Blog Week 4

Rave culture has arguably become one of the most dominant youth subcultures to have ever existed in British society.

From causing moral panic amongst the tabloid press and being perceived as a threat to the very moral fabric of society to certain sectors of society embracing it as part of the mainstream, this subculture has and perhaps continues to split societal opinion.

“Ecstasy and rave culture go hand in glove” (Redhead p13, 2000). Originally perceived as something that threatened to corrupt British youth beyond repair, the media has in general taken a dim view of this subculture and the drug use associated with it.

Moral panics abounded throughout the late eighties and into the nineties of the perceived social menace that was rave culture.

Moral panics of drug taking, sensationalized by the tabloid press, amongst this “chemical generation” of British youth were fuelling the government to take action against this new so-called menace to society. Fields and warehouses were turned into nighttime theme parks, however this was all highly illegal territory and these entrepreneurs came to be seen as the ‘folk devils’ of their day.

Perhaps the attraction in these raves was that there was a sense of adventure, a game of cat and mouse between raver and policeman, pirate radio stations gave out false information to deter the police as ravers rang various numbers to find the secret location of the rave. The Hacienda was now the home of Acid House as ravers traveled across the country to experience the super club in the country’s clubbing capital, and then known as “Madchester”.

Perhaps the only other threat in recent times was the tragic death of teenager Leah Betts on November 16th 1995. This received intense media coverage and her parents set up a campaign with Leah’s face plastered across billboards the length and breadth of the country. Beneath her face was the slogan “Sorted” with the grim warning below it “Just one ecstasy tablet took Leah Betts”.

Undeterred by such events many clubbers continued to take ecstasy. The largest ever survey done on the subject by Lifeline and Mixmag in 1996, suggested that more and more people were experimenting with the drug and few anticipated giving it up in the near future.

Rave culture has brought not only new genre’s of music into our domain, it has also provided us with new forms of lifestyle and job opportunities.

Jungle, Drum and Bass, Happy Hardcore, Old Skool, Progressive House, Trance, Garage, Gabba, Grime, Hard House, Techno, and many more genre-defying tunes have sprung from the initial invasion of Acid House to Great Britain.

The drug, commonly known as ecstasy, was made illegal in Britain on account of this thousands of young, mostly law abiding although some clearly not, Britons were committing a criminal offence every weekend.

Since 1996 there has been an increase in the use of cocaine among young people, especially among young men.” (Office of National Statistics)

Adult society worries itself sick over youth and its indulgences, whilst continuing to provide the means by which youth can (legally) get off their heads (using alcohol), adding an envious tinge to whatever excesses make the morning papers or breakfast television.

For every raver who takes ecstasy there is one who chooses not to, it is left as the choice of the individual to break the law and consume drugs at a rave. Many do so and many do not. Acid was not dead however, it had returned underground. Rave and clubbing culture runs much deeper than simple drug use. However the tabloid press would struggle to see it from this point of view.

The coverage by the mass media as a whole has become less extensive and believes its because people are less shocked by rave culture – rave culture is no longer sensational enough for tabloid editors. This is an indication of the successful integration of rave culture into British mainstream.


Collin, M. (1998) Altered State: The Story of Ecstasy Culture and Acid house.
Malbon, B (1999) Clubbing: dancing, ecstasy and vitality, Routledge: London
Reynolds, S. (1999) Generation Ecstasy: Into the world of Techno and Rave culture Little, Brown and Company.


By Slavik

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