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Mapping memories of rave culture

Rave culture in the late 80s, was about more than just hedonism – it marked a genuine shift in popular attitudes.

Rave culture in the late 80s, was about more than just hedonism – it marked a genuine shift in popular attitudes, according to an academic at Manchester Met.

Dr Beate Peter is building an interactive map of rave culture populated by memories of ‘lapsed clubbers’. The map will feature audio with people describing their experiences of going out to clubs raves when the electronic dance music scene first took off.

But the project is not just about nostalgia – it has a political message too.

“My research aims to address some of the common misconceptions that surround rave culture,” she said.

“I would like this map to show the huge impact that the culture has had on people’s values and approaches to life.

“I think rave culture has always been misrepresented in mainstream media. People have tended to focus on the drugs and the excesses, but there’s so much more.

“Rave culture was the first apolitical, purely hedonistic youth movement. It became a space for people who felt they never fitted in – whether they were gay, mixed race, bisexual. Those who perhaps felt they were on the fringes of society finally found a culture where they felt included.”

A multimedia map of experiences

The digital map will include memories from lapsed clubbers, about their experiences on nights out. These memories will be filtered according to themes such as fashion, music, politics and drugs. The map will include audio files, featuring interviews Beate has recorded with volunteers.

“Since the project has taken off, we’ve had key players in the scene participate, such as the manager of 808 State.”

“But it’s important to me that the project is community driven. So we’ve put together focus groups, and recruited volunteers via Facebook who’ve all provided fascinating testimonies.”

Project built on lottery funding

The project’s origins were in an exhibition on the Lapsed Clubber that Beate curated in 2015. Funded in 2015 by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), for the Manchester Festival of Social Sciences, the exhibition featured images from Manchester’s raving community that were submitted via Facebook.

Following this, Beate secured funding from the Lottery Heritage Fund (HLF) – the largest dedicated funder of heritage in the UK, which focuses on projects that make a difference to people and their communities.

Given the aims of the backers, Beate feels it’s important to stress the community aspect of the project.

“We were lucky, as someone from the Lottery Fund saw the exhibition, recognised the strong community aspect of it, and so were keen to extend it.

“So the map will involve Manchester’s raving community as much as possible to build the blueprint. We will rely on focus groups to steer the content, and will also run training and workshops to upskill members of the community wherever relevant.”

Get involved

The map is free to contribute, and will be launched at next year’s Manchester Histories Festival. In the meantime, any volunteers who would like to get involved with the project can attend one of its workshops which run from November.

Dr Justine Daniels, Director of the Research and Knowledge Exchange at Manchester Met, commented: “Beate’s project is a fascinating look at a seminal moment in British cultural history. It is quite unique in the way it unities multiple disciplines whether that’s art, music, local history, or digital forms of communication.

“We wish her the best, and look forward to seeing its outcomes at the Manchester Histories Festival next year.”

Monday, 23rd October 2017