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| DJ Sets :: Pandemonium Old Skool Rave Events


Pandemonium started back in 1989, illegal parties being organised by two people, Paul Archer and Paul Dawkes. The last illegal event was late ’89 by then they had been going for around 6 months.

They had done 3 or 4 illegal parties over the previous 6 months and the last one they did was at a church in Lime Street, Telford. It was totally mad, 400 locked in, and about the same locked out.

The ring road that goes around the church became blocked due to the mayhem caused and the police went made and jumped all over them. Paul Dawkes ended up in court with a fine and was told he was not to organise any more parties for at least 12 months.

This was where the now third partner joined, Mark Chamberlain. He had been doing work in the music industry, promoting large concerts and was interested to find out what the ‘Rave’ scene was all about.

Mark went to a few events to see what was going on, he then told his two partners he could get hold of some venues. Mark already has a good reputation with the council and it was agreed that he would front a few things so they continue like that. It was suggested they could start off with some small venues and work up slowly.

The first event they did together was at a small sports centre at Maidly, they pulled 6-700 people and built up to 13-1400 on the second. The last one they did there was a total lock out with 17-1800 people which was when they realised it was time for a move. The first one there was planned through all the right channels as a fully legal event, until a few days before when it was realised that the sports centre hadn’t applied for a licence, they didn’t even know they needed one.

The sports centre managed phoned the pay party unit to check things out, and it was agreed that at this stage it was probably better to continue rather than cancel, which would have caused even more commotion. Luckily back then the pay party were actually leaning towards the promoter, the legitimate promoters could get help from the police and whoever. The party went on and was a great success, although it was really only semi-legal. The next one they did there was the same, this time with a capacity of 12-1300 and the third one was just a snowball effect from the previous two, totally crammed!

After that things were too big and the council offered Pandemonium the ice rink in Telford, that was August 1991.

The venue legally held 4000 although the council allowed an extra 400 guests, which was good really as they usually clamped down on things like this. It was the late August Bank Holiday, and they were surprised they got the numbers because it was also Perception the same weekend which had pulled 10.11000 people down South. Straight after this one they had the flyers ready for the next, the 22nd of November.

The council forced Pandemonium to change from the Friday to the Saturday due to a change in the private entertainment licence, all looked well until about a week before when they found out there was a load of forgeries on the street. They had completely sold out of 4000 tickets in eleven days, that was 3 and a half weeks before. A syndicate in Birmingham had got hold of the forgeries and although the police only recovered a few hundred, it was said there was around 6.5 thousand on the streets. The forgeries were selling anything from £40-£100 and people were paying that outside the event knowing they were not original tickets.

The police delayed the opening of the doors which caused a bigger queue, at 10.45pm they had around 2500 people inside with an estimated 8000 still outside. The police came in with plastic bin liners and took everything out of the office, ripped up the guest list and took over the venue. Altern 8 has played the first party they did and the brother of Altern 8 had a band who were doing this one, they couldn’t even get in.

It was total Pandemonium, this was when it really took off, this was what the ‘Rave’ scene was all about, fighting against society and the authorities, creating a bit of chaos. After this event no one wanted to have anything to do with Pandemonium, the councils, the police were all on their backs. An event with this much bad publicity was bound to be stamped on, it was on the BBC 9 o’clock news on Saturday night, this was when everyone was really taking notice of Pandemonium. They were unofficially told by the police not to contact the pay party for at least 6 months, which they waited, then contacted, asking if they could do Donington Park.

They managed to successfully pull off the deal because they had basically kept their noses clean, it was agreed they could progress on. The past was now history and all that mattered to them was the future. They have learned along the way and the 6 month break probably did them some good, the respect from others increased whilst the word spread round, there was a really good buzz. The last event held at Donington was the successful Amnesia House event which had a capacity of around 5000, so not only did the organisation have a buzz, so did the venue.

Pandemonium decided they would like to increase the capacity so had extra fire exits put in, the council eventually agreed to increase to 6,000 which they successfully sold plus the guest list. The event went well, although they were slightly disappointed with the sound system, due to the poor construction of the building and the fact that Donington is on top of a hill, the sound just rolls down into the village which was where the problem arose.

The same system was used at the Monsters of Rock and at the Ice Rink, but there was no sound restrictions imposed. The locals in Telford were more open minded than Donington because it’s a new area with young people, they know it’s only for one night.

