The word ‘rave’ (possibly from the Old French rêve, to dream or to be delirious) is associated with frenzy, and the term ‘raver’ has been in use in British slang since the 1960s for a reveller or partygoer. Buddy Holly’s song ‘Rave On’ may also have given rise to the coinage. Raves have been supported by youth subcultural groups spanning a wide range of social, ethnic and income divisions, and have a pan-European youth cultural influence. Raves started in Britain in the mid-1980s. They are usually in rural locations but the concept probably derives from urban acid house parties. Rave organizers rent a hall or farmer’s field and sell tickets for this undisclosed location. On the night only, partygoers will be given directions to the event and large convoys of cars will travel, often hundreds of miles, to the all-night party. The original music of raves was disco, but it later changed to techno and indie pop. Detractors accuse rave music of being just a variant of ‘headbanging’, and suggest that the experience of raves is more to do with non-stop, uninhibited, vigorous dancing, enabled by drugs, than with an appreciation of the music. Ravers often adopt uniform clothing styles: for example many female ravers, ‘rave grannies’, wear long black ‘granny’ dresses over Dr Martens boots. Police objections to these mass happenings are based on the fact that they create traffic problems, are unlicensed and are places where drugs, particularly ecstasy or ‘E’, are taken. Rave supporters attribute police hostility to a distrust of any manifestation of youth popular culture which they cannot control. Raves, among other forms of spontaneous gathering, led to government giving the police special powers of arrest under the Criminal Justice Act (1994), whose provisions were so ‘catch all’ in terms of their curtailment of rights of population movement and assembly that even the staid Ramblers’ Association felt threatened. Debate surrounding raves has centred on whether they indicate a loss of values, are just an aspect of drug culture, or offer a form of carnivalesque freedom. This would make them a cultural practice where there is no distinction between actors and spectators, a space to which the hedonistic and marginalized retreat and where rules are temporarily suspended.
   See also: clubs; rave culture
   Further reading
    Redhead, S. (1990) The End of the Century Party: Youth and Pop Towards 2000, Manchester: Manchester University Press (short and often sweeping, but still a punchy cultural politics review of rap, rave and youth culture).

Encyclopedia of contemporary British culture . . 2014.

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