t’s 5am. Glasgow’s Sub Club has just ﬁnished and we don‘t intend going to bed for a long while. The word going through the sweat-drenched assemblage, wide- eyed from the excesses of the night. is of a party in a disused railway tunnel outside the city centre. Details are vague, but the place has been used before and the address. given simply as ‘The Tunnels’, is enough for those in the know. Taxis aren’t too hard to find at this time in the morning and the driver knows exactly where we mean and drops us at the entrance.
When we arrive. all we can can see is a graffiti-covered. firmly locked steel door. There are no signs of revellers or a party. As we turn to leave. a shadowy figure emerges. shines a torch in our faces and without a word leads us inside the pitch-black shaft. There is still no blast of techno and underfoot are rubble and dead rats. As we push through the darkness our way begins to be lit by ﬂickering night-lights. As the passage straightens out. we are met by the sight of silhouetted figures against a stretched sheet. lit from behind by a gyrating light shooting out pinpoints of colour around the walls. Hard. banging techno explodes from the speakers perched on milk crates and a DJ searches for records in the darkness. About 100 ﬁgures are springing around in the centre, and to the sides. people are sitting. chatting, skinning up.
j22 TheList 26 Jul-8 Aug l996i
Free parties: ‘the home of true creative freedom‘
watching . . . recovering. This is a free party. and it’s onlyjust begun.
Events like this happen in Glasgow most weekends. in warehouses. under archways. in old steam tunnels and ﬂats. During the winter they are indoors. but in the summer they venture out into the country. making use of barns. monasteries. disused buildings and even car parks and fields. The music is harder than in most clubs — and you don‘t have to pay. The organisers claim they are doing it for the
‘You don’t get the sardine syndrome you do in a club. My 100 best experiences would have to be at free parties.’
altruistic fun of it all. Their costs may run into thousands. but all they'll do to get the money back is pass the hat round or sell a few T-shirts. Free parties require careful organisation: finding a venue. cleaning it. setting up the equipment and looking after everyone on the night.
Free parties kicked off on Scotland‘s west coast around five years ago when groups of clubbers found they still had the energy to keep going after the traditional premises had shut. With draconian licensing laws in place. most venues shut too early for these 24-hour party people and they wanted more. First on the scene
In tunnels, barns and disused monasteries, illegal parties are topping up the clubbing experience. Rory Weller stays up all
were the Desert Storm sound system. a loose collection of DJs. MCs and their equipment. Their transit van cruised about Glasgow‘s west end decorated in a camouflage motif with speakers on the roof to bring open-air music to the denizens of Byres Road and to advertise their next party. With a growing demand for free parties. other sound systems and party organisers were soon established — Cayatribe. Breach ()l’ The Peace. Amorphus. In Trance and Common Knowledge.
Of course. parties of this type tend to be illegal. There are no entertainment licences for the venues. they have no fire certificate and even a derelict building will have an owner somewhere. Naturally the police became interested and are quick to react ifthey get wind of a free party being organised. A tunnel beneath Kelvingrove Park was bricked up after a particularly large free party two-and-a-half years ago. In another instance. Common Knowledge say they spent four days cleaning out an old monastery until the police were called and the area was fenced in by the council. Breach Of The Peace acknowledge the police are ‘just doing theirjob'. but retort that they‘re alsojust doing theirs.
The party organisers believe the authorities see the events as a means to sell drugs. When one sound system attempted to put together a free party in a city centre student union. the management couldn't understand why anyone would want to spend time and money on a project that was guaranteed not to make a profit — ‘They thought we were doing it to deal.’ There is a consensus among the organisers that the drug issue is a red herring. and that most of the drug use takes place in licensed clubs earlier in the night. Borg from Breach Of The Peace maintains: ‘If we were doing it to sell drugs we‘d all be off on holiday now.’
So why do they do it‘.’ Apart from the obvious
hedonistic reasons. it‘s a meeting of minds in a ‘chilled environment'. Common Knowledge‘s Matt says techno sounds a lot better in the open air: ‘You don’t get the sardine syndrome you do in a club. My 100 best experiences would have to be at free parties.’ Debbie from United Systems. a nationwide support and information network launched by the grand-daddies of the free party scene Spiral Tribe. says the parties are ‘the only place in a divisionalist society that is non-sexist. racist. ageist and truly democratic and egalitarian . . . it’s the home of true creative freedom’. United Systems run a free parties information line each Saturday night with details of events all around the country. Telephone 017] 733 0/26.