At the end of the Nineteen Eighties, a small and determined group of young people reclaimed the empty warehouses and mills of Blackburn so they could throw ‘Parties for the People – by the people.’

The media called them Raves.

This is their story.

As a decade of decadence ended, and the 1980s limped towards the finish line; in post-industrial Blackburn, a generation of disenfranchised and discarded young people were left with the greatest hangover of all.

Unemployment, empty mills, football hooliganism and racial segregation were the hallmarks of many Northern towns. But Blackburn hit back. From the late 80s to the early 90s an underground movement emerged steadily but rapidly until its sudden crash and burn in 1991, with a single manifesto; Come together….and dance.

Breaking and entering into the empty mills and factory spaces, Blackburn’s youth illegally gathered in numbers that are reported to have reached 10,000 and beyond; to find the party, get in the party and not let the police stop the party. Throw in some class A drugs and an emerging music style called Acid House, and you have the story of one of Blackburn’s greatest working class revolutions, interchangeably known as Acid House, Raves or most commonly to the locals; ‘The Parties.’

30 years on, and now considered ‘heritage’ we have collated the stories of the people who lived and breathed it, telling you the good, the bad and the ugly of the scene from 1988-1991.

10,000 people were a part of Blackburn’s Acid House era. They all have a different story or perspective to tell. We have invited ravers, DJs, the organisers, the police and politicians to tell us their story. The intention of these interviews is to create a future archive of unedited, unobstructed memories from the era, without a biased context or narrative imposed by the interviewers.

We hope this archive creates a snapshot of the rebellious spirit of 20th Century Northern England for those of you reading this 100 years in the future.

We are telling these stories because we think these stories matter, making visible who we once were, are now and may yet become.

Flashback was created in response to the 2019 British Textile Biennial programme.

The British Textile Biennial (BTB) throws a spotlight on the nation’s creativity, innovation and expression in textiles against the backdrop of the impressive infrastructure of the cotton industry in Pennine Lancashire.

With its epic mills and grandiose civic architecture along the country’s longest waterway; the Leeds and Liverpool Canal, the landscape tells the story of textiles. This biennial festival celebrates that story while showcasing its contemporary expression with the community that has textiles in its DNA

In 2021 we explore the global nature of textiles and textile production and the relationships it creates both historically and now, particularly through Fast Fashion. We look at how it has driven migration and how, in turn, migration and colonisation has influenced the development of textiles over the centuries and continues to do so. Once again BTB invites artists to co-create with the communities that live here, often using the spaces that the textile industry created to present the results.

This project is a partnership between:

Super Slow Way

Super Slow Way’s ambitious programme in Pennine Lancashire aims to transform lives and communities through art. The organisation is part of Arts Council England’s Creative People and Places action research initiative, with a remit of increasing participation in the arts in areas of typically low engagement. Super Slow Way works with communities along the Leeds & Liverpool Canal from Blackburn to Pendle, bringing art and artists to a space where time slows down, to look afresh at how people live their fast-paced lives and how they relate to their environment, neighbourhoods and to each other.

Super Slow Way is a partnership made up of the Canal & River Trust, Newground, the local authorities of Blackburn with Darwen, Burnley, Pendle and Hyndburn, Arts Partnership Pennine Lancashire (APPL) UCLan and Creative Lancashire.

Uncultured Creatives

Uncultured Creatives; artist Jamie Holman and Creative Producer Alex Zawadzki deliver work characterised by the exploration of divided histories, sensitive content and the unification of diverse community participants through shared experiences of culture, class and that which makes us human.

Our work seeks to make visible the exciting connections and propositions that manifest when heritage collides with contemporary practice. We look for exciting connections and opportunities to work with new communities in order to research and celebrate their heritage, and make visible their unique histories.

Our research proposes the emergence of culture through the celebration of topics and movements including subcultures, trade unions, folklore, activism, mill workers, football, magick, labour and poetry. Our work explores the impact of ‘Uncultured Creativity’ on the main stream heritage of this country, and locates these shared identities as ‘Future Folklore.’ We are interested in telling these stories because we think these stories matter.

Lighten & MXM

The development and creative technologists behind the project are Lighten who are a focused team of strategists, engineers and designers working on world class software, web and design.

Chris, the owner and founder of Lighten, is an award winning games developer so creative projects are a special treat for them.

The creative concept and brand for the project was done by Made By Mason. It is the practice of independent designer and creative problem solver Chris (Mason). Chris works collaboratively with talented people to create brands, books, experiences, websites and products. With over 15 years industry experience working across a range of creative disciplines, his approach is refined and his process is evolving all the time. Chris has a straight talking, free thinking, ideas led approach to everything. With ideas at the core of all his work, Chris is sure to bring a creative spark and lateral angle to every project. He works with closely with bold, brave clients that aren’t afraid of facing the truth in order to create a new one.

Funders & Partners

If you have content you would like to submit, would like to access these archives for research purposes or just have a question please email the Flashback team.

