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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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