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Britain at Night

This Is the Guy You Call When You Want to Put On an Illegal Rave

"When the police come down, the police aren't in charge, we're in charge."

On Monday 23rd May, VICE launches Locked Off, a documentary about Britain's illegal rave scene. It follows teenagers up and down the country who, with the help of bolt-cutters and complicated loopholes in squatting laws, turn disused spaces and empty warehouses into the venues for wild parties.

Sections of the film follow Jimmy Whyte, a 22-year-old kid from London who acts as a sort of rave "fixer", hunting down venues for promoters, securing them, using his expertise to deal with police and security. Ahead of the film's release, we talked to Jimmy about what it takes to put on a rave.


VICE: How would you explain what you do? You're not really a promoter…
Jimmy: Well, I used to be. I used to throw my own parties. But now I prefer to do a little bit of a back role, helping other people to do their parties. Someone will contact me, asking me for a building or something, or they'll ask me to speak to the police at the event for them. They let me know what they need doing and then I'll help them out in whatever it is. It's getting them locations, speaking to police, giving them advice on what's what.

Let's get into specifics. How do you find an empty warehouse and secure it for a party?
If it's a building that's not really watched that often, we'd go in on the day and set-up. But if it's a five-star venue, proper upmarket kind of place, then it's good to let the police know that we're in there, because they then have to get high court orders to get us out, so we squat it for a few nights beforehand which leaves us a little bit of time. And also, if we then try to get into it on the night and we mess it up, we're left with no building on the day. It depends on what type of building it is, really.

What have been some of the best places?
We did a party at Burberry HQ, Piccadilly Circus. They left a window open. Normally when I say that I mean, "they left a window open", but this time they really left a window open. And you know SE1, the club that closed down? We took that over. Once it had been closed down, we took that over and partied that.


So most times do the police show up?
Yeah, I buzz off it. Many, many, many times before, police have come down, and I've left them speechless. They just don't know what to do. They're all calling their fucking chief inspector to find out what to do. That's one of the funnest parts of the night. Sometimes I enjoy it more than the party, speaking to police.

When the police come, do they sometimes just let the rave happen?
Well they can't come and shut it down, because we'd be like, no. Give me a good reason why. There's so many loopholes due to the squatting laws. With squatting, you're allowed up to 500 people in the building before it becomes illegal. But by the time 500 people are in the building, it's going to be hard to shut it down.

And it could be dangerous to clear out 600 people…
Well, look what happened at ScumTek on Halloween. They [police] went nuts, the ravers went nuts.

What would it take for them to actually come in and shut the party down?Violence, a drug overdose or something like that has to happen in the party for them to enter it. With a Section 63 [of the Criminal Justice Bill], it basically says that you have to be invited into the place to come in.

Like vampires?
Ha, yeah.

When the police come down, the police aren't in charge, we're in charge. I buzz off all of that.

Are you putting yourself in any criminal danger?
Obviously it's illegal what we're doing, but I try my hardest to keep myself not getting into anything too serious. For example, I'll look at the building and find the least criminal way of getting into it.


How many times have you been arrested or charged during or after an event?

And you've been doing these for six years…
Yeah, and in the space of six years, I only have known one person to go to jail, and that was because they did a bit of a stupidity in the rave. But I've only known that once. I've never seen any kind of charges or anything to anyone, and I'm quite shocked by it. Because of the amount of damages, costs, money laundering, tax evasion - a lot of people should've gone to jail.

Why do you think they haven't?
Because the police don't know who to go to. If the promoter has been a bit obvious about whose rave it is, then police will knock at their door, and all they will say is "we advise you not to do the party." They don't say, "You can't do the party or else we're going to nick you." There's too many loopholes in it, otherwise they'd nick them straight away and say, "conspiracy to host an illegal rave". But they don't do that. They just advise you. If the government didn't want these things to happen, they'd patch up the loopholes.

TRAILER: Locked Off: A Film About Britain's Illegal Rave Scene

People talk about reclaiming unused spaces as a political action, too. Do you subscribe to that view – raves as resistance?
That's what I do. I like to follow the political side of squats. I organised a big protest in Shoreditch, the freedom-to-party protest. I was proud of that. Just having the police all standing there, doing nothing to stop it. That's the kind of things that I'm into. I'm more into doing the political side of things than I am actually doing a party. That's why rave was so big in the 80s, because it was more political. It wasn't just about partying, it was about taking a stand.


I guess the one thing I don't really understand is what's in it for you. Why do you put yourself at risk to organise all these parties for other people?Obviously there's a bit of you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours. There are costs that need to be covered, because I'm putting my neck out. But honestly the main reason why I'm doing this is: I like anarchy. I love it, I buzz off it. Being able to say fuck you to the system is why I do it.

What do you see as anarchy?
Feeling as if I'm above the system, not being a law-abiding citizen all the time. When the police come down, the police aren't in charge, we're in charge. I buzz off all of that. That's one of my main reasons why I do what I do.

When you started the film, you had your face covered and you said you didn't want scrutiny because of "things you'd done in the scene". But by the end, you wanted your face to be shown because you want people to know it's you. Why?
I'm proud of what I do, regardless. When my grandkids are born, I'll be like, "I did this, I did that." I couldn't give a shit what happens afterwards, even if the police try and use the footage as evidence – there's nothing in it that can really incriminate me, because I've said the right things. In my life, I don't do anything else that's incriminating at all. I've had many, many jobs. I don't follow a life of crime. It's just something that, ever since I've been involved with it, I've buzzed off it. It's like an alter ego. You can go to these places and it's different from the normal lifestyle.


Thanks Jimmy. I'm calling you up next time I get a noise complaint from my neighbour.

VICE have repeatedly sought comment from the police in making Locked Off. All requests have been denied.

Locked Off premieres on Vice on Monday, 23rd May. Watch the trailer here.

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The Secret Gangland History of the Haçienda Nightclub

NOS Balloons, Shotter Bags and Squat Parties: Understanding the New Urban

I Sleep Where You Danced: What Happens to Nightclubs After They Close Down?