On Saturday evening, thousands of people turned up to a party in Croydon. The problem was, the venue for the rave – a disused Royal Mail sorting office – could only accommodate a few hundred, leaving the majority of those pouring out of the train station to either stand around outside, drinking beers and smoking weed, or try to force their way into the party. Before long, the police showed up, tried to control the situation, had “missiles” pelted at them, gave up and resolved to just stand guard until everyone had cleared off.
The following day it was reported that a number of people had been taken to hospital, either because of illness or injuries. Tragically, one of those taken sick – 15-year-old Rio Andrew – passed away on Monday. Police have suggested that his death may have had something to do with drugs.
Another partier to leave the rave in an ambulance was 16-year-old “Josh”, who lost most of his left pinkie halfway through the night. I gave him and his friend "Fraser" – who was with him at the time – a call to find out exactly what happened.
VICE: Hey guys. So how did you hear about the rave?
Josh: I basically knew quite a few people going, so I thought it was going to be pretty legit. It was a good night – I’m not going to lie. I enjoyed what I had of it, but it wasn’t really worth the hassle of getting there and stuff.
How many people do you reckon were there?
Fraser: I reckon about 4,000 turned up, which is a lot compared to other raves I’ve been to. The promoters always have a good turnout, though. We hated the venue – it was over-hyped. The stairs were constantly packed and the drum 'n' bass room was too small.
How was it trying to get into the venue?
Well, everyone found out about the venue and got a train there, and the station is really close to the post office. This was at about 10.30 or 11PM, and that’s when the crowds gathered and the police came.
What were the crowd like?
Some of them were throwing missiles at the police, and me and my friends didn’t want to get hit so we started walking backwards away from it. That’s when we saw people in the rave shouting, "Go around the side!" When we got there, there were people climbing over the fence trying to get in and kicking down the wooden fences. Luckily we got in through a side door. Police were everywhere, to be honest, and they were quite violent at times – I saw one raver being jumped on and kneed in the chest when he was detained.
But they let the party carry on for a bit, right?
Yeah, but that was after a solid half-hour to an hour of trying to stop people from getting into the rave. Then they realised that if they did hold everyone for any longer, it could turn into a riot. They stayed outside the building for the whole night to make sure there was no trouble.
J: No one had any bad intentions; they just wanted to get into the rave. The police don’t understand the mentality – we just want to get inside, hear the music, have our night and go home.
So what happened with your finger, Josh?
Well, at about 1AM we were up in the house room, but I don’t really like house so I was waiting for the drum 'n' bass to kick in. As soon as I heard it, me and my mate went down there. Five minutes in, the fire alarm starting going off and everyone was like, "Rip it off! Rip it off!" So I thought I’d give it a go. I was completely sober at the time. I jumped up, grabbed it and my little finger got caught in the case because it was all broken, and as I came to rip it back down, my little finger got ripped off completely.
Jesus. What did you do next?
I looked at my hand and my little finger was gone – the bone was sticking out. It’s the weirdest feeling; one second you’re fine and your little finger is there, and the next second it’s gone. It shoves reality up your backside. I was in so much pain and shock that the first thing that hit my head was the beat and the bass. The bass was hard, so I just ripped off my top, wrapped it around my finger and tied it up as tight as I could and skanked it out for half an hour. My mentality was, 'I’ve only been here for an hour, I’ve paid £10 for this night, I’ve lost my little finger – am I seriously going to go? Nah, I’m going to skank until I can’t skank any more.' After that, my mate dragged me down to the paramedics.
What did they say?
I said to him, "Is there any chance you can bandage it up and I can just rave on?" He was like, "Nah, you’re going to hospital, mate." There was also a chance of septicaemia because of the dirt, so he got some medical acid, poured it right onto the finger and all the flesh around it melted right in front of my eyes. That was the worst pain I’ve ever felt in my life.
I can't believe you carried on dancing in the first place.
Well, what can you do? There are fit girls around you, the bass is hard, the music is popping. I didn’t want to be the sore thumb sticking out – or the sore pinkie – so I was like, "Fuck it, let's skank on and enjoy it."
And what happened to your severed finger?
It pinged off into the crowd. I got told later that a bunch of stoners found my little finger and were playing catch with it.
What happens now?
Basically, it’s just gone, innit. I’ve just got a little stump left. What can I do? The person in the ambulance asked me, "What are you going to do, mate?" I was just like, "Shit happens." It’s nothing, really – I’ve lost one little finger, while a 15-year-old boy has lost his life. What am I complaining about? My heart goes out to his friends and family. It’s heartbreaking.
Yeah, that was tragic news. So has everything that happened that night put you off raving in the future?
No. The next rave is in July – you’ll see me there. Raving isn’t a dangerous thing. Obviously accidents do happen, but there are people around you 24/7 who are willing to help. It’s a calm environment; everyone’s just there to enjoy themselves.
More stories about raves: