Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Dave Courtney and South London Raving

Raving Lunacy: Clubbed to death – adventures on the rave scene (2000) is by Dave Courtney - sometime East Dulwich resident, former Southwark Council dustman (at Grove Vale depot), and celebrity villain. Must admit I’m not big on the loveable gangster genre, violence isn’t glamorous - it’s brutal, bloody and leaves behind grieving children who are damaged for life. In this book, Courtney plays up to his image and some of the stories can no doubt be taken with a pinch of salt. Still, he does a service in documenting the early days of acid house and raving in late 80s/early 90s South London.

By his own account, Courtney went to some of the first 'acid house' events in London - Shoom in Thrale Street, Southwark and the parties held in old prison museum in Clink Street by London Bridge: 'The Clink was wicked... Very druggy and very housey place, full of proper hardcore havin'-it-larger's in there. And it was good cos it had all these individual cells so it was like having loads of little VIP lounges'.

Soon he started a club of his own: 'near the Elephant and Castle, I found a viaduct arch beneath the mainline railway track running over John Ruskin Street... The Arches was the first all-night, illegal rave in London... All the other clubs in London shut at about 2 am but mine was still banging at 8 o'clock in the morning! ... Under this great big curved, black and red railway arch roof there was the scaffolding gantry holding the DJ on the decks, massive speakers either side and the lights hanging above; and below that this heaving mass of lunatics just going completely mental, arms in the air, whistles and foghorns blowing... Steam and joint smoke hung like a fucking fog, people were dancing on speakers and scaffolding... we'd have a girl walking round in a Playboy Bunny outfit with an ice-cream tray round her neck full of ready-rolled spliffs for a quid each - Get yer Joints 'ere!' And big plastic dustbins filled to the top with ice and free apples and Ice-pops... we had a mad mixture of people: from hardcore ravers, professional clubbers, black geezers, white geezers, plenty of women, football hooligan nutters going all smiley, hardnuts softened by Ecstasy... I had names DJing there before they became superstar DJs like they are now - Danny Rampling, Carl Cox, Fabio & Grooverider, Brandon Block'.

The police at the nearby Carter Street station were not happy, and eventually it was raided by 'army of 150 police, with some fuckers called No 3 Area Territorial Support Group in flameproof overalls, bulletproof body armour and steel hel­mets with radio microphones, carrying an angle grinder, a hydraulic ram, sledgehammer'. 26 people were arrested and one person was apparently later jailed for five years for his part in running the club.

Later he was involved in putting on free open-air raves - 'I bought a massive removal van with a diesel generator ·and drove in on to fields or grasslands. Tooting Common was one. Peckham Rye was another... I'd open up the back of the lorry, set up the DJs decks and put these dirty big speakers outside. We'd get eight, nine hundred people up there really going [or it. Speakers booming it all out. And cos I didn't charge no one the law had a job Slopping me doing it. It just started attracting loads of gay blokes, which is something I hadn't counted on. But then it was the Common, the well known shag-spot for gay geezers doing some fresh air cruising, so I guess it made sense'.

He also ran a club for a while at the Fitness Centre in Southwark Park Road: 'It used to be the hottest place. It was this windowless basement space made for about 30 geezers to work out in; not two hundred people to get off their tits'.

Then he put on a club called 'Crazy Mondays', at Futures on Deptford Broadway, a club owned by Harry Hayward (later as a 'retired gangster', the Chair of Deptford Action Group for the Elderly): 'It ran from 6 a.m. Monday morning till about 2 p.m. in the afternoon... there was villains, hardcore ravers, pimps, prostitutes, drug dealers, lap dancers, strippers, drag queens, club owners, club promoters, club dancers, celebrities, sports stars (Nigel Benn and Gary Mason were there), doormen, bar staff, waitresses, croupiers, gamblers, cab drivers, sex club people - basically, mostly everyone that had· worked over the weekend in the nightclub trade watching other people having a good time, all came down to mine to have their own'.

Courtney was evidently in that generation of crooks who saw the money-making opportunities in the club scene but he is also obviously a true believer, extolling the wonders of ecstasy and raving in breaking down racism in London and challenging his own anti-gay prejudice.