Gilly+
Interview:
Bio:
Party organiser / DJ, 28 at the time. Listen to Gilly talk about meeting Tommy & Kreft and how he started playing records at the parties.
David F+
Interview:
Bio:
A policeman involved in the arrests and control of parties in Blackburn. Aged 40 years old at the time. Listen to David talk about his opinion on illegal parties from the point of view of a policeman carrying out the raids and arrests; and how he formed a friendship with a Blackburn raver later in their lives.
David B+
Interview:
Bio:
Raver from Accrington. 15 – 16 at the time. Listen to David talk about travelling around the North West chasing the parties.
Dameoon+
Interview:
Bio:
Raver from Blackburn. 16 at the time. Listen to Dameoon talk about buying a ticket to a party at a secret location, and the steps they took to find the party.
Mark+
Interview:
Bio:
Raver from Oswaldtwistle. 15 at the time. Listen to Mark talk about the chaos surrounding the parties, getting into venues, balaclava-ed men and being caught up in police blockades at 15 years old.
Jay+
Interview:
Bio:
DJ Jay Wearden from Manchester. 19 years old at the time. Listen to him talk about the musical evolution throughout this era and its ongoing impact on music and culture today, Dj-ing at the Hacienda, the Thunderdome & Blackburn parties, and the organisers’ honourable commitment to everyone’s right to party.
Steven & Sigi+
Interview:
Bio:
Raver from Leyland, 19 at the time. Raver from Oswaldtwistle, 18 at the time. Listen to them describe Acid House ‘the best days of their lives’ and the unity, and how they still party 30 years on.They share some anecdotes of dangerous moments getting into parties in illegal venues.
Damo 1+
Interview:
Bio:
Raver who used to travel to Blackburn parties from Harrogate. Aged 17- 18 years old during this time. The first person in the UK to receive a sentence for attending an illegal gathering. Listen to Damo talk about his own arrest and sentencing, and the changing laws that impacted the rave scene.
Charno+
Interview:
Bio:
Raver from Wigan, 20 at the time. Part of the convoys that led ravers to the secret location of the party. Listen to Charno talk about his ‘car-boot shop’ where he sold drinks, cigarette papers, A-Z maps and local papers to ravers waiting to follow the convoys at motorway service stations.
Tony+
Interview:
Bio:
Party organiser from Mill Hill, Blackburn, 24 at the time. Listen to Kreft talk about the progression of the parties from legal venues like Crackers and Sett End; through to illegal warehouses around Blackburn; the cat and mouse game with the police and the infiltration of outside gangs.
Cono+
Interview:
Bio:
Raver from Ormskirk, 19 at the time. Listen to Cono talk about accidentally stumbling into a party at Blackburn for the first time; his first experience of a rave.
Rosie & Frenchie+
Interview:
Bio:
Raver from Chorley, 22 at the time. Raver from Chorley, 23 at the time. Married in 1989 this couple are still going strong and organising music nights today. Listen to them talk about their passion for the music, and dancing without drugs.
Simon+
Interview:
Bio:
Raver from Preston, 17 at the time. A Junior soldier at the time. Listen to Simon talk about the euphoria, and still chasing the feeling the parties created back when they first started, as he continues to Dj and organise nights.
Alan+
Interview:
Bio:
Raver from Blackburn, 32 at the time. Listen to Alan talk about parties helping break down barriers between Blackburners and the racism which was common in Blackburn during the era.
Daryll+
Interview:
Bio:
Raver from Blackburn, 24 at the time. Listen to Daryl talk ‘shopping expeditions’ to Switzerland to steal sought after labels to sell on to Blackburns football casuals, and chucking GQ magazines across the football terraces.
Paul+
Interview:
Bio:
Raver from the area. 20 at the time. Listen to sound engineer Paul talk about the thumping sounds, and following the noise to find the party.
Jane+
Interview:
Bio:
Convoy Leader from Manchester and editor of rave fanzine ‘Ear to the Ground.’ Listen to Jane talk about moving to Blackburn, being watched by the police, leading the convoys and the rush of outrunning the police into the warehouse.
Neil+
Interview:
Bio:
DJ at the parties. 20 at the time. Listen to Shack talk about the social landscape across poverty, unemployment, violence and racism in Blackburn and the way raves created an outlet for young people; and the evolution of the music and DJs.
Geordie+
Interview:
Bio:
Party Organiser. Listen to him talk about the criminality of organising these events from setting up in illegal venues, finding sound systems and generators and the gangsters who tried to invade the scene.
John & Mark+
Interview:
Bio:
Party organisers, in it from the beginning. Mark, 20 at the time Listen to two party organisers talk about the long arc of the scene, how it progressed and became more organised; describing it as a ‘game changer’ and a movement that hit back against the negative sense of place the 80’s left for young Blackburners.
Tracey+
Interview:
Bio:
A raver and convoy leader. 19 at the time. Listen to her describe the inclusive environment where you could dress as you liked, be yourself and social and racial division were changed.
Tommo+
Interview:
Bio:
A raver who attended the parties. 18 at the time. Listen to Tommo chat with Joe about some of the parties around the North and how it felt to be a part of them.
Skinny+
Interview:
Bio:
DJ at legal and illegal parties.18 at the time. Listen to him talk about his first experience at the Sett End and how legitimised an aspect of the parties by going on to hire out PAs to legal venues.
Rob+
Interview:
Bio:
Raver at the time who went on to become a DJ. Listen to how a few choice words can incite a riot and land you in jail and a warehouse party with a single strobe light in a building full of asbestos can be enough to inspire a 30 year music career as a DJ.
Julie+
Interview:
Bio:
Raver from the area. 17 at the time. Listen to her talk about police searches, different parties she attended as she compares the experience to the 60’s Summer of Love.
Damo 2+
Interview:
Bio:
A raver from the area. 17 at the time. Listen to him talk about casual car theft and bad trips.
Wendy+
Interview:
Bio:
A raver from the era. 22 at the time. Listen to her reflect on a beautiful morning moment as the sun comes up and shines through the rafters of the warehouse.
Amanda+
Interview:
Bio:
Raver from Blackburn. 15 at the time. Listen to her talk about her love for urban music from Soul through to Chicago House.
Joules+
Interview:
Bio:
A sound engineer from Blackburn. 20 at the time. Listen to him talk about being held up and gun point, tactics for stopping the police from confiscating the sound systems and how a sore throat changed the course of his life.
Damien+
Interview:
Bio:
Raver from Blackburn.15 at the time. Listen to Damien talk about his experiences as a young raver and his perspective on the powerful things that can emerge unexpectedly from down-at-heel communities.
Tommy+
Interview:
Bio:
Party organiser from Blackburn. Listen to his personal desire to use the parties as a form of revolution against Thatcherite Britain and what made Blackburn Parties special. He shares anecdotes about the parties and the police, the evolution of names like Live the Dream, High on Hope and Facid Crack.
Suddi+
Interview:
Bio:
Raver and one half of Hardcore Uproar. Listen to him talk about the tracks that inspired him from Unique 3 to De-Lite and how it shaped his passion for music as he continues to DJ today.
Joe+
Interview:
Bio:
Party organiser & sound engineer from Blackburn. Listen to him talk about his role setting up huge sound systems at the warehouses and an ingenious method of smuggling out the PA under the noses of the police, at the end of the party.
John+
Interview:
Bio:
A civilian photographer for the police, 24 at the time. Listen to him talk about his job following the police to document the parties around the North, the perception of the parties from the perspective of the police and being hit by projectile bricks as he entered the parties.
Adele+
Interview:
Bio:
A resident, aged 19 at the time. Listen to her talk about living close to Monroe’s and how local residents really felt about the parties.
Jackie+
Interview:
Bio:
Raver, aged 13 at the time. Listen to her talk about being one of the youngest people at the parties, getting caught by her parents and the greatest punishment of all for an 80s teenager.
Mel+
Interview:
Bio:
Raver, aged 18 at the time. Listen to her talk about a community where everybody was welcomed with open arms. Listen to Mel’s observations of the organisation of the parties and how a chaotically formed subculture gained military-like planning precision.
Klak+
Interview:
Bio:
Klak, sound engineer and poster artists for the parties. Listen to Klak talk about the DIY ingenuity of the organisers using limited equipment to create flyers, posters, sound, lighting and pirate radio stations on a shoe-string.
Gary+
Interview:
Bio:
Raver, aged 18 at the time. Listen to Gary talk about the symbiotic relationship between Blackburn and Manchester’s parties and the parties social impact on Blackburn, discussing in detail how the rave revolution settled difficulties represented by gang culture and violence. Listen to Gary reflect on the cultural impact of the party scene across the UK.

