Inside the Illegal Rave Where a Man Was Stabbed This Weekend

We spoke to organisers and punters about the importance of proper security at unlicensed events.
Simon Doherty
London, GB
illegal rave london

A man is "fighting for his life" after being stabbed on Monday morning at an unlicensed party deep in east London's Hackney Marshes. Police got to the scene at 6.55AM, to find the victim – in his mid-twenties – with knife wounds. He was promptly rushed to hospital, where he remains in critical condition.

The man's friend, 19, was found unconscious nearby, but his injuries are not thought to be life-threatening.


Rosie, a 21-year-old student, was at the rave, but left after a couple of hours, as she "thought it was a bit weird". She's no stranger to the underground scene, but usually goes to unlicensed events that have security and a door tax. "It was just how dark it was and the fact that they didn't even have a bar selling water," she recalls.

What else made her feel unsafe? "It seemed like there might be trouble. It wasn't as organised as a rave that I'd normally go to; you're getting money out in front of people way off in the woods, where nobody else can really see you. I just had a bad feeling about it all; I didn't see any security whatsoever, and there were so many people walking around selling drugs."

Inside the UK's Illegal Raves

A 31-year-old lawyer named Alex* was also at the party. "With this one, there was no security, lighting or entrance fee – just a sound system," he tells me. "I met some [women] there and they said that someone had tried to grab them and touch them against their will."

When he found out the following day that someone had been stabbed, he was disappointed. "I've been going to those types of events for a few years and I've never seen an incident, but it's the first one I've been to with no security," he says.

While he doesn't think this one incident will damage the scene, he hopes it will make less experienced promoters be more considerate of those attending their parties.

I spoke to the organiser of the party, who – for obvious reasons – did not want to be named in this article. "I'm not entirely sure what happened, mate," he said. "But all I know is that there was a small fight that broke out and one man in his twenties got stabbed in the chest." He claims they did provide five security guards for the event, and that lighting wasn't an issue as the incident happened in the morning. "We had security doing as much as they could to stop this sort of thing happening, but there was way over 500 people there, so it was pretty hard to control," he said. "We would usually have one bouncer for every 50 people, but it got way out of hand."


He added: "We're not doing any more open-air parties because of this now. Of course this has damaged the whole underground scene, but it could have happened at any of the parties. We try as much as we can to stop this stuff happening, but sometimes it gets out of our control; it's the first time this has ever happened at any of our parties – or, in fact, any illegal party I've ever attended. Also, this happens at massive controlled festivals as well, like Eastern Electrics a few weeks ago with four stabbings in one day. So even if you put certain security measures in place, there's always the risk of someone getting through with a knife."

illegal rave sussex

An illegal rave in Falmer, East Sussex. Photo: Chloe Parker / Alamy Stock Photo

For the more seasoned promoters of unlicensed open-air events, security is used effectively to avoid trouble. I spoke to an organiser of one of London's most respected underground parties, who I won't name – but if you've been to any illegal raves in the city you'll be able to give it a pretty good guess.

"Since day one, our number one priority has been safety," he explained. "We actually deliberately book more security than we need, just as an extra precaution." Are people happy to pay for this, even though it's not a licensed event? "A security team does cost money, so yes, an entry fee has to be applied to cover those costs, but I can tell you that 99 percent of the ravers are happy to pay for peace of mind. It's our moral duty to make sure the people who attend are safe – it's as simple as that. Let's hope more promotors start putting safety first."


Another promoter – again, who can't be named – who's put on unlicensed raves told me that security is her number one consideration: "The security plays an important role in the flow of the party, checking people, keeping disturbances out and making everyone feel safe in case something out of hand happens."

Have their security been busy? "It's rare, but we've had to instruct security to chuck people out for inappropriate behaviour towards others." Like Alex, she doesn't think this incident will damage the overall scene. "The unlicensed party scene is responsible for the most part, and there's a good standard of safety all around. Unfortunately these incidents can happen even in a nightclub," she said. "But no security? A total no-go."

When you rock up at a free party at 7AM and see a whirl of clubbers getting loose, being open about drug use and expressing themselves in a way that's usually impossible with restrictions placed on us by laws and licensing committees, you do experience a sense of freedom. It's easy to think that anything goes, but for good parties, that's not the case; there's a true art to putting on events like this – and for the pros, the safety of the clientele comes before anything else.

*Name changed at the request of the subject.