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Going to an illegal rave brought 'bit of normality' to my life

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Illegal raves are back in the news again, because police are now able to fine organisers up to £10,000 for putting them on, according to new laws.

It's a concern because the UK is still under lockdown measures, but people who've been going to them, and organisers, say these events are safe - and even doing them good.

"Throughout lockdown, my mental health was getting pretty low," Taylor, who's been to a rave during lockdown, tells Newsbeat.

People who go, (like Taylor) and don't wear a mask can be fined £100 a time.

  • Why did raves become illegal?
  • 'Why I want to go to lockdown raves'
  • Illegal rave organisers face £10,000 fines

This year, his relationship ended and his 21st birthday plans were cancelled because of coronavirus.

'We didn't mingle'

"My mate said he was going to a bit of an illegal party with a few of his friends and said it'd be nice if I could come out and cheer myself up a bit."

Taylor says he was hesitant at first but when he arrived, says people behaved.

"There were a couple of hundred people but everyone was fairly spaced out, people were wearing masks, being careful and it was a quite a big area of woodland," Taylor tells BBC Radio 1 Newsbeat.

"Everyone stayed in their own little social groups and their own little bubbles. We didn't really mingle too much with other people that we didn't know."

image copyrightASP
image captionThousands of people attended an illegal rave in Greater Manchester in June

He says finding a chance to socialise, in a year where that's not really happened, gave him the boost he needed.

"It was really nice to get a bit of normality back in my life and a bit of happiness," he says.

"It gave me the strength to carry on and go back to my normal work life when it all came back.

"My friends all agree it was pretty much exactly what we needed to just get out the house, actually socialise and see people."

'No different to the beach'

From Friday this week, people like Taylor can be fined every time they are caught at a rave - up to a maximum of £3,200.

The people who are putting these events on stand to lose a lot more, and they are angry that what they see as "safe" nights out are facing such tough measures.

"It's basically groups of people enjoying themselves to some music," says Dan, who's arranged illegal raves, where he says security staff are on hand to manage crowds.

"It's no different than a group meeting up on the beach."

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He's angry that people are able to meet up outside in other outdoors spaces in large groups, with no punishment, but his events are now under major financial threat.

He says it's an "attack on party-culture".

"Supermarkets are open, beaches are open, everything else is open apart from the entertainment industry," he says.

"I just feel that's an attack on party-culture as a whole. And that sort of entertainment sector is suffering very badly."

"There's no more danger coming to a party or going to a gathering with any of your friends in a group of over 30 than there is from going to the supermarket."

Experts and law enforcement disagree.

Waheem Salem, the Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner for Birmingham, who was involved in shutting down events on the weekend, describes these parties as: "A breeding ground for the virus and - in some cases - a breeding ground for criminality."

'We won't hesitate to enforce'

"If you have 100 or 200 people together, it's most likely somebody will have the virus. They will spread it to you, you will then take it to home and you may be spreading it to your loved ones," Waheem tells us.

He urges people like Taylor to "take responsibility" to avoid taking coronavirus home from a rave, and recommends that people who have struggled with the pressures of lockdown find other ways to socialise with friends.

Small groups or keeping hangouts online are safer, he says.

media captionVolunteers have been clearing up a "sea of canisters" and other litter after two illegal raves.

Waheem also warns that the new powers given to the police to stop illegal raves will be used against organisers and people who go along.

"The police have been calling for these fines, I've been calling for these fines over the last couple of weeks," he says.

"Where there's evidence of individuals organising these raves, we will not hesitate to enforce."

image copyrightAlamy

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  • 'Why I want to go to lockdown raves'