The miracle of Creation… The story behind Ireland’s legendary free party collective
For those lucky enough to have experienced them, the Creation parties will go down in history as arguably the finest unlicensed soirées Ireland has ever seen. 909originals caught up with Creation head honcho Cozzy, as well as several familiar names from Irish clubland, to recall those heady days. Also, check out some of their top Creation memories by clicking here.
On a balmy summer’s night, 12 years ago, a dozen or so representatives from An Garda Siochána stormed into a clearing somewhere near Blessington, County Wicklow, to break up an outdoor party that was just a few hours old.
What the local constabulary didn’t realise at the time, perhaps, was that they bringing to an abrupt end a decade’s worth of Creation get-togethers; a period that included some of the most unforgettable free parties this island had ever seen.
“I just sat up there by the decks, and said absolutely nothing,” Cozzy, the spiritual leader of the Creation crew, says of that fateful evening. “Whatever I said, they were going to hit me with a baton. These guys were proper thugs, they had no numbers on their shoulders.
“It was a sour way to end it all, but I think it was done by then.”
Rewind to the early 90s. Cozzy, an Olympic Ballroom regular, got his first set of decks – “a pair of belt drives, they were a nightmare to practice on”. In 1994, an opportunity came up to take a summer job in London, just as the Criminal Justice Bill threatened to take down the rave community there.
“It was just fantastic,” he explains. “I was totally besotted with the whole junglist movement and the culture surrounding it – places like Club Labyrinth. I was only there for about three months, but I spent most of my time learning about the scene. The hardcore was really fast, and musically things were getting a lot darker, particularly in drum and bass. I came back with a lot of knowledge, and a hunger to do that sort of thing back home.”
Enrolled in Dublin’s Pulse College, he met a friend, Luke, on a sound engineering course, and the two plotted their first gig, a night at the Tivoli Theatre featuring legendary Kiss FM jock Colin Faver (RIP).
“That was 1997, the first Creation night,” Cozzy explains. “We were so naive… wet behind the ears. Colin was expensive, because his Techmix had just been released, but he was an absolutely deadly DJ, so we really wanted to have him. Francois and Warren K were on support.
“We lost a fortune that night; we got very few in, and the guest list was huge. I think we ended up losing a few grand. We weren’t expecting that, so for the next gig, we decided to take it outdoors.”
For the next event, after much driving around, Cozzy and friends stumbled upon Magheramore Strand, also known as Nun’s Cove, in Wicklow, and set to work.
“There was this small little car park with wooden steps all the way down to the beach,” he recalls. “It was a top location, but it was hard work, because the place you parked the car was a good distance away from where you had the party, so you had to lug the gear quite a distance. We only used that place once – the rigs got bigger, so you needed to be able to drive them in.
“We had no money left after the Colin Faver gig, so for that first outdoor party we had to write a load of IOUs, to be able to pay for the equipment. We got a small rig, I think it cost us about a grand. All the DJs played for free, and then we sent around the buckets to collect money from everyone, so we were able to get our money back.”
Creation was up and running.
“Creation started not so long on from the original rave days, so that spirit was still quite familiar to people and ‘in the air’ so to speak,” says Sunil Sharpe, one of several ‘resident’ DJs among the Creation collective.
“There had been a free party scene in Ireland going back years, but Creation was very much a vehicle for the growing club techno sound of then. D1 were doing their thing and represented the Detroit sound well in Dublin. Creation was representing something a bit harder than that though, and bypassed clubs straight into the outdoors.
“I think because most of us played in clubs also, these parties were like an extension of that rather than from a standalone scene that existed just in fields. I really liked that side of it, that you could be at a party at the weekend and then be at Damage on a Tuesday or Electric City on a Thursday, talking to everyone and still buzzing about it.”
“When Creation started we were in the era of the superclub,” says Giles Armstrong, another Creation regular due to his longstanding ‘Punish Techno’ show on Power FM.
“Dance music had sold it’s soul. The timing was perfect. Creation was a big breath of free techno air. To this day we still haven’t seen the likes of it and I don’t think we ever will either. It was a unique, one of a kind party.”
As the de facto general of the whole operation, Cozzy, similarly, was hooked.
“I absolutely loved it,” he says. “I was more into it than the others, because they were working, whereas and I just wanted to do it all the time. You couldn’t do something like Creation by working in an office; not back then anyway. I remember I was never able to sleep in the days leading up to the parties… especially if wet weather was forecast.”
More parties followed, at a variety of venues – including a natural amphitheatre sunken into the sand dunes near Donabate, north Dublin.
“Finding the location for the Donabate parties was a stroke of luck,” Cozzy says. “Me and the lads were up looking for possible venues in that area, and I remember running ahead – I was full of beans back then – and shouting to the lads ‘Look! We’ve found it!’ I think we ended up having around four or five parties there.
“It was the ultimate venue, but again it was hard work because we had to lug the gear over the dunes – plus everybody was in a right state the next day when we had to bring it back.”
As Sunil Sharpe explains, the “sense of mystery” as to when (and where) the next party would take place, meant that there was “constant excitement” in the ether.
“This sometimes lasted for up to a month from the time it was announced,” he says. “Even when the parties got bigger and crowds reached into the thousands, there were rarely any idiots or troublemakers there, just heads wanting to have a good time.
“Cozzy was meticulous with his organisation and always tried to raise the production standards, so each party got bigger and better. This was the key to Creation’s success in many ways.”
DJ Francois Pittion, who had been involved in Ireland’s clubbing scene for several years before hooking up with the Creation crew, says that the level of organisation and planning that went into the group’s parties helped fuel their reputation.
