Prior to documenting the UK rave scene, photographer Tony Davis grew up on Nottingham’s Clifton Estate during the sixties and seventies. As a working class kid, his first taste of music and subculture came by way of the football terraces, coming of age listening to Bowie and immersing himself in the Northern Soul scene around the Midlands and North West.
Although having a great social life, Tony was left unfulfilled at work after numerous jobs throughout his twenties. He decided to do something about it and enrolled as a mature student at his local college, signing himself up to do a two year BTEC photography course. This is when he first started to develop an interest in documentary photography and everyday life. One of his first ever shots was of two girls on their BMX bikes in the Lenton suburb of Nottingham, they just caught his eye in the street and were happy having their picture taken. Tony was later offered a place on the prestigious photojournalism course in Newport, but had to turn it down due the birth of his daughter.
UK Rave Scene
In 1990 Tony’s passion for football took him to Italy and the Italia 90 World Cup, an eventful tournament for Bobby Robson’s England and special time for Tony, with a number of his images of fans and players getting published in various magazines and newspapers. However, It was on his return to Nottingham that his time from frequenting the amphetamine fulled all-nighters at Wigan Casino stood him in good stead when he documented the UK rave scene, in particular around the Midlands.
“A time when you went clubbing and left your ego at home”
Tony captured the legendary nights by Nottingham’s DiY free-party collective at the Marcus Garvey centre and many other venues around the city. Clubs such as The Kool Kat, Venus and also The Eclipse in Coventry.
No mobile phones
It was a magical time when people were fully immersed in the moment, no mobile phones, selfies or checking yourself in on Facebook. Just pure love and hedonism for the music and camaraderie amongst fellow ravers.
A recent comment left on Tony’s Instagram page summed it up “It was a time when you went clubbing and left your ego at home”
Another legendary club at the time was Shelley’s Laserdome in Stoke, devotees often travelled in convoy from all over the UK, making the pilgrimage to the Longton venue to hear sets by the likes of Sasha and Carl Cox. For anyone north of Stoke a post Shelley’s stop off at one of the M6 services of Knutsford or Sandbach was an essential part of the night, almost as eventful as the club itself. A place where people would meet to talk, smoke, carry on dancing and come down into the early hours.
“It was a special time” says Tony. The Acid House and Rave scenes of the 80s and 90s were one of the last youth and cultural movements in the UK before the rise of mobile phones and social media. There was a sense of freedom and spirit amongst that generation that wont be seen again.
Tony’s work has been featured in I-D, Mixmag and The Face. He is now working through his archive and documenting a number of images on his Instagram account.
Tony Davis Gallery
Post Shelly’s. Sandbach Services, 1991. Photo © Tony Davis.
All images © Tony Davis, all rights reserved.
A selection of Tony’s football and rave prints are exclusively available from the British Culture Archive online shop.
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