Looking Back: Rave Culture

As summer solstice has just flown by, at PYMCA we’re taking a nostalgic look into the eclectic body of 80s and 90s Rave photography in our archive. From the early illegal raves, to the short-lived late 2000s revival of ‘Nu-Rave’, the work harks back to a unique era of mass congregation, bold fashion statements, and unparalleled euphoria.

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Clubbers dancing outdoors, Amnesia II Courtyard, Ibiza 1989 © David Swindells/PYMCA

The photographic work that ensued from rave culture represented an era of young photographers vibrantly compelled to document the wonders of a drastic new youth movement. Born out of the exotic 80s cool of Ibiza, the rave scene exploded from the Balearics and relentlessly stained British shores with neon paint.

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5am at Tribal Dance rave M25 Orbital, East Grinstead, UK August 1989 © David Swindells/PYMCA

Spreading from the famed and notorious Ibiza clubs ‘Ku’ and ‘Pasha’, the rave scene took on a life of its own. Powered by a powerful mass of enthused teens, illegal raves littered the breadth of the country from abandoned mines, warehouses and from underneath the M25 Orbital.

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Sweaty ravers on the dance floor at Joy Shoom club London July 1988 © David Swindells/PYMCA

This era represented a time where club culture took a real hold on the musical mainstream, and where young people really felt they could not only take the new music, but the venues into their own hands. The scene –  powerfully flavoured by the carefree spirit of the Hippies, and tainted with endearingly garish bright colour, made its way towards London’s flagging club scene – igniting noturious venue’s such as ‘Shoom’ it its path. Shoom used the famed ‘Smiley’ logo which went on to become a universal sign of rave culture.

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Trip with Aciid t-shirt Trip acid house club night the Astoria London 1988 © David Swindells/PYMCA

Even after the demise of Rave, Acid-House and Ecstacy, rave culture continued to change the club scene forever. Its unforgettable substance fuelled out of body/mind experiences left a mark on modern day clubbing attitudes, and even spawned its own short lived doppelgänger in the late 2000s, Nu Rave.

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A girl in Nu Rave styles. Anti-social 24.03.2007. Bar Music Hall, London. © Mr Hartnett/PYMCA

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