‘Origins East’ acid house snaps show off three decades of club culture in Hackney
- Credit: Archant
Dave Swindells witnessed the emergence of the rave scene in 1988 and Hackney’s emergence as a “go-to” nightlife area.
As clubbing editor of Time Out for 16 years, Dave Swindells photographed the start of the acid house rave scene in 1988 and saw first-hand Hackney’s emergence as the go-to place.
His evocative images, dating back more than 30 years, are in the Origins East exhibition.
The show chronicles the start of a movement towards east London in the late 1980s and celebrates how nightlife can positively transform an area.
Now living off Chatsworth Road, Lower Clapton, Dave first came to Hackney because of the preponderance of “amazing” club one-nighters and warehouse parties there – often held illegally in buildings people had broken into the night before.
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Part of the excitement was finding out about them on the night through being handed a flyer in another club.
Dave remembers how the area around Old Street and Hoxton was effectively “a desert” at the time, making it the best spot in London for warehouse parties, with plenty of suitable venues and barely any neighbours to upset.
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One of his photos was taken at a warehouse party in one of the little side streets off Great Eastern Street in 1985, and shows his friend Robert Shepherd holding the foot of a girl sitting in the rafters.
This was chosen for inclusion in the exhibition to prove that, long before Hackney boasted well-known clubs, people were partying here.
Dave said: “This one was a random warehouse with incredibly steep steps and a rope down. It was precarious but fun – dodgy and entertaining.
“Hackney was a go-to nightlife area for an awful long time, long before people who were going to the party knew they were in Hackney, probably. They would go: ‘Where’s E2 or E8?’
“Warehouse parties were where people pushed on. They were all-night events usually at a time when most licenses finished at 2am or 3am. There was the adventure of going out and not knowing what you were going to find.
“Some of the ones I photographed were incredibly dusty. When you were dancing you were churning up all this dust that felt like it was decades old.”
In 1994 these free parties were banned through the controversial Criminal Justice and Public Order Act – but licensing law was changed in 2003 permitting 24-hour licenses for clubs.
It was not until 2005 that warehouse parties and raves were again made possible through temporary event notices.
The first club to make it big in Hoxton was the Bass Clef in Hoxton Square, which later became the Blue Note – also documented in Dave’s photos in the exhibition.
The Asian underground scene Bhangra flourished here from 1997 through DJ Calvin Singh, along with the seminal drum and bass and jungle night Metalheadz from Goldie.
One of the “trendiest things in London” Dave came across was Richard Mortimer’s Boom Box night held in the basement of the Tea Building in Shoreditch High Street, which ran from 2006 to 2008.
“Effectively it was an ’80s kind of club in that everyone dressed up and went wild,” he said.
“The best nights are where the people who go are driving the excitement. It’s not a case of everyone staring at the DJ. People put a lot of effort into the way they looked and into a kind of silliness that the best clubs have.”
He stuck with his job all that time because it kept him “close to the action”.
“The great thing was that London was always developing and moving forward. It wasn’t a case of ‘here we go again’ – it wasn’t boring, there was always something new to write about.”
Gavin Watson, Adam Friedman and Teddy Fitzhugh’s photos are also in the exhibition, which runs in Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen until August 22.