Anyone remember any of these nights/places? Where exactly was Futures? There was apparently also a club night there called The Treasury. Memories/flyers of any South London clubs, parties and gigs always welcome


Brockley Kate said...

I remember the Arches well, but I'm sure that was long after Courtney's time.

powerbook said...

yeah we used to go to the fitness centre. feel real on fridays and meltdown and then togetherness on saturdays.

Anonymous said...

futures was on the bottom end right hand side of ne x rd

Global Psychedelic Soundsystem said...

Me & my gal would train it up to London every Friday evening from the Isle of Wight to go to the Fitness Centre on Thrale Street, Southwark. It opened at 11.00pm and closed at 6.00am. Rhythm Doctor was the DJ to groove to but also remember Evil O and Dave Piccioni. Best nights I ever had. Remember meeting Dave Courtney there one night - he came up to my gal and said 'I've been watching you dance & it's brought my E back up' - true!

Transpontine said...

Nice one!

Juz said...

Was the fitness centre a very small place in a basement with a low ceiling, small chill-out or bar area that was curtained off from the dance area & a tiny toilet that was basically a closet?

Would like to find out as I had my first 'proper' club experience somewhere like that near end of 1992. The name Rhythm Doctor also rings a bell & it was def. near Southwark or Blackfriars bridge poss. in a white building.

uyriytgi said...

Futures was on Deptford Broadway, it now stands as the 999 Club. That club changed names more times than I can remember, but moreorless stayed the same.


I went to Addey and Stanhope school, just across the road. Any given Saturday night was like a class reunion, they really were the golden years!

What made me laugh was that my Nan used to rave there on a Wednesday night! Harry used to host an OAP night on Wednesdays. It always used to make chuckle that me and my Nan used to goto to the same club!!!

I have a few flyers kicking about from back in the day, but even more special than that, I’ve still got the flyer handed to me by Jenny outside Laserdrome one Sunday morning!

Dave Courtney and the Courtney twins present: They stole the show!

Remember that one Dave?!?! Mail me, I'll send you a copy!

Anonymous said...

I used Cheeks as a location for a photo-shoot for Bella magazine. Can't remember the story, but we needed a 'disco' for shots of a couple dancing. I'd never been there but it was 5 minutes from where we lived so we rang them and they said come on down. We were there early-ish one evening; 2 things I remember, it was much bigger than I'd imagined from the tiny entrance, and we were met by about 8 really tough-looking men in dinner jackets standing just inside the door: the management. They seemed as bemused as we were, but were very nice.

powerbook said...

juz, yeah thats the fitness centre, down the stairs in to the bar/chill out area, behind the curtain was the grim toilet.

down the hall (complete with laser) past the coat check on the left and in to the main room. decks to the right, huge speakers in all corners.

yeah rhythm doctor was fridays. saturdays was dj kaos, keith mac, dj hermit, cleveland anderson, plenty more but those guys really rocked it, great times

Juz said...

Powerbook, thanks for that - yes, great times and can't believe it was 20 years ago.

Anonymous said...

Plastic Gangster is how I knew him as he is today!

debbie said...

Debbie futures was a great club to go to I was there most nights even roller skating we did there

Global Psychedelic Soundsystem said...

Here is a link to some pics taken at 'The House Of Rhythm', Friday nights at the Fitness Centre:

Luis Benitez said...

Hiya, yes it was just as you described it, you had to go down the stairs to get to it :-)

And behind the back drops it was all mirrored.

Jel Weeks said...

Does anyone remember the illegal rave in a warehouse in Charlton in 1991 that got raided . I was in there and the music stopped and a voice said " Everybody stand still , this is a police raid". I managed to get out. Also went to Champs in the day........

aridtrax said...

There's some flyers here for a night at Futures called "Spikey"

Looks like it was a rubber/fetish hardcore night.

LondonAcid88 said...

The fitness centre holds a special place in my heart. It was the birthplace of acid house when late in 87 Danny Rampling started his Shoom nights there. Various other nights were hosted there through 88/89 including Promised land. In 91 The Rythm Doctor along with Kid Batchelor used the venue for House of Rythm. Me and my mates had many memorable nights at the fitness centre over the years, one of my pals even met his wife there! They've been together 25 years now.