Monday, December 21, 2009

Spiral Tribe parties in SE London

Spiral Tribe were the best known of the many techno sound systems putting on parties in (mostly) squatted venues and free festivals in the early 1990s. They became media folk devils as a result of their role in putting on the famous Castlemorton festival in May 1992, following which people associated with Spiral Tribe were prosecuted for public order offences, only to be acquitted after a four month trial (the government got its revenge by passing the anti-rave Criminal Justice Act).

The year before, Spiral Tribe put on several parties in South London. According to this list included in a Spiral Tribe zine at the time (reproduced below), these included:

- July 27-28 1991, a benefit party in Deptford
- September 21-22 1991, Peckham party
- October 12 -14, Volume 2 Lewisham

I went to lots of free/squat parties a little later in the 1990s, but didn't go to any of these ones. Does anyone remember where they were or anything about them or other similar events?

Here's a few clues. DJ BPM says on her myspace that 'walking into a Spiral Tribe squat party in Carnegie Library in Deptford changed my life, it was a divine experience to me (neither joking nor blaspheming)'. The Carnegie library referred to is the old Lewisham Central Library (now Lewisham Arthouse) at the New Cross end of Lewisham Way, which was built in 1913/14 with funding from the steel magnate Andrew Carnegie. It closed in June 1991, and was sporadically used as a venue for squat parties until Lewisham Arthouse moved in three years later. I think this party actually took place after the above list was compiled in November 1991, as Steve Spiral recalls:

'Lewisham Library, the venue walls were painted by Mark and Debbie for a week before the party, and the 2 terror strobes and smoke machine were intense and ran all night long. Darren crashed his camper with the rest of the light show in the back the day before the party. Easy to remember this was my 21st birthday party…Saturday 17th November 91'.

There's some great footage of this party, featuring some classic '91 raver moves. The film was apparently shot in the afternoon when not many people were around, as it was too dark to film at night:
He also mentions a separate party at 'The arches Deptford, the venue was arranged by big Alex (dancer for Back to the Planet and co-organizer of the Urban Free Festival in Fordham park, New Cross). This part took place directly after Camelford so must have been mid Sept 91'. This does slightly contradict the list, so wonder if there's some confusion with the 'Peckham party'?

The exact dates aren't really important, but I'm guessing that the Deptford arches party actually took place in July 1991, as I believe that this was the time of the Deptford Urban Free Festival which he mentions, and I have seen somewhere else a reference to Spiral Tribe organising an 'after party' for the festival. No idea where the Peckham party was or 'Volume 2' in Lewisham.

5 comments:

Nigel said...

The Deptford party was an after-party following the Deptford Urban Free Festival on July 27, 1991. It took place in a squatted yard and arches previously called "Nutrix Engineering" that was in the middle of the roundabout on Edward St.
What a day! What a party!
There is some Super 8 film I took of the festival here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IUbS4Lrs4HM
They also did a party at the Deptford library, as you mention.
Great party, apart from the river of p*ss that flooded the hall from behind the bottom of the staircase which had become an impromptu toilet. I watched the video - thanks for posting that - but can't see myself. I think I had gone home to chill by then!
They also very nearly did a party in the main hall of Goldsmiths College, during the student occupation in 1991. Unfortunately the student committee bottled it at the last minute. Mark and Debbie were the 2 protagonists from the Spirals, trying to make it happen.
Jamie from the Kills was involved as a student at the time, but that's another story...
I can't remember what/where the Peckham party was, which probably means I was there ;)
I don't think it was the Dolehouse though.
Happy Daze.....

Nigel said...

Back again! Cheers for the Spirals links - great for nostalgia.
I went along to the Village Idiots Festival, 14 + 15 September on that "tour" too.
Just occured to me - maybe the "peckham party" was at the Queens road/Waller road/ squats - the last 3 houses before Waller road that hosted various parties?
Just a thought.

Transpontine said...

Thanks Nigel that's great. I am going to do a post on the Urban Free soon, I wasn't there in '91 but was at the last few. When I go through Fordham Park now I can't believe how many people fitted in there!

kendo said...

Good to read the post We were at Longstock when Spiral tribe set up and changed peoples lifes !! I've never heard felt anything like it since one of those rare moments you know someting massive is happenin.....

Anonymous said...

I was also at the Deptford Yard party after the free festival at Foredham Park. As well as the Spiral Tribe DJs there were bands. One was called The Sea, based in Deptford/New Cross, the used the Dew Drop pub on the corner of Foredham Park as their local. Good times.