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Rave diaries

Written by Tim Knight

CLEEVE HILL May 30th 1992

The first weekend after the legend that was Castlemorton, we knew there would be no Spiral party as their system had been impounded, courtesy of the Gloucester Police. However, word had it that there was a party near Cheltenham, but the only way to get directions was to join the Spirals in a protest outside the station. Once it was deemed you had done your bit, you were told the location - reflecting the almost military style the Spirals were adopting. Their unshakeable belief in the freedom to party was very admirable, but for some they were a bit much. Their whole attitude was hardcore; hardcore music, hardcore drugs and hardcore fun. If you don't like it then fuck off. But for the considerable numbers following them, they were the light at the end of the tunnel of materialistic drudgery.

I had started the night off early at 227 with a fantasy, which completely wrecked my head. I felt like I had just smoked kilos of finest quality skunkweed, not an entirely pleasant experience I seem to remember. Nevertheless I was happy to be cained, and joined the others in Craig's new VW van. After a terrifying drive, during which Craig appeared to loose control of the vehicle several times, we found the small army outside the station. We joined them for a spliff under the noses of the local constabulary, which was a little scary as I had a handful of drugs down my sock, were rewarded with directions and were off.

The directions turned out to be rather vague, 'a field on Cleeve Hill' was about as precise as it got. Cleeve Hill turned out to be huge, circling around half of Cheltenham. For what seemed like hours Craig pushed his crammed van up steep slopes, not seeming to care when the road ran out. A number of cars were following including Longhaired-E-Dealer who was immediately behind us, but gradually the others began to turn back as the roads got steeper and split into many directions. We stopped in a lay-by with the few followers left and looking out over Cheltenham appearing through the morning mist discussed the options. By now it was daylight and I was feeling a little more normal and could string a sentence together without confusing myself. I suggested we go back to 227 and have a party there, but Craig was adamant that we should continue. Off we went again, and by complete chance, happened upon the party.

It was set in a beautiful field, with the ground sloping up quite steeply away from the front of the decks, which were in the back of a small white van parked against the hedge. A small group of trees were at the crest of the hill just a few hundred yards from the party. It was a clear sunny morning with no signs of civilised life, Cheltenham hidden over the other side of the hill.

There can't have been more than fifty cars there so we parked right near the decks and spilled out. Mitch, the kind of guy who could land on the moon and know half the inhabitants, couldn't believe that for once he didn't recognise anybody, even more unusual as Cheltenham is his home town.

A few E's later and I was having a great time, and I did my usual trick of wondering around on my own, making new friends, sharing spliffs and water. It had turned into a beautiful day, although the DJ was pissing me off by teasing in The Criminal Minds' Baptism By Dub without actually playing it. I mentioned this to Longhaired-E-Dealer who I was dancing next to at the time. He told me he was a DJ and had often played on the same bill as Colin Faver, one of Kiss FM's cooler DJs. I was impressed so we went to sit in his car to listen to one of his tapes. The normality of the vehicle's interior immediately accentuated the trippiness of the E's, while Longhaired-E-Dealers cool and trancey music eased my mind away from the goings on around me and off my brain went again on another solo inner space adventure. Sensing that he was loosing my attention, he began chatting to his mate in the back seat while I muttered to the steering wheel that this music is brilliant and I must have a copy of this tape, gloriously wallowing in the feelings licking around my body.

Feeling it was time I rediscovered the friends I had come with, I exited the car and continued on my wonderings, slightly concerned by two large police riot vans parked a discreet distance down the track leading to the field. I climbed the slope and quickly forgetting what I had set out to do began exploring the coppice of trees. As with most things, nature seemed far more real and vibrant in these altered states. It was looked on with the enthusiasm of a child discovering something for the first time, which I suppose is what we E-heads were like. The feelings of compassion ecstasy brings out were just as easily channelled into the natural environment as they were into other people. I would say that getting fucked up at an outdoor rave has turned a lot of people on to the beauty of mother nature who would not usually have given it a second thought.

The sun was by now pretty high and it was getting hot. I left the trees for a field covered in yellow stubble a little further beyond, in which there appeared to be a sofa with people sitting it. I decided I had to investigate, and there was mutual drug induced excitement to discover it was Craig and the rest of the posse. We hung out for a bit, our bodies buzzing, our brains gloriously floating. Under the summer sun I thought times just don't get any better than this.

We returned to the main party and continued soaking up the sun and the good vibes. Time was stretched and compressed and discarded, how long we were there I don't know.

However, the constant Police presence gradually began looking more and more threatening. The DJ kept hollering anti police messages down the microphone that to me seemed a little unnecessary and a bit sad, surely we didn't have to resort to beer-boy taunts. Just as me and Russ were sorting out some acid for him in the back of the van, all hell broke loose. Riot vans spilled into the field, the decks were immediately impounded and the DJ frogmarched off. To my fried brain it was as if the devil himself had sprung up from the depths of hell. To go so immediately from a beautiful world untainted by normality to this ugly scene was disorientating to say the least. Any fear passed quickly though, as it became clear that the police were not interested in us or our drugs, they just wanted us to get the fuck out of this field and get the few organisers down to the station.

So after a few moments of "shit! Where's the acid? Where's my hash?" we were soon on our way back to Oxford. The rather unfortunate end to the party forgotten, I realised I was still completely mashed. My jaw was still shaking uncontrollably, one of the side effects of too much ecstasy and something I aimed for every weekend. I began jabbering away to anyone who would listen. Unfortunately for Craig, who was attempting to drive us back while tripping, I began to target him with my babblings, until he got someone to shut me up. When we got back to 227 I was delighted to discover I was still on planet rave, and I'm slightly embarrassed to recall dancing in the middle of the living room while everyone else reconciled themselves to the Sunday afternoon come down.

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