‘In Bristol last year an ‘Ebola Ball’ themed illegal rave was shut down resulting in the arrests of eight party-goers and the assault of three police officers. Police had already tried to put a stop to the free party by identifying and contacting the organisers. When this didn’t work, a unit of officers with police dogs raided the industrial estate where the event was taking place – only to be targeted by missiles on arrival. Incidents like this are not rare in the UK, and speak of what appears to be the gradual death of the secret, nomadic party – exterminated by a climate of tension and distrust.
‘Quietly and coolly however, Bristol based Alfresco Disco have been disproving this rule for the past decade. Since 2005 they have been throwing stranger, wilder and braver secret parties in Bristol and beyond; defying the trend of extinction they have grown bigger and bolder with age. The success of their parties perhaps offers an insight into how secret nights in unknown quarters can best be preserved – and the answer, it seems, isn’t throwing shit at the police.
The Alfresco team see the secret party as a different entity, something tailored and specific, worthy of investment, both in terms of money and ideas. Having graduated from the free party scene, their events are planned rigorously, framed just inside the limits of the law with just enough structure to save them from spiraling into potential chaos. In working the way they do, they potentially showcase a future for the secret party – rather than forcing themselves further underground, they preserve the ideals of a hidden rave through ingenuity. In essence, it is impromptu fun done very fucking well.
‘Luke and Tom are two of the faces behind the whole operation, and as they celebrate a decade of partying with a massive ‘Rave of the Decade‘, we chatted to them about what has keep the party going for all these years and the challenges they still face in keeping the dream alive.
THUMP: Yo guys, so you’ve been throwing parties for ten years – how well do you remember the very first one?
Alfresco Disco: Very well, at least the first half. We had a giant tall ship sail which we hung from the underside of a huge bridge which became a giant hammock for about 100 people at about 10am in the morning.
Where did the initial idea to start throwing them come from?
We had a monthly club night which was great but we eventually got bored with being at the same club every month for three years. Alfresco Disco was an annual free party but we soon realised we could take the concept anywhere but still keep the same free party vibe.
Has much changed over the ten years?
It’s definitely becoming harder to throw outdoor free events. Our last party was shut down because of how many people came, which was the first time that had happened in ten years. Over time venues are also becoming harder to find, but on the other hand, as we become more well known, people are approaching us more.
How legal is what you do?
It’s completely legal now (most of the time) but it hasn’t always been like that. The police usually come to see what we are up to before letting us carry on. I think this is partly because they recognise us and know we will leave no trace of the party behind us.
Why is it important that the location/lineup is always secret?
The concept is a hangover from our free party days. Same goes for the line up. We want the whole night to be a surprise, from the location to the DJ’s playing. We’ve had the likes of Axel Boman, Eats Everything, Romare and Secret Sundaze all play completely unannounced. Everyone likes a surprise, don’t they?
You’ve thrown parties in crazy locations. Which place sticks out to you as the weirdest?
Up there with the most bizarre could be a little pub in Austria called The Morsee. It’s next to a fishing lake owned the same family for generations. The walls were covered entirely in photos of Austrian fishing heroes from the 80s. The guys at the bar couldn’t believe what was happening – I don’t think they had even heard house music, let alone seen the kind of fruity antics that were occurring in their pub!
Have there been many moments where it looked like the party might fall apart completely?
We did a party in the woods just outside of Bristol a few years ago. A monsoon broke out as soon as we started to unload the sound system. Everything and everyone got soaked. There were moments then when it seemed like it wouldn’t go ahead but we managed to hang the mirror ball and fire up the speakers just as everyone was arriving. The party went ahead and was one of our best!
How do you see the future for Alfresco Disco?
We’ve got big plans for this year to celebrate 10 years, starting with ‘Rave of the Decade’ which is our most ambitious party to date and is happening on the 25th April. Beyond that our aim is to continue to boldly rave where no-one has raved before. We’re already making plans for ‘Rave of the Century’.