I started writing about the rave scene in 1989 to counter the lies which appeared in the tabloid press every Monday.
Sunrise made the front page of The Sun as the infamous “Worst Ever!” headline
The feature infamously claimed, “kids looking as young as 12 stayed up all night after taking a ‘mind-bending yuppie drug.” Other reports claimed ravers had “bitten the heads off pigeons” and left “ecstasy wrappers” on the floor of the hangar.
I wanted to know what the journalists who wrote these claims thought about the impact their stories had on the scene thirty years later and wasn’t too surprised to discovered they still worked for the tabloids. Rob “Ecstasy Airport” Kellaway at the Express, and Ruki Sayid as the Consumer Editor of the Mirror.
I sent emails to them both and received no reply. So I re-sent them. Still no reply. A week later, after checking with reception that the addresses I had for them were correct, I sent them again. Still no reply.
Then I had an idea. As Ruki was a self-proclaimed “Cash Queen” and Consumer Editor perhaps she would respond if I came at it from a different angle.
So I emailed - and posted - her the below letter requesting her help in getting me a refund for the money I spent on The Sun which carried her report on Sunrise
As the Daily Mirror’s consumer editor and a self-professed ‘cash queen’, I’m hoping you can help me recover the money I spent on a copy of ‘The Sun’ newspaper on Monday August 11th, 1989.
The front page featured an eyewitness report of an event which I attended. It contained so many inaccuracies, untruths, and exaggerations that I felt the article I bought the paper for effectively rendered the publication a waste of money and not up to the standard I expected of a national newspaper written by professional journalists. The purpose of a newspaper is to convey current information, or "news". This article did the opposite. If I’d bought a washing machine, umbrella, or parachute of the equivalent shoddy standard, I would expect nothing less than a full reimbursement of my outlay. Why should a newspaper be any different?
I list my grounds for a refund below:
“10-hour bash which ended yesterday evening”
Given evening starts at 5pm, this would’ve meant it started 10 hours earlier, at 7am. Yet this is contradicted elsewhere in the feature when it states, “The bash started at 9pm on Saturday”, which would’ve entailed the party finishing at 7am, yet the feature states it went on until the evening. Like many readers, I was left baffled.
“At least 20,000 youngsters”
According to the promoters, (who are usually generous when estimating the number of attendees), there were no more than 10,000 people at this party.
“Kids - some looked as young as 12”
These are the words which were responsible for the UK Government’s robust response to the perceived threat of acid house “bash’s”, conjuring up an image of children staying up all night and taking drugs. An emotive statement which was pure fiction.
I worked behind the bar for most of the night, I can assure you that everyone was at least 18 and given the necessity of having access to a mobile phone or pager, a car and around £50 for the ticket and ‘refreshments’, the average age of the crowd throughout that summer was around the mid-twenties. Just because people wear dungarees it doesn’t mean they are pre-pubescent (Super Mario, Dexy’s Midnight Runner’s and the Minions in ‘Despicable Me’ are proof of this).
Whilst I accept the late ‘80’s was a time of financial excess, suggesting 12-year-olds received £50 a week pocket money is, frankly, unrealistic.
Finally, the most glaring inaccuracy was the following sentence:
“They were entertained by fireworks, a light show, scantily clad dancers and a fun fair”.
No mention was given to “12 of London and New York’s finest DJ’s and 3 live acts” who included Doug Laze (1st UK appearance) Raze, and E-zzy Posse who performed their “Acid House Anthem, “Everything Starts With an E” (which incidentally, would have made an infinitely better headline than ‘WORST EVER!’ had the subs been on the money.)
Reviewing a rave without mentioning the fact that DJs were present is akin to covering the FA Cup final and failing to mention any footballers but choosing instead to write about the (scantily clad) cheerleaders and Russell sodding Watson singing ‘Abide With Me’, or focussing on the most offensive chants and litter left behind afterwards.
Not only is it shoddy reporting, it’s also misrepresentative. Four million Sun readers crunched their Coco Pops that morning with an image of 20,000 Year 7’s watching a firework display, whilst queuing for the dodgems beneath a mirror ball.
Where was the sense of balance and perspective? There was no mention of the inclusivity and diversity of the gathering; black, white, Asian, gay, straight, bi: one nation under a groove. No acknowledgment that there was no violence or trouble, no attempt to find out why 10,000 people chose to dance in a field rather than a night club, and no examination why a generation chose to take an illegal drug rather than one society deems OK.
I hope you’ll take this on and help me get a full refund. It’s not about the twenty pence (I can earn that working for a weekend at Sports Direct), it’s the principle – something lacking in the report I read.
I (continue to) look forward to your reply,
With kind regards
Mixmag ‘raving reporter’ (1989-1994)
And I finally received a reply:
Ruki Sayid <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Thu, 5 May 2022 at 09:38
I admire your persistence, but I'm not interested.
Ruki was more interested in writing about things like The 6 best deep-filled supermarket mince pies (for the record it was M + S Collection’s “practically perfect in every way”) and Heinz having to remove the Queen’s coat of arms from their ketchup bottles following her death, rather than explaining why her reports on the ’89 raves contained more lies than Boris Johnson and Bill Clinton watching a Pinocchio box set.
We are owed answers. I will continue to seek them.