Jeremy Deller’s right: acid house changed Britain forever

The artist’s BBC4 documentary Everybody in the Place: an Incomplete History of Britain 1984-1992 was a plea for tolerance and understanding

Amnesia rave, Coventry, 1991. Image: Tony Davis / Pymca / Shutterstock
Amnesia rave, Coventry, 1991. Image: Tony Davis / Pymca / Shutterstock

Jeremy Deller’s Everybody in the Place: an Incomplete History of Britain 1984-1992 (BBC4) began with some footage of kids queuing up outside a warehouse rave in Stoke-on-Trent in 1991. It was at once banal and extraordinary: everyone was white; nobody was overweight; none of the clothes were designer, expensive or branded; nobody wore facial hair. This was the England of my late youth and I remember it vividly. But it feels so remote from the present that it might just as well have been a lithograph of extravagantly side-burned men in stiff woollens captioned: ‘The Camp before Balaklava’.

Deller is probably a bit more left-wing than me — how could he not be? He’s a conceptual artist whose most famous work is a meditation on the miners’ strike — I do agree with his thesis that the birth of acid house was the revolutionary moment that changed Britain forever. He illustrated this with scenes of Northern ravers clubbing in disused factories, marking what he called the ‘death ritual transformation of Britain from an industrial to a service economy’.

Read the rest in the Spectator.

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