“The Creation gigs worked well on several levels,” he says. “First and foremost was the guys’ commitment to the whole free party scene, they took a lot of risks to put on a good show. They were well planned and executed with transport laid on, and importantly the sound system was always top notch.
“There was no bullshit from the guys either, no ego, just a true belief in what the rave scene should be about.”
The bigger Creation got, the more interest it attracted – including from the Gardaí – so Cozzy and co established a ‘vouch’ system, whereby if you wanted to go to a party, someone from the collective had to grant their consent.
“We had heard that the Gardaí were on [Yahoo Groups bulletin board] IE-Dance, so we set up our own system. That’s when we put the vouch system in place – I came up with that myself actually, I was quite proud of it.
“But then the list got really big, and people started complaining – they were on the list for months with nobody vouching for them.”
Inevitably, however, some parties did fall foul of the law, with varying degrees of seriousness.
“We threw a warehouse party in December – between Christmas and New Years – and it was raided after just a few hours. I was offsite at the time, my mate Matt took the flak. When I arrived, he had already gone down to the station. That one was disappointing, there was so much planning in it.
“Another legendary party, in another warehouse close to the Point Depot, led to us ending up in court. We thought we had got away with it, we were nice to the Gards, and they let us have the place until 8.30 in the morning. They were very polite about everything.
“Then, the following week, one of them arrives at my door. He was in the gaff, having a cup of tea and we were playing him some techno – he was fascinated by the whole thing. He had a word in my ear as he was leaving, ‘don’t do it again’. And then a week later I got a summons. We were caught red-handed, in a way.
“Actually, there’s lots of footage out there of that party – there was a guy working for TG4 that did an interview with Ron’s Mobile Disco about the rave scene in Ireland, which I think was aired in 2003. He was in the place all night taking footage – he had an amazing camera, the works. We could never get hold of him, we heard he lives in India or something.”
Ron’s Mobile Disco himself, Barcelona-based Ron O Ciosoig, says that the level of “hard work and dedication” on the part of the Creation crew is part of the reason why it is still talked about today.
“The sound system was excellent,” he says. “Choosing a location was a meticulous process, and keeping it secret before it started was essential, so that it couldn’t be blocked. Also, selling tickets for busses was an excellent idea – five double decker busses full of punters all arriving at the same time. No others came close to that.”
Despite increased heat from the authorities, the wheels had been set in motion, and the countdown was always on to the next party, the next big gathering.
“There were lots of parties that didn’t happen, of course,” says Cozzy. “I used to have so many sleepless nights, because out of everyone I was the most invested. It was never about making money – although that would have been nice. Any money we did make would be used to pay for better equipment and things like that.
“There was one warehouse party where there was a few thousand euro in profits, but it wasn’t for any other reason other than to put on another party. A lot of people didn’t look at it that way, they thought we were making a fortune from it.”
[Or, as the man himself put it on the official Creation website back in 2002, “What profits!?! Our parties are bigger productions, so therefore prepaid tickets need to be sold. Don’t mean to blow our own trumpets here, but do you see December 28th’s party (on that scale) being done by anyone else?”]
Caution was taken too to ensure any party location was cleaned up afterwards – a report about a party in Devil’s Glen, in a local Wicklow newspaper, quoted a Garda as saying ‘the organisers had made an attempt to clean up after themselves as there were a number of bags of rubbish left at the site’.
“People were responsible,” says Sunil Sharpe. “The parties would wrap up in the late morning, and all the rubbish would be collected up into black bags. The locations were always looked after and left as they were found.”
“People had great respect for those spaces,” says Cozzy. “How could you walk away, leaving all that rubbish everywhere? How could you do that?”
In 2004, Cozzy moved to Sweden, but only lasted two and a half months, before “coming back with my tail between my legs. After I came back, that was when we had the biggest party ever, in Donabate.
“I remember Ulick O’Reilly of Tag Records played at it, and as we were walking over the dunes to get to the party, there was no sign of anything going on. Then, all of a sudden, he was just blown away. He said afterwards it was the best DJ experience of his whole life. There were always stories like that.”
Which leads us on to that fateful night in Blessington in 2007, and the curtain finally closing.
“What was shocking about that night is when they [the Gardaí] shut the party down, they sent everyone out onto the country roads in the pitch dark. Everyone had to walk back or try to organise taxis, they wouldn’t even let them hang around the area. Any one of them could have been killed by oncoming traffic.”
With a newborn daughter at home, Cozzy admits that he was “getting pretty tired” of Creation at that stage. “There just wasn’t the time to do any more parties,” he says. Plus, I lost a small fortune over the years, but don’t get me wrong, it was money well spent.
“When Creation stopped, I even stopped buying records. I got into Final Scratch for a while – the whole digital age – but it was never the same. In the end I gave my Final Scratch to Fran Hartnett [aka DJ Azrael]. He was delighted with himself.”
This summer marks twelve years since the last Creation party, but as Cozzy himself admits, the fire still burns.
“I regularly get asked ‘when are you doing another party?’, and we’re definitely thinking about it,” Cozzy says. “There’s always been that interest there, which is cool, because some of us are in our mid-forties now.”
Social media, not to mention the trappings of modern technology, make the proposition tougher, he admits.
“It was a completely different kettle of fish back then,” Cozzy says. “Now that you have Facebook and social media, maybe you would have to find a location where there’s zero phone connection. In a way you would be battling against modern technology. Back then, we were battling against people keeping their mouth shut.
“I feel like it’s not gone away, you know? But it’s a different demographic now. We couldn’t expect all the people that went to the parties in the late 90s to come out of retirement and start partying again. Although you never know…”
[Thanks to Cozzy for the images, and Ron for the ticket scan. And a huge kudos to all members of the Creation crew for the memories. Much love and respect.]