Teknivals (the word is a portmanteau of the words tekno and festival) are large free parties which take place worldwide. They take place most often in Europe and are often illegal under various national or regional laws. They vary in size from dozens to thousands of people, depending on factors such as accessibility, reputation, weather, and law enforcement. The parties often take place in venues far away from residential areas such as squatted warehouses, empty military bases, beaches, forests or fields. The teknival phenomenon is a grassroots movement which has grown out of the rave, UK traveller and Burning Man scenes and spawned an entire subculture. Summer is the usual season for teknivals.
Teknivals are a larger scale version of free parties and emerged in the early 1990s, when acid house parties and travellers in Great Britain became the target of political repression, culminating in the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. Section 63 of the Act gave the police new powers to close down illegal parties.
Sound systems then started travelling to countries in Europe where laws were less restrictive and the authorities were uncertain how to stop the festivals. One of the most famous of these sound systems was Spiral Tribe, which was at the forefront of the free party movement in Europe. Other systems were called Bedlam, Circus Normal, Circus Warp and Vox Populi. Desert Storm sound system organised teknivals in France and Spain and brought raves to war-torn Sarajevo, Bosnia, in 1996. At one party the front-line was 10 kilometres away and they were asked to turn off their lights in case they attracted enemy fire.
While some teknivals are one-off events, most take place every year on or around the same date; the biggest, such as the ones in France or Czech Republic, can attract up to 100,000 visitors (2003, France).
Just as the word 'teknival' was formed by merging the words 'tekno' and 'festival', teknivals in different countries are referred to by abbreviated names, such as the aforementioned Czechtek, Frenchtek (North France) and also Poltek (Poland), Slovtek (Slovakia), Southtek (South Germany), Bulgariatek (Bulgaria), Rotek(Romania) Helltek(Greece, Hellas in Greek), Dutchtek (Netherlands), Easttek (East Germany), U-Tek (Ukraine), Northtek (Canada) and Occitek (Occitania, South France). NorthTek was held on Crown Land in Ontario.
Since a teknival can last a week or longer, many musical styles will be represented. The music which grew in tandem with teknivals was free tekno, which is characterised by heavy, repetitive kick drums and is normally about 180 bpm. The DJs and party goers are unconcerned by musical boundaries, so a lot of different, mostly electronic, music is played and performed.
Most sound systems play styles such as acidcore, acid techno, hardcore, spiral tekno,frenchcore, electro, techno, jungle music, raggacore, skullstep, neurofunk, breakcore, schranz and speedcore. Instead of focusing on genre, the music can be characterised by being more underground than the music heard in clubs and at commercial parties, although some sound systems might specialise in a certain subgenre. The music is played by DJs playing vinyl records and Mp3 files on a computer. Livesets are also frequently played using a variety of equipment: keyboards, drum machines, guitar effects pedals, MIDI controller and computers.
At early teknivals, sound systems would play until either no-one was left dancing or the diesel ran out in the generator. In Brechfa 2018 local residents are hoping that the diesel will run out soon, and that the organisers will clear up the mess that has been made.
The teknival is often regarded as an example of what Hakim Bey has termed the Temporary Autonomous Zone, though in interviews Bey has professed that rave culture's interest in technology remains problematic for the implementation of the TAZ. However this has not stopped various groups from claiming the teknival and rave culture in general as the implementation of the TAZ.
Anyone is welcome to enter the site, there is no ticket or fee. Normally any artist who turns up is encouraged to participate. Over the course of a few days the site can grow into a confusing village of sound systems, cafes, tents and vehicles.
At the teknival site one finds a mixed group of young people which may include students, tekno travellers, squatters and hippies, bonded together by their love for listening to free tekno 'sous les etoiles' (translation: 'under the stars') - as an early flyer proclaimed.
It is usually the perception that there is no "coherent" politics or philosophical stance represented by the teknival subculture, mainly due to the fact that emphasis is placed on individual freedom. Many young teknival goers are disillusioned with mainstream politics. Nevertheless, the parties themselves require complex collective organisation and, in order to be successful, a sustainable environment of community relations. In themselves such events can be seen as a political statement of self-organisation at a distance from the State. Clashes with the police have mobilised some people to action against laws which would prohibit self-organisation and gathering to enjoy teknivals. These clashes date back to the '80s (when teknivals were arguably indistinguishable from UK Orbital raves, summer acid house parties, UK traveller gatherings, Stonehenge pagan events, early Burning Man and tribal gatherings, trance parties in Goa, India and the like) and have continued to be part of teknival life. In April 2006 there was a march followed by a small teknival in Strasbourg, France to protest against police repression generally and more specifically against the closure of Czechtek in 2005. During the implementation of the Criminal Justice Act in the UK, various large-scale protests took place during daylight and in public. The Reclaim the Streets and Anti-Capitalist Carnivals of the '90s that led up to and beyond the Seattle WTO protests (and subsequent "anti-globalization" events) drew from teknival and rave organisation and culture, often involving many of the same organisers and cross-section of the population.
As occurs with many subcultures, a dress code has developed. This 'underground look' involves dark, baggy clothing (often ex-military) and extreme haircuts, such as dyed hair, dreadlocks or a shaved head (or a combination of the above). (1999:164) Body piercings and tattoos are common. People often buy large vehicles second-hand such as decommissioned buses, coaches or trucks. The vehicles are often primarily homes, lived in permanently or for a few months while travelling (see Irish Traveller). They are also used to transport sound equipment. The tekno traveller is generally known as a mix between a New Age traveller and a "crusty" punk.