Methodology:

The intention of this project is to capture oral histories from individuals who attended Acid House parties in Blackburn between 1989 and 1991, preserving the moments these people choose to remember and celebrate, rather than present a historic overview or definitive chronology.  The interviewers therefore do not claim that the details in each interview are factually accurate at all times, or that every detail of the era is represented.

The interviews collected in this archive are the opinions of the individual and may not represent the opinions of the organisations involved.

We have chosen to present these stories without defining a political or social context or viewpoint – which is often seen in documentaries or news articles about the era. We simply invited participants to contribute, and recorded their responses to a short set of questions that simply established their name, age and where they lived at the time; before inviting them to share their memories, good and bad of the era – be they ex police, DJs, party-goers, organisers or politicians. Therefore these interviews have only been edited at certain times; when the interviewee has discussed or compromised another individual’s identity or when interference or background noise has disrupted the interview.

For context; the interviewers were Jamie Holman who lived in Blackburn and was a teenager during this era; and Joe Fossard who was significantly involved in the organising of events with his expertise with sound systems. He still works as a professional sound engineer and occasionally you will hear moments of conversation, where interviewees reference these two interviewers.

We hope this website creates a future archive for researchers to use, and contributes to our understanding of the cultural heritage of Blackburn, and East Lancashire. Therefore all stories will be available in the Lancashire archives and with access to the public in accordance with their policies.

We would like to thank everyone who participated in an interview during this time; to those who shared their photographs, flyers and newspaper cuttings; and to those who helped us record, design and generate content for this site; and especially to those supportive individuals who helped us build connections across communities which allowed us to deliver this project.