with Covid, they are overhyping it.”

Decades ago, at the birth of raves, people wouldn’t know where the party was going to be until the last minute, often having to phone a number until a recorded message finally revealed the location.

Similarly, today’s parties are organised via WhatsApp groups which usually require a special link to gain entry and have titles such as 007 Good Vibez, Manny Rave and Fishing Trip 2.

After The Sun managed to join the Secret Shindigs #001 WhatsApp group, we were accused of being from the police, for asking too many questions.

But one raver who is a regular at these illegal events did agree to speak to us.

Rosie — not her real name — said: “Promoting it over social media is attracting all crowds, right and wrong ones, which is why I believe setting up an illegal rave only with the right people is important.

Phone for a party

BRITAIN’S rave culture has a riotous, infamous history.

It stretches back to the 1980s, when an explosion of party drug ecstasy and acid house turned the music scene on its head.

Many illegal parties were put on around London’s then still fairly new M25 orbital motorway.

Ravers would meet at service stations before heading off to secret venues where thousands would congregate to listen to cutting-edge dance music.

The location would usually only be revealed late at night and accessed by calling an answering machine.

Parties were put on all over the country, at warehouses, abandoned buildings, quarries and other more unlikely venues.

Police would occasionally raid the events but often they would stand by powerlessly, vastly outnumbered by the sheer volume of people, who often were dancing in dark, unsafe buildings.

A more effective crackdown came after 20,000 people attended the now infamous Castlemorton rave in the Malvern Hills of Worcestershire in 1992.

New legislation was brought in, the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, which gave cops tough new legal tools to stop the parties.

Promoters then moved their operations into licensed clubs.

“That’s why the next one I’m attending is invite-only, not promoted, so hopefully we won’t have any issues.”

She admits that drugs are part of the scene and has taken MDMA, ecstasy and ketamine at raves.

But she is not overly worried about getting Covid-19 — or giving it to anyone else.

Rosie says: “I used to worry but I don’t any more. I believe we still have to live our lives and take precautions when possible, but still enjoy life.

“I go for the music, and so does everyone else I know.”

The police are now actively shutting down raves in advance by infiltrating social media groups but balmy weather and growing frustration with lockdown restrictions mean new ones are being organised every day.

The rave scene hit its peak in the 80s and early Nineties, like this outdoor rave in Rochdale in 1989
11
The rave scene hit its peak in the 80s and early Nineties, like this outdoor rave in Rochdale in 1989Credit: Rex Features

One veteran illegal rave-goer, speaking under the pseudonym Jack Yabaddi — a play on the 1980s house music track Jack Your Body — is delighted that the rave scene of the 1990s is back up and running.

He told us: “Older ravers remember when self-organisation was the only opportunity.

“Raving never died, it was just absorbed and sanitised. UK music festivals are just a cleaned-up version of the illegal party scene.

“Now with Covid-19, this is like Prohibition, as when booze was banned in the US, the speakeasy culture sprang up.”

The rave scene hit its peak in the 80s and early Nineties but ended when it became flooded with drugs.

11

 

 

LSD was becoming so widespread that partygoers could buy four tabs of acid for only £1.

Nightclubs eventually took over running the events in a more controlled and safer environment.

But with clubs and live music venues among the last types of business expected to be reopened after the pandemic, it seems the raves of 2020 could be here to stay.

CORONAVIRUS CRISIS - STAY IN THE KNOW

Don't miss the latest news and figures - and essential advice for you and your family.

To receive The Sun’s Coronavirus newsletter in your inbox every tea time, sign up here.

To follow us on Facebook, simply ‘Like’ our Coronavirus page.

Get Britain’s best-selling newspaper delivered to your smartphone or tablet each day – find out more.

Police release shocking footage from 'quarantine rave' showing stab victim in bid to stop illegal meet-ups

GOT a story? RING The Sun on 0207 782 4104 or WHATSAPP on 07423720250 or EMAIL exclusive@the-sun.co.uk

Topics