Memories of the West Country Rave Scene 1992-1994
Itís great to see such enthusiasm for the scene after all these years. Old skool rave was, in my eyes, the most pivotal point of dance music development. I take great pleasure in seeing the likes of Grooverider, Fabio and Slipmatt still out there with many other old skool DJs, drawing the crowds with their old and new sounds.
I remember meeting Slipmatt in Ibiza during the summer of 2000. He was headlining an event with Boy George and started his set off with some old skool tunes. I was pissed and couldnít help but stomp around the front of the arena, Slipmatt couldnít help but notice me and when I spoke to him later he joked about my obsession for the scene after all those years. He kindly pointed out too that I was probably the oldest sod on the dance floor!
My memories of the old skool scene started when I made my first visit to a nightclub. I was 16 and desperate to pop my clubbing cherry. I refused to opt for a Saturday night of cheese and instead, I bought a ticket to see The Prodigy on their Experience Tour. It was their first tour date and I nervously begun my holy pilgrimage to Goldiggers Nightclub in Chippenham, armed with some fake ID. On a school night too. Big respect to mum and dad, you never knew what you were letting yourself in for.
What a night Keith Flint joined us on the dance floor and I realised that my raving days were just beginning! I returned to Devotion at Goldiggers night after night on Fridays, experiencing the likes of Baby D, Top Buzz, Grooverider, Devious D and many more. It was the place to be and people from all over the country came down to experience Wiltshireís number one rave venue. Respect to the Devotion Crew you know who you are and know what Iím talking about.
Goldiggers quenched my thirst for the rave scene but it still wasnít enough. During April 1993 I went on an A level Biology field trip to Somerset. I failed Biology and I can only think that I failed because my mind was on other things my first real rave was scheduled for that weekend. I had tickets for Universe Tribal Gathering at Warminster and had spent more than two weeks planning which arenas and DJs to see. When I got home from the field trip I was chuffed to discover that my copy of Tanith/Producer at Universe, Mind Body and Soul had arrived in the post. My first original rave tape. If you havenít got this set it in your collection buy it or else youíll regret it for the rest of your life! I think my parents were glad to send my off to Universe that night and so were the neighbours. Martyrs.
I was still seventeen and sported shoulder length permed hair with chunky Filas and baggy jeans. My attire was always complemented by a Universe Sun Hat that never left my head. I grabbed my vicks, white gloves and whistle and set off for Universe with a fellow raver from Chippenham (how could we forget this one Batesy!!!!). It seemed to take forever to arrive because the traffic for the event was immense (16,000 ravers!). The search queue was just as bad but we got into the grounds at around 4pm ready for one hell of a long session. The night was fantastic. At one point I stumbled into the arena hosting the staged sex show. Thanks a bunch Universe cos I ended up missing Carl Cox as my teenage hormones took over. Worse still I lost Batesy and spent until 2am looking for him!
The great thing about the rave scene was the diversity of people you would meet. Despite being alone, searching through 16,000 people for Batesy, I ended up meeting people from all over the country. Many asking me what Devotion was like at Goldiggers. I met groups of bikers, metal heads, crusties, mums, dads and even some grandparents! I met so many wonderful people that night and when I finally met up with Batesy we hit the arenas, scoffed the free sweets and oranges and perused the record and merchandise stalls. The laser show was second to none and the robots on stilts created a mystical atmosphere that could never be beaten. I did three more Universe events that year and no dance event has compared to them since. The Criminal Justice Act took its toll on events like Spiral Tribe and eventually the Police closed down Devotion night at Goldiggers. Goldiggers never regained its popularity after this and closed down for good some years later.
I followed the scene into 1994 but grew out of the hardcore scene when it went happy. I still feel that it was this era that killed the rave scene and turned the raves into organised youth club events. I continued to follow the techno scene with my life long buddy Stu Ayres. The Brunel Rooms was probably my last great memory in 1994 and was complimented with Top Buzz on the main stage. Iím sure many will disagree with my dislike of happy hardcore but my only regret is that I missed out on the 1991/1992 rave scene.
I went to University in Cheltenham a couple of years later and discovered that my course technician was Simon Kemmett from PSI! Big thanks to Simon for keeping me focussed on the good old days and supplying me with some excellent Fantazia sets! Thanks also to The Producer for selling me those wicked records at his shop in Bath. Thereís nothing better than having your sales assistant play you a private set in an attempt to flog some vinyl.
Ebay, keeps me hooked on buying old skool sets and vinyl like never before. What I really need though is one more massive old skool event. I now live in Gloucestershire so no excuses Fantazia! Top One Nice One.
History of Goldiggers Venue
Pre 1980 various
1980: The district council granted a 30-year lease for a multi-purpose entertainment centre to a consortium, who converted the building and created Goldiggers Nightclub.
September 2000: The lease was forfeited for non-payment of rent, and the building repossessed.
A public consultation indicated people wanted the building used for leisure purposes.
July 2001: The district council's Executive resolved to grant a 125-year lease to E&J Redditch Ltd.
May 2002: Contracts were exchanged after protracted negotiations.
June 2003: More than a year later completion had not taken place. The contract was rescinded on June 23, 2003.
December 2003: Developers Tribecka chosen to take over the lease, with Churchill Retirement Living as second choice.
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