Review: Divinity and dance music at The Rave Space

Festival critic Michelle Dee’s closing Heads Up duty this season saw her exploring Will Dickie’s The Rave Space.

The Rave Space by Will Dickie. Photographs by Jerome Whittingham @photomoments

After a hectic Heads Up schedule that has seen the Ensemble 52 led festival provide the theatrical highlights to the Wow (Women of the World) Hull Festival, with world-leading artists deliver a series of challenging workshops and curating magical theatre and performance for every age group, organisers decided it was high time everyone had the opportunity to chill out.

What better way to do that than inside Will Dickie’s Rave Space. Billed as live art meets club culture experience. The Rave Space is a fresh audience participation work by artist/performer Will Dickie (Team of the Decades, Heads Up Festival 2014).

Ravers past and present, gather outside legendary venue and home of live music the New Adelphi Club. The left hand is stamped with a black hexagon on the way in and everyone is presented with a laser pen and reminded, “Not in the eyes”. Inside, a hexagonal DJ desk stands in the middle of the room, computer screens switches and dials glow expectantly. The music is already playing, a sort of laidback vibe with reggae beats.

Right now everyone is having fun with the laser pens, creating patterns on the walls, the floor time to the tunes, fixing drinks, looking, waiting, watching.

Using real life experience, first hand accounts of club life, Rave Space explores the euphoria and hedonism with choreographed movement and dance music, to open the door onto a world of rave and club culture, to reveal the traditions, emerging spirituality and mysticism of the scene, through a revolving prism of light and sound.

It was the late eighties and emerging from the beaches and bars of Ibiza, to stately homes and farmers’ fields in the UK teenagers across the country are gripped by the underground world of dance music. Pirate radio stations disseminated the message and the relentless thump of dance music could be heard behind every bedroom door.

Move on 10 years and the once illegal rave has become a massive corporate money-spinner with million dollar brands and labels: It is the era of superclubs and superstar DJs, that will continue to shape popular culture for many years to come. Just like every teenage tribe before them the ravers and clubbers became just another part of the cultural mainstream.

Connections have been made between music and spiritualism since the dawn of time, poster designs advertising the parties combined pseudo religious and psychedelic imagery to entice the new faithful. Sub-genres and new movements emerged that leaned toward Eastern theologies. The sudden move to transcendentalism was inspired by a deeper desire to connect with the inner self, to understand the divinity of humanity, be at one with all things… and the fuel for the new philosophy was a synthetic drug called Ecstasy.

Users of the drug report feelings of such euphoria, that it is likened to that of a communal religious experience, complete with moments of total clarity and powerful insight. The repetitive beats from the bass-driven electronic music blasted out of powerful sound-systems, is fundamental to the experience; you get high, you get loved up.

It is no wonder that the DJs were hailed and worshipped like modern-day Gods, through the eclectic music, the parties and the drugs, they foretold a new future; the path to enlightenment.

The spectre of ecstasy casualties can never be far away, when discussing the rave scene, The Rave Space deals with the issue of excess, when you go too far, in a stylised way: the body convulses in slow motion, desperate eyes, search the audience who have gathered once more at the hexagon, for each new character and story element dropped into the mix. Spoken word samples and a playlist of banging tunes take the audience deep inside the minds of the club devotees. The Rave Space also works as a tribute to all the names faces and spaces that have passed into memory – fitting that this performance is held in one of the last remaining truly independent venues in the city.

DJ, performer and creator Will Dickie is right at home mixing and sampling voices blending jungle and urban, R & B and trance, rapped up in some cool beats. The audience love it, some break out dancing, grooving to the sounds neatly and dramatically woven into the story, others look on nodding sagely, fully engaged, recalling a life they once knew all too well. The dancing continues into the night with Will on the decks and Chris on the Mic, until hand in hand, arms raised aloft we formed a magic circle to the heavenly sounds of Papua New Guinea.

The perfect way to close what has been another exhilarating cutting-edge Heads Up Festival.

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