A Night Out with the Flirty Farmers of Britain's Countryside Alliance

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A Night Out with the Flirty Farmers of Britain's Countryside Alliance

About a decade ago, the Alliance was at its prime, with members storming the House of Commons to demand the right to watch their dogs maul foxes to death. But what are they up to in 2015?

Photos by Jake Lewis

This post originally appeared on VICE UK.

Just over a decade ago, while dads dressed as Batman climbed Buckingham Palace to get their kids back and people still bought Dido albums, the Countryside Alliance were in their prime. They had always campaigned on a number of rural issues, but by 2002 the name had become synonymous with an opposition to the fox-hunting ban, something—bizarrely—the Tories have said they'll try to repeal if they win this year's general election.

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However, since the glory days—when Otis Ferry was attacking hunt monitors and protesters were storming Commons to defend their right to watch dogs maul foxes to death—the Alliance has faded from public view somewhat, begging the question: what exactly has become of them?

To find out, I decided to attend a Countryside Alliance fundraiser, which took the form of binge drinking in a Chelsea nightclub.

As I sorted tickets and planned the night I became even more curious; what would the attendees look, act, and sound like? Would they all be arthritic UKIP supporters, or is there a new generation of countryfolk hoping to shed the Alliance's image? To drag it into 2015, an age where hamlet-dwellers have shed the tweed and cords in favor of Pyrex and Hood By Air?

Before heading in I assumed there would be some party-specific decorations, or at least an allusion to a rural theme: some hay bales, perhaps, or a sparrow, or a complimentary blooding booth. However, on arrival, everything was much as I'd imagine it is every other night of the year—leather sofas, rum cocktails, and men wearing scarves inside.

I also assumed there might be a guest speaker—someone spouting the kind of fiery rhetoric needed to revitalize the now-ailing Countryside Alliance. There was none of that, either. In fact, the closest thing I saw to anything I'd imagined I might see was a man wearing red socks, two guys under 30 smoking cigars, and a few people in that waistcoat-pointy-shoe-jeans combo popularized by indie bands at the turn of the millennium and adopted by aspiring pick up artists.

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I suppose it's not too much of a surprise that, in the internet age, 13 years on from when every member of the Alliance had a common struggle to band them together, there wasn't much sense of unity—or even identity. Instead of having a distinctive vibe it kind of just felt like a normal night out in Chelsea, only with an extra early exodus so everyone could make it to the last train home from Victoria.

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See more photos of the night below:

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