- Run by Save Our Scene UK, yesterday's event featured dozens of DJs, maskless crowds and a festival-like atmosphere.
Thousands of dance music fans and professionals gathered in Central London yesterday, June 28th, for the #FreedomToDance protest.
The eight-hour march, one of several held in the capital last weekend, was set up by Save Our Scene UK to protest against the government's recent lockdown delay—which means venues and festivals won't reopen until earliest July 19th—and its perceived lack of support for the live music industry. The protest was supported by the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA).
Following an opening speech by Judge Jules, large crowds of mostly maskless protesters followed four vans kitted out with DJ booths and soundsystems. Dozens of DJs performed, including Hannah Wants, Alan Fitzpatrick and Fabio & Grooverider.
Videos from the protest show a festival-like atmosphere, with people dancing close together, clutching cans of beer and hollering along to the music. The vibe, according to Norman Anderson, AKA Normski, "was really peaceful and positive, not unlike a street festival." Some people held placards with slogans like "CUT SHAPES NOT CULTURE" and "MEET ME AT THE CLUB."
"It felt like a celebration, for sure," James, a producer from Hackney, told Resident Advisor. "People were getting on it, they were getting mash-up, but it didn't have that shady feeling to it."
Raver and music lover Dani O'Hagan travelled in from Worthing, a seaside town about two hours from London, with her four-year-old daughter. "Everyone we met was spudding her, dancing with her, smiling and reminding me that I made the right choice to take her with me to something I'm so passionate about," O'Hagan told RA.
She added: "Not being able to do this has had a massive impact on my state of mind. I just want to feel alive and like me again."
Some corners of the scene have reacted less positively to the protest, arguing that it lacked a political message and taking issue with the inclusion of so-called "plague rave" DJs on the lineup. Other critics view the scenes of maskless crowds and poor social distancing as potentially damaging to the cause, given that the recent, rapid spread of the Covid-19 Delta variant is what led the government to take a more cautious approach to reopening in the first place. Today, June 28th, the Guardian reported 22,868 cases of Covid-19 in the UK, up 12,235 from last week.
London-based journalist and filmmaker Ed Gillett, who has written extensively about the intersection of dance music and politics, spent the day tweeting from the protest. He came away with mixed feelings.
Read Gillett's Twitter thread, plus thoughts from other members of the dance music scene.
Photo credit: Marc de Groot