The outlaw Leeds ‘Love Decade’ party that sparked one of the biggest mass arrests in UK history

By July 1990, the Second Summer of Love was all but over.

Huge ecstasy-fueled “acid house” parties in empty warehouses commandeered by party organizers were being ruined by organized criminals, who were trying to cash in on a new social phenomenon. Following a moral panic spread by the tabloids, law enforcement was pressured to shut down these DIY parties which, despite the obvious drug use, had remained peaceful until the gangs got involved.

Some acid house aficionados or “ravers”, however, wanted one last chance to recapture the buzz they had enjoyed at raves over the previous two years. While East Lancashire Police were, in 1990, quite experienced in intercepting and shutting down acid house parties, West Yorkshire Police were less aware.

Read more: Inside a creepy abandoned pig farm in a bone-filled ‘horror movie’ hiding near the M1 in Leeds

Organizers of The decade of love figured they would be more likely to have a successful, uninterrupted party if business was across the Pennines. So a large warehouse at Treefield Industrial Estate, Geldard Road, Gildersome was chosen for the party on Saturday 21st July 1990.

Because these parties were illegal, the location of the venue was only revealed at night. Those with tickets (a reasonable £6) can call a hotline to find out a few hours before the rave starts.

Sometimes an organizer would meet ravers at a date, such as a highway gas station, and lead a convoy of vehicles to the party. For The Love Decade, organizers would gather revelers from Hartshead Moor Services, two and a half junctions on the M62.

Unfortunately, for organizers and ravers alike, the police had already caught wind of The Love Decade. Around 6,000 ravers arrived for the party which started around 2am. For starters, it felt like any previous acid house event with MDMA-ridden ravers enjoying house tunes in a form of collective near-cult.

But inside, the party had been infiltrated by plainclothes police while outside, riot police surrounded the warehouse less than half an hour after the event began. Police told those at the party to go home or be arrested.

DJ Rob Tissera, who was first on the decks of The Love Decade, told the BBC: “You could see the lights from the helicopters coming through the windows and you just thought, ‘Wow – that’s ridiculous.'”

The police cordon kept other ravers from entering or those inside from leaving. But around 5 a.m., hundreds of police in riot gear broke down the doors, burst in and surrounded those inside. According to some eyewitnesses, the police beat some of the ravers while the revelers retaliated by hurling missiles such as planks at the officers.

In the end, 836 revelers were arrested for assault, disturbing public order, criminal damage and drug possession. According to police figures, 527 of those arrested were from Lancashire. Most were released without charge but 17 were charged and two jailed including DJ Rob who was sentenced to three months in prison for inciting a riot.

Rob told the BBC: “It was the moment when the whole game changed… It was the real end of the era for everyone.

“Boom – it was gone. It was over. It completely broke the spirit and that was it. It certainly broke it for me anyway and for thousands of us really it was the end.”

A former rave Christopher recalled: “I found myself in Bradford cells for 10 hours. [The] last two people in there. I had dozed off sitting on the wooden bench.

“When they called my name I got up and fell straight down because the leg I was leaning on had gone totally numb.”

And another Philip said: “I was taken to court bound [for] breach of the peace. [I was] only 15 years old. Remember mom and dad had to be called.”

Credits: BBC Ecstasy: The Rave BattleMixmag, Phatmedia, The big problem in the North.

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Edward L. Robinett