In the 80’s, out of worn-down locales like basements and old theatres rose several parties that would later become legendary in scope: Club for Heroes, Mud Club, The Wag, and Blitz, for example. These parties attracted numbers in the hundreds.
It wasn’t long before parties started to get rowdier, drawing in larger crowds and louder acts. People were excited, after all. So much so that it drew the attention of the authorities, who reacted in turn by creating strict, suffocating licensing laws and curfews that threatened to snuff out the UK party scene altogether. Clubs closed down. Parties ended early. Hearts were heavy. There was a pervading feeling that there was nowhere else to go.
Luckily, in retaliation, promoters and club owners did things their way and adapted, conceiving the early raves in secret locations…like warehouses.
Chris Sullivan from The Wag states that he was the first one to put together a warehouse rave in 1980, citing inspiration from a New York visit. Beyond that, however, warehouse raves and parties ushered in even more people because it was accessible compared to posher, more exclusive nightlife clubs, which were only ever open to the upper echelons of the fashion and music scenes. Warehouse raves and the select parties that predated them under the same promoters were different. These were open to the working class and to previously ignored black promoters.
Working class districts like Hackney Road and Bermondsey were rife with people wanting to escape their daily lives. There were no fashion rules enforced by people who look down their noses at you at the door- people were free to express themselves how they wanted because there was nobody at that door. They were surrounded by people like them.
Warehouses were bursting at the seams with more than 500 clubbers in each. In 1991, gigantic legal raves were held in warehouses throughout the country by organizations like N.A.S.A. “Nice and Safe Attitude”, Universe, Fantazia, and Amnesia House. Rave parties in warehouses went on and on, well into the day that followed the evening.
Nowadays, you won’t find as many warehouse rave parties, sadly. That’s in large part because of the authorities enforcing a stricter grip on the UK nightlife scene with even more laws and rules, and promoters understandably going back to licensed clubs and locations lest their equipment be confiscated or even worse. It’s hard to blame them, but it’s all really pushed rave parties back into the underground.
It seems discouraging like you might have missed out if you didn’t get to go to UK warehouse rave parties back in the day, but don’t despair! But what they are is certainly not completely gone- you just have to look hard enough into the underground to get rewarded. It’s very much worth it!