As the dust continues to settle after last weekend’s police operation at an over-subscribed illegal rave in south London, little has been heard from the organisers of the free party – titled ‘Scumoween: A Nightmare on Scum Street’.
Time Out Nightlife reached out to the crew behind the rave, known as Scum Tek. Their Facebook page – which states as its mission ‘Big filthy raves and dissent from the system’ and occasionally posts 9/11 truther memes – has been a magnet for reflections on what happened last Saturday, both positive and negative. But we felt a bit of official clarification was in order, given the mass of conflicting media stories regarding the activities of ravers and police alike.
Amongst other things, they deny claims made in the Evening Standard that another rave is being planned for tonight, to celebrate Bonfire Night. There’s also the creeping suggestion that London’s ongoing purge of nightlife venues could lead to more similar illegal raves such as these – something the mooted London Night Mayor should probably dwell on.
First off, what is Scum Tek exactly? How did it all begin?
‘Scum Tek is a gathering of musicians and performers. Anyone is welcome to contribute a sound or style to the party and no one is turned away because of taste. It’s free in spirit and free to attend. It began because this country’s clubs have been refused licences. Small music venues are closing down at a rapid rate. Lots of very expensive apartments reside on former clubs (or clubs are earmarked for development into them) and festivals are dwindling. This all threatens the creative hub that is the UK.’
Was Scumoween actually a good party before it all kicked off outside?
‘The party was good inside, but there can never be a highlight when things are marred by bad decisions.’
You told people a few days before on Facebook to ‘stay peaceful, stay calm’. What caused that not to happen, do you think?
‘Because the police surrounded the building. They called for riot back-up and pushed people out into the surrounding streets. There have been thousands of unlicensed parties over the years that the police have attended that went off with no trouble from either side: compromises are made. We don’t condone the actions of a handful of partygoers out of thousands. But we do not agree with the heavy handling of the partygoers either.’
‘Many people put in a lot of hard work to do something free for the love of music’
What’s the biggest misconception about the event that you’ve seen in the media coverage?
‘That there was no dialogue with the police. There were attempts by many people – from partygoers to performers – to try and talk to the police from behind the gates (access in or out was being prohibited at this point) about the numbers attending and how it would be safer to allow them in. Unfortunately the police had begun to turn their attention to the people arriving and communication became very difficult. Anyone involved with putting on parties understands that peaceful discussion is what makes or breaks an event.’
Loads of large parties still happen in London though. What’s stopping Scum Tek from putting on parties legally?
‘The government introduced TENs (temporary event notices), apparently to make it easier for unknown musicians to put on their own festivals and events. However these can be subject to council or police review at any time before the day, even if already approved. This has crushed many small promoters and is a very dangerous thing for the continued influence of our country’s music on the world.’
We’re sympathetic to the fact it’s really hard to put on a party in London now. But don’t you think that confrontations like the one that happened on Saturday will make it harder for everyone in future?
‘It has been difficult for some time. We are very worried that this will have a knock on impact on these events. England’s music culture is suffering with the many licensing requirements and abject refusals for small festivals and startups. Despite the problems that arose outside, there was a mass of homegrown music talent inside.’
Will you do another party? Is this the end?
‘Many people put in a lot of hard work to do something free for the love of music. A few ruined it.’
The Evening Standard are claiming that you plan to host another party today, for Bonfire Night. Is that true?
‘No we are not, that’s a spurious rumour.’
Finally, who was really behind 9/11?
‘We don’t know, how about you?’
In other London nightlife news, The Coronet in Elephant & Castle is closing. Boo.