24 June 2010

Raving Madness


Around 2,500 partygoers descended on Dale
Aerodrome in Wales on May bank holiday for
the 2010 UK Teknival, only to be met with a
massive police response. Police broke up the
party on the fi rst day, arresting 17 people in
the process. Four remain on police bail and six
have been charged.

Automatic number plate recognition, a police
photographer, hand-held camcorders, helicopters
and even a plane were used by police
in a sophisticated surveillance operation which
resulted in hundreds of thousands of pounds’
worth of equipment and vehicles being seized
(not to mention a similar amount spent on the
police operation no doubt).

The annual UK Teknival has emerged out
of a long tradition of free festivals, its roots
stretching back to the Avon Free Festival, one
of a circuit of free festivals which emerged as
part of the alternative and traveller scene in the
1970s. These gatherings were largely tolerated
before the Criminal Justice Act, passed in 1994
rendered them illegal.
Avon Free Festival took place each year on
May bank holiday weekend, and culminated
in the infamous 1992 Castlemorton party. Every
year on the anniversary of Castlemorton, a
teknival or large free party is held somewhere
in the UK. The most notable of these was the
2002 Steart Beach party in Somerset, held on
the tenth anniversary of Castlemorton, which
coincided with the Golden Jubilee weekend
and attracted forty soundsystems and over ten
thousand people (see SchNEWS 363). Teknivals
are now a global phenomenon, with an
international circuit you can follow all summer,
in the same way people used to be able to
follow the free festival circuit around the UK.

The French government actually permits two
teknivals a year to take place unhindered.
This year as hundreds of vehicles congregated
near the small village of Dale on the coast
of southwest Wales, four policemen attempted
to block the road leading to the disused aerodrome
site, causing a massive tailback which
brought traffi c to a standstill for three hours.
One witness reports they were stuck at least
fi ve miles behind the front of the jam. Eventually,
after someone brought out a 12 volt rig
and people started dancing in the road, the
policemen moved aside and actually directed
everyone onto to the site, negotiating with a
landowner to get a gate opened.

As a result of the blockade, soundsystems
didn’t begin setting up until the early hours of
Sunday morning. By about midday the next day,
police, the local council and the BBC were all
on the scene. Fairly positively-slanted BBC interviews
with partygoers were broadcast nationally
and posted online, although the second has
since been removed from the BBC website.

Mid-afternoon Sunday a helicopter flew
overhead, broadcasting something that might
have been the words of Section 63 of the Criminal
Justice and Public Order Act 1994 over a
loudspeaker. The message was inaudible due to
loud music being played on the ground; even
those straining their ears to hear only caught
snatches of it, and witness accounts vary. It
was apparently a warning to leave within between
one, four, or twenty-four hours.

Whichever it was, at this stage the majority
of soundsystems started packing their rigs into
their vehicles as ordered by the police. It became
clear then that the three day mega-rave
everyone was expecting had been thwarted.
The atmosphere of unease and fear generated
by the authorities caused a mass exodus of ravers
who would otherwise have stayed to help to
clean up the site after the party.

Most people left the site in a hurry, although
some efforts were made to clear rubbish. As
each soundsystem drove off site their driver
was stopped and arrested, their equipment was
seized and their vehicles were impounded.
Only the luckiest got away. Confi scated items
include work tools, vinyl collections, several
vehicles without sound equipment in them, a
hire van, and hired and borrowed music equipment.
Police deliberately kept the hire van for
two weeks, making the total cost £950.

Along with one other soundsystem that left
early on Monday morning, a well-known deep
house music soundsystem stayed behind and
continued playing music and partying until midafternoon
on Monday, when more than twenty
police, including the Chief of Dyfed-Powys
Constabulary, came over and physically handed
out a Section 63 notice, telling people to leave
within one hour. They explained that they had
drunk too much to drive and asked if they could
stay until the next morning. The offi cers agreed
that they could stay on site and drive home in
the morning on condition that they packed their
equipment into the van immediately.

Whilst negotiations were taking place, a disabled
traveller started to play punk music on
his car stereo, which police then confi scated
from his live-in vehicle. “He wasn’t even playing
repetitive beats,” recalls one partygoer, “he
was a disabled man playing music in his own
home and the police seemed to illegally enter
his home and steal his stereo.”

Police then left the site, but an hour later,
a low-loader recovery vehicle arrived to tow
the van containing the soundsystem, followed
by four riot vans and about fi fteen police cars.
There were less than fi fty people left on site at
this point. A woman whose partner was detained
overnight was forced to sleep outside the police
station as she awaited his release because their
van had been impounded leaving her nowhere
to sleep and no way of returning home. Despite
this, the police refused to let her stay inside.
Four people were released on police bail
pending further investigation and the ‘Rave
Six’, as the mainstream media has dubbed them,
have been charged under Section 136 of the Licensing
Act for carrying out unlicensed licensable
activity. The six have now been released
on unconditional bail and are due to return to
Haverfordwest Magistrates Court on 24th June.
Four of the six arrested were merely friends
from the last soundsystem to leave the party and
had nothing to do with the overall organisation
of the event. (It’s highly probable that the other
two didn’t either). Offenders under Section 136
are liable for up to six months in jail and/or a fi ne
of up to £20,000.

A Facebook group called ‘Drop
the Charges Over UKTek’ has been created and
has so far attracted nearly 3000 members. There
is video evidence being uploaded all the time, including
a clip of police leading the convoy to the
party site, which would suggest that they actually
allowed the party to take place.

* If you can help the ‘Rave Six’ in the form of
legal or financial support or if you witnessed
events at the UK Tek then please join the Facebook
group ‘Drop the Charges Over UKTek’
and contact the administrators, or if you’re not
on Facebook, please get in touch via by emailing


see also: