I would be lying if I were to say that I was a seasoned rave-goer. The fact that I just used the term ‘rave-goer’ is probably demonstrative of this. But after spending nearly two week’s worth of my food budget on a ticket for a night of techno music courtesy of influential Detroit Techno producer and DJ Carl Craig, I decided I should try and make the most of a new experience.
So, on November 1st, my friends and I braved the apocalyptic weather conditions and headed to Lancaster Castle for the fifth ‘A Wing’ event since it started last spring, the fourth being a Halloween Fancy Dress event on the night before. The raves are held in the A Wing of what was, until 3 years ago, a functioning C-grade prison within the historic walls of the castle (hence the name). After negotiating the treacherous cobblestones that pave the entrance, you pass through the courtyard and into the prison wing, which appears to have remained virtually untouched since its closure in 2011. While an undeniably atmospheric and unique location, with the bar store room located in one of the only unlocked cells, it is somewhat unsettling to think that we were partying in what had until so recently been some people’s dismal home.
Nonetheless, I have been reliably informed that Carl Craig, a big name in techno, played a decent set. Despite the state of the art sound system, however, there was a distinct lack of mid range, but considering techno’s primary focus on hi hats and a rolling bass, this did not prove to be a catastrophic loss. Apparently. For those of us less educated in techno music, you were greeted with a wall of sound on entering the prison, which pulsated its way through your body until sometime around lunch the next day. It was only when someone asked us to stay for one more song that I discovered we hadn’t just spent the last two and a half hours listening to one song on a loop…
The prison is a vast, eerily sterile environment, which has considerable potential. Its size let it down somewhat though, as before last entry at 11pm, the ground floor was used as a heaving dance floor because entrance to the first floor was temporarily prohibited. As soon as the first floor (where the DJ set was played from) opened after last entry, the downstairs completely emptied, and was only used when people wanted to visit the bar, which seemed to defeat the object of having two considerable floor spaces. The top level consisted of a dance floor and a square walkway overlooking the ground floor, reassuringly fitted with suicide nets. The balcony served as a convenient leaning post, right up by the speakers where you could enjoy having your ear drums perforated whilst shouting incoherently to the person next to you, or observe the empty dance floor on the floor below. One of my main pieces of advice to anyone attending future A Wing events who thinks they may want to buy a drink during the night would be: don’t. Unless you are eligible to take out a mortgage. At £4.20 for a can of Red Stripe, A Wing isn’t catering to student wallets, particularly those who have just paid nearly £30 for the pleasure of attending the event.
No matter how clichéd this may sound, A Wing really is a unique experience, and could be big news for Lancaster, as the city’s equivalent to Manchester’s Warehouse Project. Even for the hefty price, I would still recommend it to students regardless of their musical preferences, as the prison provides an edgy equivalent to Lancaster’s usual sticky clubs – worth the investment for the sake of trying something completely new.