Writing Members Only

Members Only is a premium “coffee table” book showcasing the iconic membership cards and passes (VIP, Access All Areas etc) of the acid house and rave generations. It features over 500 items of memorabilia from the late 80s and 90s and covers all the legendary and pioneering events of the eras. In this blog post, the book’s editor Rob Ford explains its origins and what to expect when it’s published in August.

In the late 80s, I was a classic young man of the times. Disillusioned with life and no idea what it was all about.

I can remember standing in the middle of The Shed at Stamford Bridge singing “we’re middle, we’re middle, we’re middle of The Shed”, whilst wearing a red Champion beanie hat. Chelsea were playing Manchester United. I could hear some murmurs around me about the red hat but I was confident as a regular Chelsea fan and my “f you” expression to authority, in general, reigned strong.

However, everything changed when my two closest friends suggested we go to a rave in Donnington called Amnesia House. I was a bit worried about travelling “up north” with a southern accent, thinking we’d come under unwanted scrutiny from the local lads.

I couldn’t have been more wrong as this single night would change my outlook on life forever. The White Dove experience was a total door opener to an area of my brain I’d never known existed and the unbelievably friendly vibe from everyone at the venue is still crystal clear in my memory over three decades later.

This new generation I joined became part of a movement that was almost religious in some ways, almost cult-like. The right to party and the subsequent bonding experiences we all had would last a lifetime.

As we left our first all-nighter rave and found a load of flyers on the windscreen of our car, a new level of mind-influencing artwork and wording became part of our day to day lives.

Like many though, as the scene changed over the years and our lives moved on, I had a moment in my life when I decided to throw away the box that had all my rave memorabilia in it. I’ve regretted it ever since.

The only items I saved, at that time, were my membership cards from the likes of Sterns, Orange, Berwick Manor etc.

As I was approaching the 50 years of age milestone and craving nostalgia, I began collecting rave flyers again. The buzz was weirdly a bit like the dodgy deals from back in the day. Meeting up with people around the country to buy their acid house and rave flyer collections. It was during these deals that I would occasionally find membership cards and passes amongst these big job lot collections and I quickly established quite a large collection.

I amassed a pretty huge flyer collection over 18 months and the whole Covid pandemic seemed to bring out a lot of people’s flyer collections. I quickly seemed to establish myself amongst the rave flyer collector community (yep, it does exist!) as the main collector of membership cards and passes, which made me a bit of a go-to for people selling their memberships and VIP, AAA etc passes.

At the time of writing this, I have a collection of around 750 membership cards and passes, with the huge majority featuring in the book.

I’ve previously published four best-selling books with Taschen so I knew the importance of getting input from the most relevant people of the times to have a successful book. The pioneers of the eras, the founders of the events etc. This took me on a bit of a star-studded journey where most people I reached out to were happy to support the book by way of providing a quote to give readers a reminder of the acid house and rave eras but also to let future generations get a small glimpse inside the minds of those who helped create the biggest change in music and club culture for generations.

In A to Z format, the book features over 500 items of memorabilia from the late 80s and 90s and covers all the legendary and pioneering events of the eras, including Amnesia House; Biology; Dreamscape; Eclipse; Energy; Fantazia; Genesis; FAC51 Hacienda; Jungle Fever; Labrynth, Ministry of Sound; Rage; Raindance; Shoom; Spectrum; Sterns; Club UK; World Dance.

Working with the designer of all my books, Jon Cefai (Collaborate London) we set about creating the best quality book possible. We focused on an incredibly personal, passionate and detailed approach to the collection and photography, and combined that with the agile publisher that is Velocity Press.

With a Foreword by Justin Berkmann (Ministry of Sound), an historical insight Introduction by Sarah HB (renowned DJ and broadcaster), a Q&A with Jenni Rampling (Shoom) and finishing up with an Epilogue by Anton Le-Pirate (Energy; World Dance; Tribal Dance; Freedom To Party), the book encompasses one of the most important eras for dance music and is a historical reference for future generations.

The book, whilst featuring all of the iconic events, clubs and parties, legal and illegal, also includes quotes from the pioneering event founders, DJs, MCs, PAs, designers; ravers and even with the person who “invented” glow sticks giving us the insight on when, where and how they came about.

Finally, the book throws in some bonus content by way of many business cards and pin badges from back in the day.

Final finally, a quote from Sarah HB: “Members Only is almost encyclopaedic relating to the underground culture of ‘lost’ rave art illustrators. If this was submitted on a giant scale to a Biennale or Turner Prize it should win first prize. The designers that created these cards and passes are testament to a generation who parked their egos on a bench”.

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