Afterhours rave culture in Belfast | Soundspace

Afterhours rave culture in Belfast

soundspace, annarghtek, timmy stewart, belfast, afterhour culture

The afterhours rave scene is a concept that is always sure to provoke curiosity. I use the term afterhours purposely. After much discussion with people both in and outside of the scene, it became clear that the term ‘illegal rave’ is becoming a thing of the past. The term ‘illegal’ brings much unwanted, negative attention to ideas and projects that are entirely harmless. People are just trying to have a good time, but because of legal and social factors they are often tarred with the same brush; a brush dipped in the ink of ignorance and misunderstanding.

The gentrification of London is a topic hot on everyone’s lips at the moment. From gentrification sprouts resistance. Resistance, in this instance, takes the shape of a crowd of sweaty, wide eyed ravers having the time of their lives. Rave as a protest. The birth of afterhour’s culture. The concept is by no means a new venture, but remains as one of the most important elements of rave culture today. As shutters from our most beloved venues slam down around us we pose the question, where do we go? A scene that we feel a part of, that we have completely immersed ourselves is being destroyed, piece by piece, by a government that is too ignorant to even attempt to see things from our point of view.

Afterhours culture is a response to many factors, gentrification is just one of them and alternative venue raves have been getting a bit of negative attention in the press recently, so we thought it would be a good time to investigate Belfast’s very own afterhours scene. With the help of Timmy Stewart and the forward thinking mind behind the Annarghtek concept, we walk further into the shadows of the unknown, studying the inspiration behind alternative rave culture in our capital, views on rave as a form of protest and exploring the negative perception that is attached to the concept.

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soundspace, annarghtek, timmy stewart, belfast, afterhour culture

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The inspiration and birth of a mystifying venture

“I was about 15 when the whole acid house explosion kicked off here so was a little young to attend events for the first few years, so made do with collecting flyers, posters, mix-tapes and buying records (hassling David Holmes, Iain McCready & Glen Molloy) from makeshift vinyl stores often in hairdressers salons. There seemed to be a real DIY ethic in those early days, which meant parties often took place in barns, disused retail spaces, beaches, forests and even one in the Zoo from stories that I’ve heard over the years. My first one was in the laser quest area in a well known bowling alley in the city centre believe it or not.”

Timmy Stewart recalls his first exposure to Belfast’s underground rave scene; a once thriving venture, afterhours culture seemed to have ran out of steam. Fields and abandoned buildings replaced by neon lights and jagerbombs. Gentrification may be one factor in the rebirth of the underground rave, but so is repetitiveness. What happens though when we become fed up with the same old nights time and time again? When we’re sick of being told to get down early because it’s going to be a big one? Escapism and curiosity have always been closely knitted with rave culture. As I sip from my Game of Thrones mug Timmy begins to explain the inspiration that led to the birth of this ambiguous exploit.

“A lack of suitable venues, the limited opening hours and a hunger for something outside of what regular nightclubs had to offer, (IE no mixing, commercial music and Djs talking over the records) were the main drivers for these other types of parties to exist.”

“It was obviously a form of escapism from the backdrop of the troubles for most and cheaper to attend make shift events, as they had no drinks license, a bring your own booze policy was applied and probably because of unemployment issues and a general lack of income combined with this feeling of being part of something more exciting than the mainstream had a massive appeal to the youth market.”


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