15 September 2010

"Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die."


"We've given up far too many freedoms in order to be free".
John le Carre


Free party ethics? What are they and do they exist in 2016? If they do who lives by them? Where did they come from and have they changed since they were first thought of?

Ethics is another word for moral philosophy.

The free party scene is alive and kicking all over Britain and no more so than in Kent. This scene is disciplined and ethical and we believe that by adhering to this ethos we have the moral and legal high ground over any other party interested in disrupting or stopping any of our events. Well, maybe not the legal high ground. A clarion calls no less.

The sound systems of East Kent form a loose community alliance that is mutually supportive but flexible enough to allow each posse its own individual identity and set of priorities. The result is an eclectic, organic scene where community and co-operation are highly valued as fundamental to the free party ethic. The ethic is of communication and co-operation to facilitate free parties and mutual support.

mmm loudspeaker... I love you
There is a need and therefore there is a supply for an alternative to the machinations of mainstream club culture. Mainstream club culture is run on a capitalist model of maximizing profit. According to Wikipedia, and, indeed, Karl Marx, Capitalism is an economic system in which the means of production and distribution are privately owned and operated for a private profit.

A club determines the price and output level that returns the greatest profit. Simple. Rent or buy building, furbish it out, hire staff, sell drugs (alcohol), charge people to get in to experience provided music and pay DJ’s or bands and staff. Money left over? Profit. Profit equals maximized revenue minus fixed or variable cost. With this model the venue becomes a capitalistic device used to provide profit. A club owner may or should I say will use the skills and cultural zeitgeisty awareness of a music promoter to attract various sub cultural groups to the venue. This is not to support the music or the promoter or the DJ’s or indeed anything; it is a means of capitalist business venturing. Don’t be fooled. They want as much of your money as they can get out of your pocket. From entrance fee, to cloakroom, to water to beer to approved taxi’s to take you home; extract extract extract. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with that. It is what it is.

Oppositional forces are inevitable as balance is sought in the universe and the free party scene with its free party ethics provides just such an opposition. The free party preference is for an outdoor location preferable, for tVC anyway, is a beach, a wood or a field. In this area we set up a ‘temporary autonomous zone’ (in our minds). In this space people are free to do what they want as long as there is no harm done to other people and other people’s rights are respected.

The party becomes an amalgam of whatever everyone contributes to the party. Within this TAZ people may be selling things for profit, e.g. water, but this is tolerated, as is all behaviour. The price of a bottle of water in a field will always be far cheaper than in a club. When was the last time you got a cup of tea at Fabric?

People may contribute lights, work on the marquee, provide equipment and tidy up. No one is in charge, no one organises the party or, crucially, takes profits from it. If the guy with the generator wants to have a whip round then funds are donated out of choice not coercion. Free from the restrictions of capitalism people are free to arrive or leave whenever they feel as the party continues until it ends.

Licensing restrictions, heavily regulated by police on nightclubs, are ignored thus freeing up the need to party between set hours. People can bring food and drink as they please and consume it anywhere at the party. They can set up tents, fires, spaces that they can designate for whatever purpose they envisage. They can park on the dance floor if they want but, obviously, some health and safety guidelines must be observed. Which ones? We decide as a collective.

They can behave as they wish and are not forced to behave as a club dictates; falling asleep on the dance floor is OK, the right to wear whatever clothes they like, light fires, beep their car horns, dance, sit or scream.

There are no police, no bouncers, no bar staff, no cloakrooms. People are free to leave and return at will. They are free to smoke openly without restriction and so on. No wonder people love a free party. It costs nothing and goes on all night.

But is the overriding ethic of the free party people hedonism? Hedonism posits that the principle ethic is maximizing pleasure and minimizing pain. Whereas Freud’s pleasure principle states that people seek pleasure and avoid pain. There are several schools of Hedonist thought ranging from those advocating the indulgence of even momentary desires to those teaching a pursuit of spiritual bliss. In their consideration of consequences, they range from those advocating self-gratification regardless of the pain and expense to others, to those stating that the most ethical pursuit maximises pleasure and happiness for the most people. (3)

Even Cyrenaic hedonism may be indulged or practiced at a free party (definitely forbidden in a mainstream club) Founded by Aristippus of Cyrene, Cyrenaics supported immediate gratification or pleasure. "Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die." Even fleeting desires should be indulged, for fear the opportunity should be forever lost. There was little to no concern with the future, the present dominating in the pursuit for immediate pleasure. Cyrenaic hedonism encouraged the pursuit of enjoyment and indulgence without hesitation, believing pleasure to be the only good. (3)

What are the reasons and motivations for such altruism on the behalf of free party people? Well, Aristotle (384 BC – 322 BC) posited an ethical system that may be termed "self-realizationism." In Aristotle's view, when a person acts in accordance with his nature and realizes his full potential, he will do good and be content.

Alan Lodge or Tash, a free party photographer and chronicler who documented a lot of the Hippy and New Age Traveler scene back in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s has said on free parties; “we didn’t want to worry about money, dress-sense and security; it’s free party ethics...free party components have respect. Respect not only for each other but for the wider community; local towns and villages. Party venues are carefully selected for noise minimisation and care is taken to ensure adequate and safe vehicle access; no excuse is given to the police to close them down. (We are) not interested in direct confrontation, (we are) interested in the spirit and community that are increasingly generating; a free-festival style celebration through dance. (We) want: to continue to put on free parties and get away with it... offering a much needed alternative to the machinations of mainstream club culture.” (1)

I’ll leave the last word to Jez Tucker from Squall Magazine (2) “Perhaps the future of festivals and parties lies in the persistence, determination and vision of the small free party posse. For sound systems to effectively continue in the face of the CJA small, well thought-out parties, with locals in mind, would seem to be essential; but imagine a future: hundreds of small systems up and down the country doing free gigs regularly. Each has a loyal following of 500 people and they’re getting away with it. Then, one day, they all come together.

Maybe that day will be the Summer Solstice and maybe the venue will be Stonehenge."


(1) http://tash_photo.blogspot.com/2002_06_30_archive.html


(2) Thanks to Jez Tucker at www.squall.co.uk/


(3) Sahakian, William S. & Sahakian, Mabel Lewis. Ideas of the Great Philosophers. pg 37. Barnes & Noble Books (1993). ISBN 9781566192712.

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