Two-stepping teens, floral prints and bobbing bucket hats accompany the noise of a thumping, repetitive beat and the occasional hiss of a nitrous oxide canister. You could be forgiven for thinking these familiar sights and sounds are from last year’s glorious festival season, but these were actually the scenes captured at the Daisy Nook illegal rave in Manchester which drew crowds of over four thousand people despite Coronavirus restrictions being in place across Great Britain.
As the country takes its first tentative steps towards a new normality, certain groups have shrugged off their leashes altogether and relished the chance to get dancing again with an apparent disregard for the pandemic’s severity. The isolation and economic downturn of the last few months have evoked a desire in many to drink, laugh and dance: an innocent yearning and one familiar to most. However, with many still shielding and the potency of the virus still as strong as ever these gatherings are a deadly spreader of germs as social distancing becomes a distant memory and sweaty bodies move in close proximity. As the daily death rate remains close to 200 in the UK the attendees of these events aren’t harmlessly seeking a release of lockdown frustrations, but are selfishly flouting rules and increasing the risk of heightened fatalities.
The issues with illegal mass gatherings do not stop at an increased spread of disease. The covert nature of the events means a lack of stewarding, first aid points, policing and more, all of which have had a devastating effect up and down the country already this summer. A party in Trafford, Greater Manchester resulted in 3 stabbings and an alleged rape on June 13th while on June 24th a total of 22 police officers were injured after a street party involving over 400 people in Brixton turned sour when the law enforcement arrived to disperse the group. Cressida Dick, the UK’s most senior police officer has vowed to put an end to these sorts of illegal gatherings saying, “We will come and close them down”, but the disdain for the nation’s safety appears to be widespread tales of illegal music events show no sign of slowing down.
As headlines hit the newspapers painting nightmarish images of rebellious revellers up and down Britain it begs the questions: how will the live music scene return safely? And what will it look like when it does make its long-awaited return? With big names such as Tom Grennan and Mike Skinner announcing ‘drive-in shows’ we are beginning to see the first revelation of the strange new normal of music. Live performances on social media, distanced dances and a humble backyard boogie with your nearest and dearest are all well and good, but there really is no replacement for that feeling live music consistently delivers night after night across the globe. Genres which rely heavily on live sets such as hip-hop, rock, electronic and many more will not feel the same in a world with rigid boundaries being implemented. They rely on the united passion of a euphoric crowd, moving together irresistibly with a sole focus on the performer on stage. Pairing this sense of elation with social distancing measures brings to mind square pegs and round holes, it just does not fit.
It is in this period, more than ever before, that the UK government must step up and provide a financial support system specific to the arts sector in order to ensure music venues can reopen once the current situation is over. If mass closures occur then the light at the end of the dark tunnel of Covid-19 will be minimised and as such the illegal music business will become more prevalent than ever. People need something to be hopeful about, they need the anticipation of dancing long in to the night at some point in the future; taking this optimism away will undoubtedly result in further turbulent clashes between police and party-goers.
By Finlay Gibson