At the same time al this was going on Pandemonium also had an airfield just outside Shrewsbury called Forton Airfield, they had been planning this for 8 months when things started to go wrong. The license had been applied for well in advance, this all-nighter was due to take place on August Bank Holiday against Vision, 28th August 1992. With a week to go they had sold over 4,000 tickets in advance and with a 7,500 license they expected to easily sell out.

They had started to set up site the week before, the marquees all turned up as well as the fun fair and everything was going well. There had been a discussion back at the license hearing about a fence the council wanted them to put up – 12ft high! Pandemonium understandably said this was unreasonable, the normal was two sets of 6ft, with a moat between, this was good enough for Fantazia 25,000 at Donington.

After arguing it was agreed the the two 6ft fences would be acceptable. When Mark returned from holiday he read the minutes from the meeting he had missed, to find the council had still put the 12ft fence was required. When approached they were advised that they hadn’t agreed to this, they simply grinned and said “Yes, you did. It is too late as it’s in writing now”.

Pandemonium went to a solicitor who told them to put up a 12ft fence if they could, that would piss the council off even more. When Pandemonium told the council they would put the fence up, they turned round and said “You can’t, no one does 12ft fencing”. Pandemonium realised immediately they must have checked, so this was just a way to stop the event. The thing was they had found a construction engineer that could put the fence up so that really pissed them off.

A week before, they had got the inner 6ft fence up and were leaving the 12ft till 2 days before. They were setting up other things when along came the licensing officer on the Wednesday, got out of her car and measured the fence, got in and drove off. She thought the fence she measured was the outside fence but it wasn’t, the 12ft was going up the next day.

She didn’t even ask, just thought Pandemonium were going forfeit the fine and this has been said in court. On the Wednesday night at 5.15 the event was cancelled, it had been read out on the radio before the injunction had been served. By the time Mark was in his car it was 5.40, too late to do anything until the next day, the council must have known this.

The solicitor told them to put up the fence but it was too late, the plug had been pulled, the media has told everyone it was off.

They lost thousands, and even though they did, everyone has been paid back their ticket money. An event that was costing over £100,000. Special staging had already been made, and although a few people are waiting for it to got to court, they never let down anybody, especially the paying customer.

Everything they had built up had been shattered, they were back where they started, the costs involved in taking the council to court is thousands, and after a loss like this most can not afford, luckily they had some money saved, but when you’re up against a endless pot of tax payers money, it can be a deliberately long, drawn out experience.

The real sad thing about all this is Pandemonium have always been true to a cause, keeping within the rules and regulations and even when they lost money into the 10’s of thousands they still gave back what they didn’t really have. Unlike some promoters, not continually thinking of their own pockets, but the respect of the people. They always give the best possible ticket price, and a nice happy atmosphere, all they want out of it is to earn a living and make people happy.

They have managed to keep going, their club JJ’s in Wolverhampton started in January ’92 and ran for over 12 months. In Jan ’93 they started the Institute in Birmingham, and The Hummingbird on the 28th Jan, this should have been at The Institute and was the all-nighter to kick off the new club but due to an electrical fire they had to move venues at the last minute.

In addition to the weekly club they have done some other all-nighters, with a 24 hour event on May bank holiday where you could experience 25 DJ’s and 8.10 MC’s for £12, that’s £1 per hour! That was at the Institute and next was Aston Villa where they had over 2600 people, which they say was better than they had expected.

Last year they went to Quest for Christmas, and Quest were to come to them for New Years Eve. At the last minute they both decided to go to a venue in Telford for New Year and successfully crammed it. A lot of things were not as they wanted them on the night and everyone involved learned a lesson. Hopefully this year everything will go to plan for the New Years Eve event they have planned a small compact crowd where they can control the atmosphere.

The Institute is, they hope, going to be the best club in the country, and with a crowd willing to experience a change they know what ever they are offered will go down well.

Full respect must go to the dedicated people behind Pandemonium, for their persistence to succeed and determination to continue. Most of all they should be recognised for their integrity when assessing a situation, and most importantly their honesty and allegiance to their followers. If they put their name to something they knew the risk involved and if it went wrong they took the consequences, perhaps other promoters should take a leaf out of their book! Refunding for tickets when they didn’t really have the money, but always putting the paying customer before themselves.

Pandemonium Web Site









| Old Skool Rave Events :: Pandemonium

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