Raves - getting away with it

Monday 14 June 2010, 09:12

James McLaren James McLaren

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With the recent Pembrokeshire illegal 'rave' in Dale getting headlines earlier this month, Welsh police forces and local councils appealed for people not to attempt to stage similar events.

North Wales Police's Chief Inspector Andrew Williams said, "The natural beauty of the north Wales area has, on occasions, led itself to the unfortunate seasonal phenomenon of open air gatherings where loud music is played and which many young people attend.

"Events of this type are illegal unless they are licensed and the organiser has complied with his or her lawful requirements.

"Illegally-held events are a nuisance to the local community and are, through their lack of organisation and regulation, quite frankly dangerous."

He said the police response may include arresting those who attend the events as well as organisers, and seizing music equipment.

The heyday of raves in the late 1980s and early 1990s saw such events as the Castlemorton Common Festival lead to tightening in laws in the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act of 1994. When it was making its way through Parliament, the bill was campaigned against vigorously by acts such as The Prodigy. It was a cause célèbre for the alternative music world.

But the protest was unsuccessful and the Act was successful in reducing the number of unlicensed raves, although a change in club culture in the mid- to late-1990s also contributed. These days, almost 20 years down the line, some dance fans are keen to return to the days of free parties, communal gatherings and the hippy ideal that differentiates it from the conventional clubbing scene.

So how do dance fans go about staging an event within the rules?

Searching for decent information from official sources can be hard; direct.gov.uk is Byzantine in its complexity and the search function doesn't throw up many useful suggestions (it's fine if you want a fishing rod licence, however).

You need to get to the Alcohol Licence section to find the relevant information. Included in the section is 'Premises Licences' information which states that any live or recorded music needs a premises licence.

An application for a premises licence can be found here: http://www.culture.gov.uk/images/publications/P_422.doc.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport has a section on their website that has a useful Q&A list.

Suffice to say, officialdom doesn't make it easy to stage outdoor music events. But with high costs for policing and clean-up (no matter how good the intentions of the organisers and ravers), it's no wonder that this should be the case. New technology makes it easy to organise things spontaneously, and surreptitiously, but working within the law should be feasible if the desire to stage something is strong enough.

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