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Doc'n Roll Film Festival Presents

Free Party: A Folk History

Dir: Aaron Trinder Cert:18 (TBA)

Tue 7 November 2023 // 20:00

Tickets: £5 (full)

A major new, independent documentary on the birth of the Free Party movement.

Free Party: A Folk History is major new, independently made, feature documentary following the birth of the free party movement in the late 80s and early 90s and the impact it's had on our present times. The film follows the inception of the movement, a meeting between ravers and the new age travellers during Thatcher's last days in power, and the explosive years that followed, leading up the infamous Castlemorton free festival in 1992 - the largest ever illegal rave - which provoked the drastic change of the laws of trespass with the notorious introduction of the Criminal Justice Act in 1994.

So whats the story?

1990, UK. The initial euphoria of the acid house orbital raves had waned after a government crack down on illegal ‘pay parties’. The energy, creativity and radical promise of the ‘second summer of love” assimilated into clubland, or commercial ‘rip-off raves’ often charging £50 a ticket. And with the recession beginning to bite, the dream seemed over. But a new underground began to emerge with a radical idea.

Sound systems, such as Nottingham’s anarchic collective DiY, with their ‘everyone welcome’ attitude, London’s Fund-e-Mental and Spiral Tribe, with their cult-like image, and acid house party pioneers Tonka begin to appear across the country, in clubs, small squats and ‘broken’ warehouses as an antidote to mainstream clubbing.


In the west country, despite being badly bruised by Thatcher's attempts to destroy their lifestyle at the "Battle of the Beanfield", members of the travelling community, such as Circus Warp and the Free Party People had the know-how, the spaces and the infrastructure to enable amazing free parties, under the stars.

And at the Travellers free field at Glastonbury 1990 - the anarchic free spirit of the travellers and the incredible music and energy of the acid house generation came together for the first time and something new was born.

With more and more sound systems being formed including Bedlam, LSDiezil, Adrenalin, Techno Travellers and many others these free parties / festivals began growing in numbers from small traveller family events of hundreds, to thousands, to tens of thousands, through word of mouth alone throughout 1990-1992. This culminated at Castlemorton Common in May 1992.

Headline TV news for a week, between 20-60,000 partied for 7 days.

But now the British establishment, and the media had its latest folk devils, promising to middle England to crush the movement out of existence, leading to violence and arrests (Spiral Tribe being arrested at Castlemorton) and draconian changes in the law itself with the Criminal Justice Bill in 1994. Many travelling communities found their life hard to continue in the UK after the Criminal Justice Act was past, and the pressure from the state would also push Spiral Tribe, Bedlam and others across the newly formed EU, creating gigantic Teknival utopias dwarfing the size of the UK free festivals. DiY meanwhile, alongside their regular club nights, kept the free parties going in the north, inspiring a host of other local sound systems such as Smokescreen, before heading out across the world, including Thailand, Ibiza and the west coast of the USA, where they met ex-Tonka DJs with a scene of their own. The scene would fracture into a myriad of disparate sub genres and scenes, with the unity of those initial years seemingly gone.

Now 30 years later with new laws criminalising trespass about to be brought into the UK the story is as relevant as ever as once again Travellers, Protestors and people aiming for alternative lifestyles find their lifestyle under threat.

Free Party’s key contributors include members of Spiral Tribe (arrested at Castlemorton) DiY, Bedlam, Circus Warp as well as DJs and producers such as Chris Liberator, Youth from Killing Joke, Co in Dale, Charlie Hall from Drum Club and many others. The documentary is being made by director Aaron Trinder, himself a DJ and music producer for many years (with Big Hair, U-Freqs), who now runs Trinder Films a production company
focused on original story telling for medium and long form .

Aaron says “This film is a unique look at a much under-represented moment in cultural history, the last great unifying youth movement, before digital cameras and the internet, which really challenged the authorities, connected environmental awareness with music and questioned laws on land rights and trespass. Thematically its incredibly prescient to today, with new laws on trespass being proposed, illegal parties taking place post
pandemic and 30 years since Castlemorton itself. I’ve got incredible access to unseen archive and grass-roots stories very seldom heard from the people who lived it”.

www.trinderfilms.co.uk / aarontrinder1@me.com 

TRAILER - https://vimeo.com/668245967