Festival-goers are now accustomed to shelling out hundreds of euros for the privilege of spending a few days under tents in a muddy field. But a new exhibition in Bristol celebrates 30 years of the free party movement born with the secret raves of the 1990s.
Free Party: A Retrospective will celebrate the birth of the iconic free party movement in the UK, with a week of events, art, music and more taking place at the Lost Horizon venue in St Jude’s. The event will bring together some of the most instrumental people from the free party scene of the early 1990s and mark the 30th anniversary of the legendary Castlemorton Free Festival, the largest illegal rave ever in the UK, which took place in Worcestershire in May 1992.
Inspired by and working alongside the creators of ‘Free Party: A Folk History’, a major independent documentary currently in post-production, Free Party: A Retrospective, is a mix of free activities and paid nightly events from the people who lived and breathed this movement. Organizers say it will celebrate a part of cultural history and be a place to revisit memories as well as understand the journey that built today’s free party and festival scene from the perspective of those who have been involved in it from the start.
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The week-long program of events will include free talks, panel discussions with Q&As and an exhibition of photography, audio, artwork and film. Partygoers will also be able to purchase tickets to an array of club nights from legendary sound systems of the era such as SP23 (Spiral Tribe), Bedlam and DiY, alongside Bristol collectives such as Duvet Vous.
Proceeds from tickets and donations will go to related causes. These include Refugee Community Kitchen, Spirit Wrestlers, Drive2survive and Friends Families and Travellers.
Speaking about the program of events, director of Free Party: A Folk History and curator of the exhibition, Aaron Trinder, said: “When I independently embarked on the idea of making a feature-length documentary about the Free Party movement , I had no idea the breadth and depth of stories I would find interviewing people from the scene, including Circus Warp, DiY, Spiral Tribe, Free Party People, Bedlam and many more within the traveling communities, sound system and rave.
“As a result, I realized that the film could never show so much of such a rich and interesting cultural history, so the idea of an exhibition, allowing many contributors to the film to tell their own stories, was born. .
“Luckily the Arts Council liked the idea, so I’m very happy that with the efforts and support of Showponies and Lost Horizon, we can give people free access to this incredible cultural story, told by those who experienced it, for the very first time.
Free Party: A Retrospective opens Friday, May 20 at Lost Horizon. Paid events from some of the most iconic free party sound systems will also take place that day as well as Saturday May 21, Thursday May 26, Friday May 27 and a final day on Saturday May 28.
More events will be added over the next few days and tickets can be purchased here.