Return of raves lures revellers away from 'boring' superclubs

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The rave, the Eighties phenomenon that spawned ecstasy and acid house and became the scourge of farmers and police forces, is back.

The rave, the Eighties phenomenon that spawned ecstasy and acid house and became the scourge of farmers and police forces, is back.

Dance aficionados say more people are attending illegal parties in fields and disused buildings than ever before because of a burgeoning free party scene and mobile phone texting. The losers are the superclubs, born in response to the controversial Criminal Justice Act that made outdoor gatherings with "a repetitive beat" illegal but now suffering a slump in attendances as young people turn their backs on commercialism and look for something with more edge.

Next month, Mixmag, the bible of dance, is planning to devote an issue to the new rave scene, with guides to holding them and maps of where they can be found. Viv Craske, the magazine's acting editor, said: "Many of the guys promoting the club scene are now a lot older than the people they actually want to attract.

"You go to a big club, pay your £15 and find that the music is quite boring. Instead, more intimate clubs and illegal raves in fields and old buildings, where you and your friends know the promoter, are becoming more attractive.

"It's having an effect on the bigger clubs, Cream in Liverpool, Gatecrasher in Sheffield and the Ministry of Sound in London. Gatecrasher used to be on every week and it's now once a month. Cream has sub-let its courtyard for live music. And the Ministry is not seen as being as cool as it once was."

Clubbers feel that much of the club music scene has become commercialised. Among artists whose music is played on club-label compilations are Rob Davies, a former member of Mud who has composed for Kylie Minogue, and Katherine Ellis, known for performing backing vocals on an album by Michelle Collins from EastEnders. Although talented and successful, such artists are not seen as being cool by youngsters.

Paul French, Mixmag's acting features editor, says the West Country is the heartland of the new rave scene, with recent well-attended events at Steart Beach and outside Glastonbury. But word has come back of parties in fields in and around the Peak District, Sheffield, Brighton, Wales, Devon, Cornwall and all along the west coast. In London, the trend is to break into a disused warehouse or factory, squat it and set up for a party.

"Music is very cyclical and if you've watched your older brother or sister going to a superclub for the past 10 years, then you don't want to do it," Mr French said.

"Younger people find illegal raves more fun. They're more edgy and there's always the chance the police will come and arrest you."

One of the many factors that killed off the original illegal rave scene was problems in communicating the venue to thousands of people who are potential guests without the police finding out. Convoys of ravers patrolled the countryside as calls to secret numbers revealed cod-venue after cod-venue.

Mr French said: "Now, guys with a sound-system will get mobile numbers from their friends, and then from friends of friends until they have huge lists . Then they just text them all with the details.

"So instead of lots of people calling one number until the police found out about it and cut it off, you just have one person sending out a single message. It will make it a lot harder for the police to intercept."

Gill Nightingale, spokes-woman for Cream, which was founded 10 years ago by James Barton and expanded into a venue big enough for 1,800 people in Liverpool, conceded that there had been a shift among some dance fans, but she predicted it would not spell the end for superclubs. "Music has always gone on a 10-year cycle and that is what we are experiencing now," she said.

"We think change is a healthy thing and is good for the music scene. It's true we've given over the courtyard to live music, but we're celebrating our 10th anniversary this year and we're still selling out.

"People might find raves fun for a while, but once they've been rained on, got cold and hungry and been moved on by the police, they'll soon realise how nice it is to be warm, sit on a comfy chair and get a nice drink from a bar."

News of the latest craze was not welcomed by the Association of Chief Police Officers, but the spokesman was stoic in response, saying simply that county constabularies and urban forces were keeping an eye on developments.