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Universe - Tribal Gathering

Universe won the Mixmag Best Rave of the Year Award for 1992, but by September 1993 its holding company, BTY Ltd was forced into liquidation and Universe was wound up.  Universe always delivered its promises, but staging such huge events like Tribal gathering and Big Love became almost impossible when the police and local authorities started charging extortionate prices to control and license events.

In addition to new government legislation to control raves, local authorities up and down the country put controls on the illegal parties that were springing up everywhere and muscled in on the big bucks they knew the promoters were making.

More Info

Tribal Gathering
Tribal Gathering 2
Tribal Gathering 3
Big Love Review
Tribal Gathering Review
Universe Closure/Flyers
Final Frontier
Universe CDs & DVD
Paul Shurey Interview

Universe  wasn't the only victim, countless others suffered at the hands of the authorities who would demand up to 35,000 for a license, and then impose further controls by sending in the environmental health officer to turn the sound down or, occasionally, off altogether if it got to loud.   This was the case of the Mixmag's club tour named Gone to the Dogs, at their second rave party with Exodus in Kings Lynn - they got shut down for too high a sound level.

Universe was founded in early 1990 by Paul Shurrey and Rob Vega.  Their first events were illegal warehouse parties, under the name "Brainstorm", planned with military precision using meeting points and mobile telephone numbers.  Their parties mainly came off because Paul and Rob would ensure that they were the only ones who knew the precise location of the party until the very last minute.   By the time the police had discovered its location, the party would be in full swing, with all roads blocked with convoys of traffic heading towards it.   All this came about through linking up with elements of the traveller scene such as Circus Warp and Irritant.   These parties exploded with up to 10,000 people showing up each time in places as diverse as an underground World War II munitions dump and a disused art gallery.

Tough Legislation to combat illegal parties toward the end of 1989 led to the decision that a credible backer should be found, and this culminated in the first legal Universe party put on in Bath on August 29th 1991.

Paul and Rob's right man to front their outfit and liaise with the authorities where license applications and police presence was concerned, was Roger Spurrell, former Captain for five years of Bath, England's top rugby team.

Paul, himself a former musician, had worked in promotions for London / FFRR Records before leaving to become the man responsible for concepts, marketing, promotions, management and line-ups of Universe.

As for Rob Vega, nobody is quite sure where he came from.  Emerging from the traveller convey community, he became responsible for all the production elements of the parties.

The three made a weird combination, but they were united in their intention to stage better parties than those organised by money-minded rip-off merchants.

Their ethos was:

  1. To stage parties that people would remember for the rest of their lives.
  2. To bring together as diverse a mixture of part goers as possible
  3. To introduce a steady stream of new ideas, making each party unique and exciting in its endeavour to educate and open up people's minds.
  4. To operate in a professional and business-like way.
  5. To provide value for money
  6. To always attempt to give more than was promised on any of their flyers.
  7. to care for and respect the welfare and safety of their customers

"Of course," says Paul, "what was learnt in reality was that it was impossible to continue to get bigger and better on an endless curve.  The time comes that you stage such a ridiculously expensive mind-bending party like Tribal Gathering, that anything afterwards pales in comparison.  Universe was run so tight to the wire, that when we staged our first ever loss making party - Time Machine - together with the strain on resources of setting up a party in California, we were suddenly in trouble.  "Big Love" proved at the time that it had become virtually impossible in the country's climate to stage a large scale, well run, innovative party, while having to permanently battle with the authorities about such things as 50,000 policing bills.  "Big Love", despite its success as an event, even with 14,500 people there and an all-out attempt to tighten costs, still only broke even and was not successful enough to reverse the situation.

"Therefore a rethink was required, and the result was "The Final Frontier", our phenomenally successful weekly club in London, which gained critical acclaim from the world's  top DJs, media and public alike".

Paul Shurrey later returned to hold more Tribal Gatherings, this time under the umbrella of  promotions company Mean Fiddler group (also behind The Reading Festival).   They held a few parties before licensing became an issue once again.

Universe Events

Universe - Out Of This World (1st) (30 Aug 91)
Universe - In 2 Orbit (1 May 92)
Universe - Pleasure Planet (19 Jun 92)
Universe - Mind Body Soul (11 Sep 92)
Universe - In The Underworld (4 Dec 92)
Universe - Tribal Gathering (30 Apr 93)
Universe - Time Machine (4 Jun 93)
Universe - Big Love (13 Aug 93)
UK Tribal Gathering 95 (Mean Fiddler) (6 May 95)
Tribal Gathering 96 (Mean Fiddler) (4 May 96)


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