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Illegal Ravin'

Some of the JAL crew are involved in a pilot scheme called FoX - Freedom of Xpression, which aims to create safe party-going environments which, hopefully, wont result in a night in a cell! Here's what happened when FoX met the man (well, several men) trying to keep the ravers down:

On Friday 28th March, there was a meeting at Suffolk police headquarters between Suffolk and Norfolk Constabularies who the are the leading police forces in the country in UME (Unlicensed Music Event) prevention and dismantling, landowners, farmers, the forestry commission, and council officials amongst other organisations who have been affected by UME’s, and a couple of us here from FoX, about illegal raves being held in the Norfolk and Suffolk areas.

An Unlicensed Music Event has been defined as a gathering of 20 or more people, where there is amplified music in the evening, why not the daytime we don’t know, as do the police.  But it’s the law.

Although the police’s attitudes were not dismissive of ravers, we felt there was some prejudice from some of the other members, whose livelihood could be potentially harmed by having a UME being held on their land.  They seemed to have a stereotypical view that the type of music being played at UME’s, was related to the taking of drugs and so everyone who attended raves was thus deemed a drug taker.

We did say to a few people who spoke to us at the end, that this preconceived idea was wrong. Having attended raves ourselves, we know that there are people who do take drugs, but we also know people who don’t.  We told them that what people (non ravers) don’t realise, is that the people who attend raves are there for the music, the atmosphere and to have a good time, not just to get “off their faces” on drugs.  The majority of the members did realise that drug taking is a societal problem, not just a rave problem.

One of the things that were mentioned by the police was the violent reaction shown by some of the attendees when the police show up and stop the rave.  Although we can understand the anger and frustration that must be felt when this happens – because what else is out there for young people to do? – showing violence doesn’t help the situation and also contributes to the already wrong idea that people have of ravers.

Now, we think raves are one of the friendliest places anyone could go to, some of us have never seen a fight break out at any of the raves that they’ve been to.  But how many times do fights break out in clubs because some “rude gyal” doesn’t like the way some “dickhead is bare lookin’” at her?  Pretty much every time you step into a club.  So when the police step in and stop your rave, don’t give them the ammunition by being violent because they can and will make arrests.  There are 11 people due in court in Suffolk for such things as being violent, organising and drug dealing at these events, so try not to make too much of a fuss, as it’s only going to make things worse and we’re pretty sure no-one wants to end up in jail or with an ASBO.  Especially when lasers are being shone onto helicopters to “blind” them.  Doing that could result in serious damage to the driver and people in the helicopters, and also to the attendees of the event.  Did you know that if you’re caught doing that, you could end up with a lifetime sentence in prison?

Another thing that was mentioned was something the police call ANPR – Automatic Number Plate Recognition.  The way this works is there is an automated system which keeps records from different surveillance cameras, and if any license plates appear that are known for going to illegal raves, and they are all going towards the same place, the police can assume that the vehicles are all going to a UME.  Then, after they have cleared the site where the event is being held, they can then give you a home visit and charge you using photographic evidence from the cameras. If it comes to it, the police can seize the vehicle used if they feel the need, whether it’s your property or someone else’s.

But what the public don’t realise is that when the police are called out to stop a UME, it costs a hell of a lot of money.  For example, there was a UME in King’s Forest in July 2007.  There were 100 police officers called out from Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex, including dogs and helicopters – this all cost 18,000 pounds!  And to think that there were 9 reported UME’s in Suffolk alone last year.  Anyone who pays tax/council tax will be horrified as this is what their money is being used for – especially when it could be spent on more worthwhile things, and you can get licenses to hold these events and landowners permission to use their land (yes that happens), so there will be no need for the police to be called out as it will all be legal.

The attendees from FoX were there to give the other members a raver’s perspective – well someone has to stick up for you lot! So we told them things like why organisers hold these events and why people go.  We also put forward a proposal to make this website as we wanted something that you could look at that will give you important information like how to get a license to hold legitimate events, and how to do basic first aid because no other website out there so far has anything like this.  If there is, please let us know.

We wanted to get support from everyone at the meeting, as we wanted them to put their opinions etc on here so you can get their perspective on how UME’s affect them and also so they can get your view too.  We also wanted to get funding for this website because we feel it is something that is going to make a difference.  Now, we had presented the proposal for this site before to another forum, and the majority agreed on the concept, but when it came to putting their hands in their pockets they didn’t want to know.  We hoped that this time it would be different, and we think it was because we had someone come up to us at the end and offered the amount that we’d asked for straight away.  There was another person who was also interested, and she gave us a number to contact her.  These people were both from different councils, but as it is a tedious process, it could be another year before we receive any funding. So it looks like things are looking up in regards to people supporting us.

One of the things that concerns everyone most about UME’s is the dangers that come along with them.  No one wants another person to be seriously hurt.  A few things that worry people are the unsafe buildings that are sometimes used to hold an event, inhalation of dangerous substances… some that attendees might not necessarily know about, and even seemingly little things like falling over… you never know when that piece of glass is going to pierce your skin causing infection and possibly even blood poisoning.

Also, if one of these events is being held on a farmers land, several things could go wrong.  As mentioned before, if any unknown substances are taken by anyone, they should be taken to the hospital immediately along with the label of the substance ingested, this will make sure the doctors know how to treat the patient.  Some substances can be fatal so it is best not to risk taking anything that you find.  And the worst thing is, and what some landowners don’t realise, is that if anyone gets injured on their land, the landowner is possibly liable and so can face a conviction… not really fair is it when they haven’t even given their consent for the event to happen.

In addition to this, livestock can be harmed as well.  Just the sheer volume of the music can cause abortion of cattle and stampedes, which could possibly result in injury to the attendees.  Also, in case you didn’t know, as soon as you walk onto a piece of land, you are breaching disease control and so could infect the farmland. These things, which are often not thought about can ruin people’s livelihoods.  Farmers provide food for us, so when their crop is ruined by someone holding an UME and damaging the land with rubbish and human waste, it’s costing them money and time to clean the waste and try to salvage whatever is left of the crop and giving us less food… and we all like food, so less of the stuff isn’t so great!

Contrary to belief, the police aren’t there to ruin the fun, they are there to protect and serve and to make sure the law is abided… whether they agree with it or not.  They are protecting you because a lot of events are held in unsafe places and serving the people who it is distressing. In the police’s defence, it is very difficult for them to keep all the different laws and legislations that come into effect in mind, whilst trying to stop a UME.  So if you think they are being unfair, please remember that they are there to do a job, to protect you, and to make sure the law is regarded. The police are actually quite understanding and agreed with many of the points we made about people being there to enjoy themselves etc, they seemed to be really open minded. 

They also suggested that if anyone had any ideas to create a music festival that everyone could go to that was legitimate and somewhere safe, to speak to them.  They understand that there isn’t much for young people to do if they are not old enough to go to clubs, or they don’t like that atmosphere and they do want to help.  They just want things to be done in the right way.

So the meeting went really well.  We did come across some stiff upper-lipped people who just didn’t really know what they were talking about, so some of the things that they were saying (wrongly) weren’t much appreciated. Just having this website up and running means we’ve got the support from the people that didn’t want to know us in the beginning, so that is an achievement on it’s own.

Written by Laura Cosgrove

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