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Hold Tight Raver: A spotlight on the forgotten city

Leicester’s rave scene was all the things that Leicester is today: multicultural, community driven, innovative, and unfortunately overlooked.

Leicester's rave scene
Leicester's rave scene © Hold Tight Raver
Nancy Dawkins

I had no idea that such a big rave scene had existed in Leicester until I saw Hold Tight Raver at Phoenix Cinema.

I left the film, and my conversations afterwards, with an appreciation of Leicester’s cultural history I was excited to share.

The short film by Leicester filmmakers Keith Allot, Rory Booth and Laura Wilkinson is about the Leicester rave scene between 1988 and 1994. I attended the second, and possibly final, showing of the film. This film, and the scene it remembers, are important. In the words of self-professed UK queen of house Carol Leeming MBE “This is a cool Leicester thing”.

I grew up in Leicester right after the period the film covers, yet I had no idea there had been a rave scene here, never mind a thriving or instrumental one.

I knew it was a big subculture in London and Manchester, and I was vaguely aware of the importance of the Midlands in general to British rave. Likewise, I recognised the name of well-known rave promoter Fantasia, but associated it with Coventry which housed its first events, rather than with Leicestershire, which was home to its largest and most famous outdoor rave held at Castle Donnington.

I came out of Hold Tight Raver enlightened to Leicester’s cultural importance to British rave, but asking “why doesn’t everyone know about it?” 

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