Another wave of illegal raves hit the abandoned warehouses, derelict pubs and isolated fields of England last Saturday; the final weekend before the country’s second lockdown. Police were called to various locations in London on the Saturday night, including an illegal rave in Tower Hamlets in East London where it is thought that 1000 people had gathered. The Metropolitan Police in particular are beginning to rack up a large stash of sound systems and DJ sets as they stormed a further 10 large illegal events that flouted the coronavirus rules. A rave of 500 people in a warehouse was also reported in Yate, near Bristol as well as an unlicensed gathering of 300 people in a farmer’s field in Wigan, Greater Manchester. The farmer returned from a hard day’s work in the fields to the unusual sight of a large crowd of people bopping amongst his crops to thumping electronic music. Police officers intervened to break up the event but in turn experienced violence from some members of the public. Seven police vehicles also had their tyres slashed.
The events of last weekend are unsettling echoes of the disorder that we have already seen occur during earlier months of the coronavirus pandemic. On a weekend in mid-June around 6,000 people attended two illegal raves in Greater Manchester. They were so large the police were unable to regulate or control them. At one of the raves in Carrington, Trafford, a young woman was raped and 3 men were stabbed. One of the men was left with life-threatening injuries. At another rave in Failsworth, Oldham, which was reported to have had up to 4000 people at the scene, a young man died of a suspected drug overdose.
Such signs of social unrest have been rearing their heads during these last few months and it comes as no surprise. The UK unemployment rate has reached its highest level in over three years, as the pandemic continues to leave working people economically vulnerable. The Office for National Statistics reported that between June and August an estimated 1.5 million people were unemployed, 209,000 more than the previous year. Those who had been made redundant between June and August stood at an overwhelming 227,000. Young people are being disproportionately affected, with 16-24 year olds making up 300,000 of those who are out of work. New statistics released by the ONS today show there is a record-low number of 16-24 year olds in employment, decreasing this quarter by 174,000 to a new ground-breaking low of 3.52 million. Combine high rates of unemployment with the closure of hospitality industries, a dying cultural scene and limited opportunity for socialising and you can understand the frustration and fury rippling amongst the young.
It is true that young people also account for a large proportion of those that have been impacted by the government’s furlough scheme. The Job Retention Scheme, which has now been extended to March 2021, pays furloughed employees 80% of their wages, up to £2500 per month. The scheme was originally introduced back in March to provide economic support for those who were out of work due to the pandemic: either the forced closure of their workplaces or the failure of their businesses due to Covid. Yet employment losses are still high, with young people amongst those worst hit. Research has shown that workers aged between 16 to 25 are more than twice as likely to lose their jobs than their older counterparts. For those on furlough, the possibility of redundancy looms like a dark cloud. Those already unemployed are left bleakly scrolling through the limited job opportunities on offer. Many of the young are left in an uncomfortable state of limbo which is shrouded with uncertainty.
Their futures are therefore proving to be frighteningly unclear. The economy is in a continual state of decline due to the pandemic, with the government having already borrowed 208.5 billion this year alone compared to the 55 billion that was intended. The young are becoming increasingly restless and claustrophobic in their homes. Many are understandably craving an outlet. The rave culture satisfies this desire for escapism, and over the past few months we have seen it return in all its carnivalesque fury. The rave becomes a utopia for many, where the young can come together in solidarity and escape what is at this time a bleak, anxiety-fuelled reality. It becomes a space of temporary liberation when our lives are increasingly shaped by restrictions. The very rules and boundaries that are squashing people’s freedom are given a location to be vigorously transgressed. With the second lockdown now in full swing, we can only wait and see whether these illegal raves are now here to stay.
By Lara Keville
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