Most of us enjoy a good party: acid house and the Home Office

  • Daithi Mac Sithigh (Advisor)

Activity: Talk or presentation typesOral presentation


Between 1988 and 1990, the phenomenon of the acid house party (or the warehouse rave, or the outdoor music festival) prompted significant political and press reaction. From the ‘second summer of love’ of 1988, through high-profile and sometimes controversial events in 1989, and on to the Entertainment (Increased Penalties) Act 1990, debates encompassed the reach of licensing law, the appropriate use of police powers, the changing topography of England (whether rural or motorway), and the emergence of subcultures, fads, and political movements. Contemporary and subsequent scholarship highlights the period as conforming with some of the features of a moral panic, as well as a decisive step towards later legislation (including the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 on raves and later licensing law reforms).

In this paper, I offer a new assessment of this period, through a close study of recently released archive material from the Home Office, which was an important site of analysis and debate. The origins of the 1990 Act (often sidelined in existing accounts) are explored in more detail than has been possible before now, as is the significance of key parties (e.g. Maidenhead in June 1989, Reigate in September 1989) and tabloid coverage, and influential players (ranging from the Prime Minister to various Chief Constables to an inchoate form of Tory anarcho-capitalism). I also identify the role played by technological change, by the context of public order policing in the 1980s, and by the different trajectory of the debate in the north of England and in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Period27 Mar 2018
Event titleSLSA Annual Conference 2018
Event typeConference
LocationBristol, United Kingdom
Degree of RecognitionInternational