At Europe’s Illegal Parties, the Virus Is the Last Thing on Anyone’s Mind


Some party organizers have tried to respond to public concern: “Covid-19 measure been taken,” said a message in the WhatsApp group about Friday’s event. “A station at the entry will be at your disposition with facial mask and hydro alcoholic gel,” it added. These were not in evidence on arrival, and only a dozen or so attendees wore masks. For most, the coronavirus seemed far from their minds.

Dancers were packed tightly in front of a D.J. In the middle of the improvised dance floor, a tall man stood with his eyes closed, moving his arms like a bird’s wings, transported by the music. People chatted to each other for a moment, then hugged, instant friends. Occasionally a balloon drifted above the dance floor, filled with nitrous oxide, the party’s drug of choice.

One attendee, a 25-year-old architect who asked not to be named in case he was thrown out of the WhatsApp group, said he’d been going to illegal raves for a couple of years. “Last year, it was smaller,” he said. “Everybody just wants to get out now, I suppose.”

Pubs and restaurants in Britain had reopened, he added, but no one in authority was thinking about dance-music culture. He would have thought twice about going to an indoor or boat party, he said, but outdoor ones seemed fine.

As the night went on, more people arrived, even a man on crutches. Someone climbed a tree at one point, and the music stopped while a security guard ordered him down. That was the closest the event came to an incident until, around 4 a.m., three police officers turned up, shining flashlights across the crowd.

They left as quickly as they arrived, but their presence was enough to send some home.

About 20 minutes later, the police returned — 20 officers this time — and stood in the path to the clearing. One officer said they’d agreed with the D.J. that he could keep playing until 4:30 a.m.



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