Monday, June 29, 2020

Party hard

The Hacienda may have gone down in legend as the beating heart of Madchester's acid house scene, but - as this illuminating article by the Guardian's Fergal Kinney reveals - things really kicked off elsewhere in the north west. The football team that Jack Walker's millions built put Blackburn on the world map by claiming the Premier League title in 1995, but Kinney argues that its place in music history should also be assured thanks to what happened a few years earlier.

In the late 1980s, the abundance of abandoned mills and empty warehouses made the town a perfect spot for illicit raves fuelled by a desire for hedonistic escapism, a dose of hippy idealism and a spirit of youthful working-class rebellion. Thatcherism inadvertently created the economic conditions and environment in which the scene thrived - quite literally, as its godfather Tommy Smith observes with pleasure, recalling a party in "a large warehouse that formed part of the Conservative government's enterprise zone scheme - designed to provide a space for budding entrepreneurs and industry in low-employment areas".

As also made clear by Jeremy Deller in his excellent documentary on acid house, Everybody In The Place: An Incomplete History Of Britain 1984-1992, there was a political dimension to the partying - a firm two fingers up to the establishment through the creation of an alternative space founded on principles of community, solidarity and accessibility.

Of course, it couldn't last. Between the hardened criminals who muscled their way in and a concerted police crackdown, Blackburn's rave scene was crushed out of existence quicker than it had sprung up. Kinney's article and the Acid House Flashback archive will hopefully go some way to ensuring that its cultural significance will be more widely recognised.

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