What's love got to do with it?

With its Love Parade, Leeds is following Berlin's example. But is it faithful to dance music's roots?
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The Independent Culture

Tomorrow, Roundhay Park in Leeds will resonate to the energy of as many as half a million revellers dancing to the sounds of many of the leading DJs, all celebrating the phenomenon that is Love Parade. A phenomenon because, where the inaugural happening in Berlin 11 years ago drew a paltry 150 people, last year's event was able to boast a figure of 1.5 million. It's a figure that not only stands as proof positive of the significant part that dance music now plays in popular culture, but also underlines just how big a business clubbing has become.

Tomorrow, Roundhay Park in Leeds will resonate to the energy of as many as half a million revellers dancing to the sounds of many of the leading DJs, all celebrating the phenomenon that is Love Parade. A phenomenon because, where the inaugural happening in Berlin 11 years ago drew a paltry 150 people, last year's event was able to boast a figure of 1.5 million. It's a figure that not only stands as proof positive of the significant part that dance music now plays in popular culture, but also underlines just how big a business clubbing has become.

That Love Parade seems to stand for the finest aspects of dance culture's heritage - love and unity, and all those other sub-hippy ideologies which were associated with the glory days of clubbing (1989 to 1992), before big business and global branding were even dreamt of - is an added bonus.

Hardly surprising then that the British DJ contingent has long talked about the possibility of a homegrown version of Love Parade. After all, if Sydney and Zurich have successfully managed to hijack the concept (despite their minor influence on the shape of dance culture), surely the Brits, who practically wrote the rules for the party generation, can have the same. Surprising then that the people who have brought the whole thing together are that most conservative of institutions, the BBC. Indeed not only have they set up this free party (remember them?) in association with original Love Parade promoter Dr Motte, - who will officially open the Leeds event at 1pm, on the same day as the infamous Berlin version - but in so doing, Radio 1 has also become the biggest rave promoter in the world.

To say that club culture has come on a long way since those cat and mouse chases around the M25 in the early Nineties is a huge understatement. "The irony of that hasn't been lost on us," says Matt Priest, Radio 1's commissioning editor for live events, and the man behind Leeds' Love Parade. "But, I think it's a testament to Radio 1, the police, the council, and everyone involved, that we've been able to do this."

Of course, clubbers who look back on the good old days with rose-tinted spectacles may abhor the very fact that Leeds' Love Parade is so corporate. The reality however, is that this event represents the culmination of many of the original ideals of acid house culture. The intention to bring together huge numbers of the nation's youth in order to dance in a spirit of togetherness, remains the same. The Leeds' Love Parade's desire to celebrate the multifarious genres within dance culture is truer to the eclecticism of the fledgling acid house days of 1989 than recent years when clubland has become increasingly divided by purism and elitism. Finally, the concept of branding, so heavily endorsed by the club culture from which it was originally spawned (Ministry flying jackets etc) will be on full display.

Love Parade then, is a huge party where Radio 1 will buy into the very culture they practically ignored in the early days, by taking a proactive (as opposed to the traditional reactive) role in events creation. It's an event that will see the existing clubbing brands consolidating their positions. And finally, it's a free party that will see the full launch of Love Parade as a global brand. Expect more cities to be added in the forthcoming years. "Club brands are big business, but what we've done is prove that they haven't forgotten where their roots lay," explains Priest. "This is one of the reasons that we've been able to bring together so many disparate brands all participating at the same event. And that's a first."

Love Parade, it would appear, is the brand that everyone in the dance industry wants to be associated with. But why Leeds? A city that hardly compares with Manchester or London in the historical landscape of British clubbing. "Leeds was obviously very keen to do this because of the kudos involved in the association with the original Love Parade, and also because in Berlin it's been proved that each person spends at least £50," says Priest. "The potential revenue for local business is huge. We were also keen to keep the festival in Leeds because it has a great clubbing heritage but, with respect to the clubs that do exist there, it's relatively neutral. There are no superclubs defining the city."

Which means that Leeds is open to be defined by a ground-breaking event of this magnitude. And with a procession of floats being provided by club gargantuans such as Cream, Gatecrasher, Miss Moneypenny's, Big Beat Boutique among many others, huge-name DJs like Darren Emerson, Danny Rampling, David Morales and Judge Jules all appearing at the main event and numerous clubs throughout the city, it looks certain that Leeds will join those other cities in the roll call of great party capitals.

All this, in spite of concerns raised by the West Yorkshire police over public safety and protestations in the local press that 500,000 clubbers will be roaming the streets of Leeds after it's all over. It's as if the good old days of raving in a field never quite went away.

The Leeds Love Parade, 1pm tomorrow to 1pm Sunday. The event will be broadcast live on Radio 1

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