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Why socially distant parties during lockdown are not that fun

By Harriet Piercy

Jul 8, 2020

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While pubs and restaurants start reopening under tight regulations, illegal parties are having a comeback in the UK. Understandably, with lockdown lifting, new gens and millennials have quite a hefty load of pent-up energy to spend. Zoom parties and online dance parties just didn’t quite cut it, evidently, as people flock to live music and friends gatherings. But are socially distant parties really worth the hype?

We are—myself included—caught in a paradox between what’s right and wrong. I admittedly have done a fair share of corridor creeping, and I have most definitely convinced the backseat driver in my brain that I’m being responsible enough. There are a lot of underlying social pressures behind saying no to events when you shouldn’t have to anymore, even if they’re not vocal. Why sit at home and follow the government’s advice when your friends aren’t? The lack of FOMO during lockdown was comfortable, but now that it is creeping back up into our everyday lives, are we really meant to resist the irresistible call of the sesh?

Throughout the UK, there has been an increase in street parties recently, especially in big cities such as London and Manchester. More notably the outdoor spaces are slowly getting filled with party seekers, too, which has been harder to keep track of. If you walked around London in the past few weeks you’ve probably noticed that parks are heaving. One of the first rules that relaxed in the process of lifting the lockdown was allowing people to meet in the open air, which has since gone up in size from groups of two to entire households and more.

What started out as small social gatherings to support the feeling of community that was so desperately needed after months of isolation, has now shifted into parties associated with the 1960s freedom rebellion and the 1980s wave of raves—not what the government intended, no doubt. It might not be what the partygoers wanted either, but now the floodgates are open.

It’s clear that parties aren’t going anywhere, but then again neither is COVID-19. Is there a way to combat the obvious problems involved?

One solution came from the LA-based creative studio Production Club, which designed the Micrashell suit, a full-body PPE suit that would quench the craving for physical closeness. But other than the initial excitement of wearing something weird and new, there are enough daily complaints about having to wear a mask on public transport to know that the thrill of an entire bodysuit won’t endure. In the middle of summer, we’d have no sense of humour left.

How about the socially distant squares that popped up in Slovakia? Dancers in full view of each other, in broad daylight, having a glorious time. I guess no-one has to passive-aggressively elbow anyone for more leg room. If you feel a little self-conscious dancing in front of a crowd, consider a silent disco. It’s funny stuff. You suddenly realise you’re not the only one who has left their dignity at the door in order to have a good time. Surprisingly, one of the most freeing events I ever went to was a silent disco where only five people turned up, including the organisers. Social stigma is a shame, the no-shows missed out because they were too busy being cool.

UK collective Nitty also held its first socially distant and local council approved rave in a forest near Nottingham last weekend. 40 people were allowed to attend despite the 750 people who initially signed up. This made me wonder how many people does it take for a social gathering to qualify as a rave? 40 people is an average street of neighbours, if you overlap the household rule and bend the understanding a little bit.

Also, there are a few buzzing questions about how these things actually function, such as how are they different now from the pre-lockdown raves? For starters, you’ve got to be invited—hello awkward memories of being picked last for a team sport. Then, you’re probably going to feel on edge. Nobody wants the police looking over their shoulder in any given circumstance, let alone a rave. Can you get arrested for going to one of these parties? This remains unclear, but if you’re going to go, pack your peace and love (and a mask) and leave your disrespect behind. Is it worth it? Only you can answer this one.