There are few pieces of legislation more reviled in dance culture than the UK’s Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, which notoriously gave police the power to shut down events featuring music that’s “characterised by the emission of a succession of repetitive beats”.
The Act, which was signed 25 years ago this month (by, surprise, surprise, a Tory-led government), elicited a defiant response from the dance industry – Autechre famously released an EP featuring 65 different drum patterns, to avoid the ‘repetitive beats’ tag, while The Prodigy dedicated both a track (Their Law) and the inner sleeve of Music For The Jilted Generation to fighting the legislation. But in the immediate aftermath of its enactment, many were still unsure as to its lasting effect.
One year on, in November 1995, Muzik magazine reached out to a number of noted industry figures to get their perspective on the impact of the CJA legislation on the party scene, and what, if anything, had been the most significant ramifications.
“As far as stopping parties foes, the number of people defying the CJA will eventually make it impotent,” says Charlie Hall of Spiral Tribe. “But for travellers, I think it’s going to get a lot worse. There are loads of little clauses which don’t seem to make much sense at the moment. But they would if the time came when we were living in a totalitarian society.”
Paul Shurey of party organisers Universe concurs, saying, “From a licensing point of view, it has made getting licenses for events much harder. The CJA is the reason that we’re going to Germany for the next Tribal Gathering. Legal licences are just so difficult to sort out in this country.”
“People are still partying in spite of the persecution,” says Debbie Staunton of information network United Systems. “Myself and ten others had our homes raided in July with a connection with a free festival called Mother. The way they came round our house, you would have thought we were guilty of armed insurrection.”
“When the CJA first came in,” Tony de Vit adds, “it was like ‘Shock! Horror!’, but 12 months on, I haven’t heard much about it. The trouble is there’s a general apathy in this country, and unless you experience it first hand, most people don’t seem to care.”
Sally Rodgers of A Man Called Adam, meanwhile, is more direct. “Everyone seems to be ignoring it,” she says. “It was stupid then and it’s stupid now. Don’t take any notice of it.”
Or, as Judge Jules, himself a legal expert, puts it, “the biggest travesty was the way the government put it through. By making 20 per cent of the bill sensible, like increasing the penalties on child abusers, they managed to get through the 80 per cent, which absolutely draconian. It was so devious!”
You can read the full article below [main photo taken from Muzik November 1995].