Ravers split over use of hard drugs

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The Independent Online
RAVERS call it the club from the future. They come from Newcastle, Belfast, Carlisle and across Scotland to enjoy the hardcore 'techno-beat' music that has replaced 1940s dancehall classics in the former Pavilion Ballroom on Ayr promenade. But last night, for only the second Saturday since the club opened two years ago, Hanger 13 was quiet.

Youngsters who arrived in the resort town expecting to dance to the music of MC Cyclone, the resident DJ, were told that the club was closed 'as a mark of respect for the family of Andrew Stoddart'. Two weeks ago Mr Stoddart, a 20- year-old van driver from Rigside near Glasgow, became the third person to die at the Hanger after taking drugs at the weekly Saturday night rave.

His death, four months after two teenagers, John Nisbet and Andrew Dick, collapsed and died after taking Ecstasy, has cast doubt on the future of Scotland's most popular 'hardcore' rave venue. The club's owners, who are hiring paramedics before next weekend's planned rave, insist that the club will re-open. But ravers themselves are now voicing opposition.

Club-goers in Ayrshire, an area at the centre of the growing rave scene north of the border, argue that Scotland's burgeoning hard drugs culture has corrupted the 'traditional values' of the rave movement. With youngsters now beginning to overdose on 'recreational' dance drugs like Ecstasy, they say, hardcore venues such as the Hanger should close.

Paul, 24, a regular at the club, said: 'I have been going to raves around here for six years. As the scene has grown, they have begun to attract a new crowd of young, brash dancers from Glasgow and other big cities. These people want to do more and more drugs. They don't understand that taking drugs is not the point. Ravers are not junkies. We take 'E' simply as a way of feeling better and making sure we can dance all night. Some of this new crowd are attracted to the Hanger because it has a hardcore image and they know they can get some 'gear'. The club should close before anyone else goes over the top.'

Observers of the rave scene agree that the atmosphere in clubs like Hanger 13 has changed. Claire Wyburn, a writer for M8, Scotland's dance magazine, said: 'When the rave scene began to grow in Scotland, it was really a student phenomenon. Lately, however, it has become much more working class with youngsters from the larger cities hitting the clubs on a Saturday night.

'This new breed of raver has imported some of the problems that have come to characterise those cities. Five years ago teenage ravers would have taken one to two 'E's on a Saturday night. Now, some are taking four or five, which is very dangerous. Some of them say they have so little to live for, they don't even care whether they die. That is not a true raver's attitude. Ecstasy was called Ecstasy because it made you feel happier. Rave is about a celebration of life. It's not about killing yourself.'

Staff at Hanger 13, who insist they 'do their utmost' to stop ravers taking illegal drugs, deny that the club's hardcore image has attracted a new crowd of reckless youngsters. Fraser MacIntyre, the manager, said shutting the club would not prevent tragedies. 'The answer lies outside. These problems will only go away when the nightmare of drugs ends,' he insisted.

As MPs and the families of the dead men yesterday planned to step up their campaign to persuade Kyle and Carrick district council to withdraw the club's entertainment licence, Mr MacIntyre won the support of one of the ravers who was with Mr Stoddart when he collapsed. The 20- year-old man, who asked not to be named, said: 'Banning raves is not the answer. If people want to do drugs, they will. Do the authorities want to go back to a situation where people start going to unlicensed events in quarries and other unsafe places?' Mr MacIntyre said he was confident Hanger 13 would re-open next Saturday as 'one of the safest clubs in Scotland'.

(Photograph omitted)