Dancing and partying are universal. But in the underground free party scene, these activities become a radical form of expression. Although often misrepresented by the mainstream media and cracked down upon by authorities, the free party scene is still very much alive and stomping.
It now has something of its own portrait: “Out Of Order”, an incredible photographic reportage created by Qatar-born photographer and raver Molly MacIndoe, which began in 1997 and documents over a decade of illegal raves and teknivals in countries such as Britain, France and the Czech Republic.
From the infamous squat parties in nineties London to the Jordanian desert, MacIndoe’s intimate photographs capture her own friends and the faces of this multi-subcultural and international community, whose dedication to partying rarely let borders get in the way.
Now with plans to create a second book, Macindoe intends to push the project further afield by documenting the newer generation and developments of the scene in the UK and countries such as Bulgaria, Morocco, Jordan, Lebanon, Iran “and anywhere else I might get invited to. (hint hint)”, says Molly. “I believe that people everywhere, no matter how relaxed or oppressive their government, will find a way to create a free space to dance and interact with similar-minded people”, affirms Molly.
With the recent launch of her newly re-released book by Ditto Press, The OTHER decided to talk to Molly Macindoe about the international free party scene.
THE OTHER: What drew you in to the free party scene?
Molly Macindoe: A couple of friends at school had discovered it, and they figured I was alternative enough to be interested. I wasn’t into dance music when I went to my first rave. What I was looking for was a place and a community that I would feel comfortable in. Upon entering my first free party at the old Bingo hall in Wood Green, North London in 1997, I found exactly that.
What do you think is special about it as a community?
The whole scene is made up of people who have found a unity together in their contrariness. Despite vast demographic differences, these individuals share certain common experiences that have shaped them as people. Whether their childhood days were spent on traveller sites or in public schools, they share similar levels of individualism, independence and creativity. It is a network that changes, grows and connects across the world. For all the above reasons, I’ve never yet found a subject matter more consistently fascinating and inspiring to photograph.
What are the main differences between different countries’ party scenes?
The scene in Western Europe has been driven more underground. In France, the 2002 ‘Mariani Law’ linked free parties with terrorism, which led to a brutal crackdown. After violent clashes and nationwide protests, the government agreed to legalise a controlled amount of teknivals per year, creating a big divide within the scene. Czech Tek, which used to draw tens of thousands of people from all over the world without police intervention, no longer happens on such a massive scale after a full-scale battle with police in 2005 that shocked the nation. The scene in further Eastern Europe is expanding in size and popularity.
Tell me about one of the most unusual parties you’ve been to.
The Middle East Teknival in 2008 in the Jordanian desert. Jordan was chosen as the location because it is, apart from Egypt (less stable), the only country in the Middle East region that people from any nation can legally go to and gather together. The soundsystem linkup in the Jordan gathering at Wadi Rum was French, Austrian and Israeli. It was the first of its kind and was only possible through negotiations with the Bedouin tribe that lived in that area. The scenery was incredible– a desert landscape; it felt like raving on the moon! The party lasted for five days, during which the generator broke down three times. It was back to basics, and it reminded us of the core values of this scene: determination to have freedom of self expression in the form of music and dancing.
How would you describe how people dress at parties?
As an overall observation, anything goes, and anything is accepted. Compliments are paid for both the flamboyant fancy dress, and the newest Adidas hoodie. Squat party population is multi-subcultural and is subsequently a melting pot of fashion styles. In general terms I’d describe the fashion as stating individuality, counterculture and nonconformity.
Since you started going to the parties in the nineties, how do you feel the scene has evolved and changed?
Essentially, it’s not really changed that much in twenty years, just different crews. As laws, governments and national financial situations change, so does the scene and how it is organised. However the culture has continued to survive and adapt since the late 80s having more than one heyday and I believe this will continue. This evolutionary persistence sets the free party scene apart from other youth subcultures, making it a definitive subculture and way of life for many– not just a youth fashion.
The new second edition of Out of Order by Molly Macindoe is designed by Ditto Press. In addition to the original 400 images, there are 70 previously unseen photos, including 4 new events, totalling 77 parties over a span of 10 years.