Sound systems gather on the site and play varied types of electronic music. Along with each sound system come friends and travellers so most teknivals have a multicultural atmosphere. The parties can last for several days or even weeks. Teknivals are organised by the sound system community using underground methods such as word of mouth, answerphone messages, flyer (pamphlet) and internet discussion boards. Normally the flyer states that the party is an open invitation, thus any artist who turns up can play music. The emphasis is on a DIY ethic. As well as local sound systems, who might act as the hosts, larger sound systems can spend the summer travelling from one teknival to the next before returning to their home country for the winter.
As thousands of sound systems proliferated post-Spiral Tribe, France rapidly became the center of the teknival world. The May Day teknival at Fontainebleau near Paris was attracting 60-80,000 people by the late 1990s and, by 2004, as a for once legitimate (but still non-commercial) event, up to 110,000 with over 200 sound systems. Eventual amendments to the public safety laws, the Loi sur la Securité Quotidienne, were passed in 2002 (known as the "Mariani Law" named after politician Thierry Mariani) in which free parties became linked with terrorism. Like the UK's CJA, this effectively criminalized large free festivals and increased police powers to prevent these events. Legitimate teknivals, now dubbed "Sarkovals" after Nicolas Sarkozy (formerly the Minister of the Interior and President) would require permission from the Ministry. But while regulatory interventions have inaugurated the institutionalization and commercialization of a scene rooted in an autonomous vibe, the scene still thrives. Currently French law permits free parties with 500 people or under (subject to no noise complaints), and while Prefets generally refuse the applications now required for free parties with over 500 people, through constant negotiations with the Ministry of Interior since the August 2002 teknival on the French/Italian frontier at Col de l'Arches where sound crews set up rigs inside the Italian border facing the party goers in France, the French Government have reluctantly allowed up to three large teknivals each year, even though they are technically unauthorized events. Teknivals also take place outside legal festivals such as Printemps de Bourges, Transmusicales in Rennes or Borealis in Montpellier. Teknival negotiators deal directly with the Ministry of Interior, not the Ministry of Culture (with whom the commercial ventures seeking official status must deal) indicating that they are largely not cultural but security concerns.
In the United Kingdom teknivals have occurred again, despite huge police attention. In 2002 the tenth anniversary of the legendary Castlemorton rave was celebrated at Steart Beach called the Feeling-Of-Life where around 16,000 people turned up over the course of the weekend.  in Somerset (there had also been a smaller teknival at the same location one year previously). In 2005 there was a UK Tek in Wales and also a teknival known as Scumtek that happened twice in London. The first Scumtek was stopped by the police. However a further four events have taken place under the Scumtek name, three of which were squats with teknival rig numbers, and Scumtek 3 which took place in the centre of London Docklands in April 2010 outside and inside with 23 rigs in attendance. the UK Teks seemed to be gathering pace in 2010 mainly due to the increasing pressure on legal festivals for policing costs and licensing restrictions.
2006 saw a teknival occur in Camelford, Cornwall at Davidstow abandoned airfield. Approximately 2,500 people attended and it was eventually clamped down on by the police three days after it began. UK Tek 2008 took place in a moorland quarry above Rochdale in north Manchester resulting in a significant police response, including attacking ravers with batons. Dog units, mounted police, and police in full riot gear attended. The UK Tek in 2009 took place on a remote hillside near Brecon, Wales at an abandoned pub called The Drovers Arms, that is used by the MOD as a training location. In 2010 UK Tek was at Dale Aerodrome in Pembrokeshire, Wales again with approximately 2,500 attendees and police forced most people off site by the Sunday. In 2015 it took place in Lincolnshire at an old airfield that had been used in the past for raves. Police closed down soundsystems one by one, until the remaining system had the majority of ravers around it, and resisted Police lines and forced them to back down. 2017 UK Tek took place in Wales near Sennybridge, Brecon.
In May 2018, a very large rave was organised in the small Welsh town of Brechfa. Known famously as 'UK Tek', the rave started at 12am on Saturday with the music not finishing until late Monday evening. Approximately 4000 people were in attendance at one point. The location of the rave was praised for its outstanding views across the Welsh countryside. Wales police were aware of the rave, but didn't have the resources available to disperse such a large crowd of people and were not keen on sparking a similar incident to that of Uk Tek 2015. A police helicopter was used throughout the bank holiday weekend to monitor the actions on the ground. Late on Tuesday evening, rave attendees were still seen at the location cleaning up the majority of litter left behind.
In the Czech Republic was mainly known teknivals: Czechtek - annually held from a small festival in 1994, which attracted up to 40,000 visitors, and Czarotek (held annually in spring). When Czechtek has been discontinued after event in Hradi?t? Military Area in 2006, more smaller open free parties are held through all the year. Czech travellers like Circus Alien, Strahov or Vosa continued to spread the vibe to various countries across Europe such as Bulgaria (from 2003), Romania, Spain, Poland or Ukraine (from 2006).
|Genre||Electronic music, techno, etc.|
|Dates||in early August|
Well known in the underground culture is the Bulgariatek, which emerged from 2003 and annually takes place in early August, usually somewhere on the Black Sea coast. It hosts many different electronics genres with much techno at first place. Many people come to it every year. During the second event on 6.8.2004 until 23.8.2004, the participating sound systems were: Vosa + Morophonic Harampade (cz), Strahov + Oktekk + Aka.IO + Machine Works (cz), Keine Ahnung (sk), Dejavu (cz), Aphrikka + Gardenzitty + Tekknotice (cz). On Saturday Hekate (gb,fr) and Okupe + Tomahawk (fr) came and join. Other smaller free parties occur in the summer too.