People from the era tell their stories.
» Rob Vega
Rob Vega (AKA R.Bryant/R.Pepper)
A LIFE & MEMORIES OF A RAVER
1989 Was a year for things that were to shape my life and so many others! If you had told me at the time what I was to achieve I would have laughed it off as if it were a joke and a fantasy.
Well firstly at the age of twenty one I had my son Sam Bryant and brought my first house for us to live in with his mother Nicky Jones in Radstock, a small mining village south of Bristol. It’s an amazing thing love for someone and a new life, that’s what life is really all about, procreation and the survival of the human race & family name! Unfortunately I wasn’t ready for it and another feeling was motivating me. It was the urge to do something to make something happen, to make people happy and to be somebody. I remember as a kid (probably like many other kids) saying a little prayer to God “Please make me famous”. Well that changed as I got older to more like “Please God make me Infamous” as I didn’t want that sort of fame where you can’t go anywhere without people recognizing you & being like a prisoner in your own home.
In 1989 I put on my first rave although it didn’t start off as a Rave.
You see I was always putting on gatherings since I was 10 and we moved into a newly built council house in Larkhall on the Eastside of Bath. I would have local kids in my room listening to The Beatles (I was given a box set of all their singles on Apple records by Rob Hetherington, owner of ‘Soul Survival Record Store’ because he and my dad, Don Bryant, were really tight) and Elvis Presley and smoking fags that we had managed to nick from our parents. I even remember listening to Donna Summers ‘I Feel Love’ on 12” and setting up the speakers blasting out my bedroom window over and over again … I feel love, I feel Love, I feel Love, I feel Love! That girl was so before her time with that tune. Ha-ha - it’s no wonder the residents got that petition together to get rid of me off that estate. I also used to organize (at the age of 12-13) Rock n Roll Bops in the Skittle Ally of the local pub and by the age of 16-17 doing gigs in Swainswick Village Hall with Punk Bands & Reggae DJs Smiley & Scientist
Anyways - getting back to that first rave that didn’t actually start as a Rave. It was just a party in a Marquee in a field. I asked my old school farmer mate Steve Creed if he could sort me out some land, which he did on top of Bannerdown Hill (One of seven hills around Bath city). He sorted the field and I hired a marquee. I also got an old Cortina car and cut the top off and added some bat wings on the back and put a table in for some turntables.
I was days away from doing the party and that’s when I heard that the Police were looking for me. I thought “Well I haven’t done anything wrong” so I went to the Police Station and there was a woman Sergeant waiting for me! She was like “I heard you’re putting on a Rave?” I said, “No I am putting on a Party!” She said “Are you selling tickets for the party?” “No” I said. “Well how will you pay for it? She said. “We will be taking money for parking cars” I replied. Then she’s like “What are you going to do for security, and I’m like “I got some boys” and then she drops the “What are you going to do about drugs” question and I’m like “Urrghhh” nothing came out of my mouth!
I didn’t have an answer for her, through inexperience and through lack of lyrical bullshit that was it. She straight away said “Well I have a gut feeling about this, so what I am going to do is get my men up to the field and take your marquee down and store it in the farmer’s barn and then I will send a Jam Sandwich (Police Van) up there and it will stay there all night and turn your people away! Thank you very much you may now leave...”
As I left I was furious, after all the work that I had put in over the past months, let alone the money I had put into it. I was trying to work out how the police had come to know about it. I had a couple of friends I was doing the party with at the time, Murph from the Rythmites (A Reggae Band) & Black Martin who was selling tickets for the party from his jewellery stall in town.
Maybe the Police had found out about the tickets or maybe it was because of a DJ that my friend ‘Black Wayne’ had got me in touch with to play at the party. ‘Jamie Knott’ as of Shane & Jamie, a pair Wiltshire of DJs who were fairly well known in the area at the time. Maybe it was him they had been watching, who knows?
However this was at a time when ‘Rave’’ hysteria was just starting and The Sun newspaper (amongst others) was running front page stories about the evil of Raves and our young kids getting messed up on Ecstasy and Gangsters etc etc. So me, being one who doesn’t get put off easily, decided in my infinite wisdom to carry on with the Party/Rave anyhow! I would move it to the next hill over by the Pepper Pot, a folly by the village of Monkton Farleigh on the outskirts of Bath. This site location happened to be on the border of Somerset, Gloucestershire & Wiltshire & I thought that the relevant Authorities would be like “It’s not our problem its there’s but little did I know - they were all bothered!”
It was a dark night with no moon and the only road in to the site ran along side of the field next to the woods that surrounded the party site, beneath the Pepper Pot.
I set up some powerful searchlights lighting up the field next to the access road and installed the PA and Generator. My family and friends were there including my Mum Anne and Dad (although they been split up for 18 years) and my new born son Sam was there as well. It was a family affair not some drug fuelled gangster party, but the Police thought the latter! As the night went on and the music started and people started to appear first by car and then on foot, stories of masses of Police and Police roadblocks and body searches came with them. Apparently the village itself was on lockdown!
No one was allowed in or out unless you had ID and proof that you were a resident. Helicopters started to circle the site with searchlights swooping across the site - it was all very exciting. After the party I heard of locals taking pot-shots with their guns at the helicopter for irritating them so much!
Now the terrain around the site was precarious with lots of cracks and little cliff faces here and there and because of this the Police weren’t able to easily surround us, in fact it took them to just before dawn to raid us.
A helicopter landed on the dance floor and I remember the DJ, Kev (I think from memory) who played a remix bootleg of Timmy Thomas ‘Why can’t we live together, no matter what colour?’ as more and more Riot Police filled the site I decided that this was the time to make my escape. Some friends & I made off thru the woods but it was so dark we had to grab each other’s back and stay in single file as I led them off. After a while I decided it was to dark and dangerous to carry on so I said to the others that we were going to wait until the sun came up and we waited on a peak of ground.
After a little while we saw some flashlights coming towards us getting closer and closer. We knew this was the Police as they were travelling towards the party not away from it. It seemed we were caught but as they were right upon us they split to the left and to the right and went on by us “Phew that was close” we said to each other!
As the day broke and light filled the forest we could see why they had missed us as a 12 foot V shaped gorge was to the left and to the right of us, it seemed I had stopped at the right time narrowly missing falling in, and so we made our escape.
The police, I think, were shocked to find only my friends, family and a bunch of hippies at the party. I think they were expecting Gangsters with dogs and masses of drug dealers. There were no arrests or confiscations as they moved everybody off. I actually think they used it as some kind of multi force exercise in the end probably giving themselves a large pat on the back for stopping this little party that turned into a rave.
So that was me now, in my head I wanted more, the Police had set me up for a what was to come, the excitement and adrenaline was what I ended up doing it for, initially I wanted to recoup the money I had lost but then later it was not for the money but to put on the best party that the world had ever seen.
Just on a final note to recoup the monies lost on that party, Murph suggested we do a gig in Bath Pavilion. It held a 1000 people. He knew a Punk band called ‘Culture Shock’ and they were doing their last ever gig! Murph said his band the Rythmites would support them and so we went for it.
The council found out about it and I had to go and see them for a meeting. They were really worried about having a Pavilion full of Punks and Reggae heads. So they told us for every one of our ten security guards we would have to pay for one of theirs. So we had to agree with their demands for the gig to happen. The event sold out and there was no trouble whatsoever.
Two weeks later The Pavilion held a seminar/disco type thing for a bunch of Doctors and one of them glassed another in the face!
Wasn’t that all a bit fucked up?
Interview with Jillo Wisternoff
Words © Rob Vega
Photo © Rob Vega