Ravescene Magazine

Ravescene Magazine

Black and white image of people dancing in a club

Ravescene was an independent magazine, set up by Gwen and Josh Lawford in 1992 and published in Chingford. It was a zine for ravers by ravers and ran from 1992 to 1994 publishing a total of 51 copies. 

Gwen was already raving by time she started the magazine and said the impetus to set it up was to create an alternative income during a time of deep recession in the UK – with the added benefits of getting complementary tickets to raves.

We wanted to write a magazine that had all the facts and gossip that we all spent hours talking about when we were chilling out at home after a long night raving. And raving was a community – everyone knew everyone.

Gwen Lawford, [1]

The magazine mixed raving articles, charts and reviews with commentaries from Gwen on the current state of affairs, reminding us of the recession at the time and the escapism that partying provided. In the 1993 yearbook, Gwen writes, “1992 has for many, been the worst economic experience of their lives, with little sign of light at the end of the tunnel. For young people, it can be depressing and demoralising, with little or no prospects for a future career and employment [2]. Parallels are easy to draw with the plight of young people now, the rise of illegal raves and how the current COVID-19 crisis is affecting them.

Ravescene started as a free fanzine given out outside raves and was funded by advertising as with today’s free papers. “Ravescene was great, because people would pick it up after a rave and when they’re coming down they’d be reading it”, recalls their drugs writer Claire Henderson. It went on to be stocked by many UK records shops. Kier, who worked in Record Village, Walthamstow, recalled:

“It was a really popular publication for ravers that wanted something that spoke to them directly… it wasn’t produced by a mass media organisation it was produced by local people whose hearts and enthusiasm were in the scene… people would come to the record shop especially to get that publication.

Kier Hawkins, Record Village

Claire says the ethos of the magazine, was, “Safe raving”, and that Gwen, was the brainchild. “She really did a great job… Ravescene wouldn’t be any anything like it was if it wasn’t for Gwen and her foresight. 

Gwen combined raising a young family with the business, running the magazine from her home. “She was a primarily a businesswoman who got into raving so she combined those two interests”, said Claire. DJ and Producer Warlock, who also wrote for them, remembers meetings at their family home in Chingford, “What was really nice was suddenly you were kind of out in the leafy Epping Forest borders”. Claire said it was, “Always a real open house. You always felt really safe there. She had some decks and we’d chill out in the kitchen after the parties. It was lovely. 

It started as a black and white A4 photocopy, folded into A5. It included reviews, articles, interviews, rave listings and adverts. To start with a few thousand were printed and handed out, but after around ten issues, demand snowballed. At its peak, they were printing 40,000 copies and distributing them nationally. Both the design and content started to evolve. Gwen designed the layouts on an Apple Mac using Quark Express, “The disk was given to our printer who usually turned the job around in a couple of days. Then we collected it, dished it out to the flying team, sent out the subscribers copies, and delivered and posted to all the record shops. We started to fly for other promoters as well, and we even put together packages of Ravescene and flyers in a plastic covering which we put on car windscreens before and after parties [3].

Warlock was already established as a DJ when he started writing their record reviews, “It was really good… it was just talking about the rave scene because a lot of the press at a time, glossy magazines like The Face and ID, might have run the odd feature about raving but there wasn’t really any magazines purely dedicated to what was going on.

Ravescene started and supported the careers of a number of young people at the time. Claire Henderson had come to London as a student, “When my friend handed me the first copy of Ravescene I thought, ‘Right, I’m gonna write for them. I’ve got a really good idea’. So I phoned them up and came to Chingford and saw Gwen. Claire pitched writing informative articles about keeping yourself safe and drug-taking and was taken on as their drugs writer. Her articles included How to Save Your Friends Life, an article which she knows saved at least one life. The magazine ended up having a huge impact on the rest of her career and she continues to have a deep interest in writing about drugs.

Safety Measures article in Ravescene Year Book by Claire Henderson, 1992
Safety Measures article in Ravescene Year Book by Claire Henderson, 1992

Steve Toner, was a young photography student at the University of Arts, London. He was already into the rave scene and photographing events he attended, so contacted Ravescene to see if he could do a project for them. They sent him to photograph one of their parties, Double Dipped at Labyrnth. Impressed with his work, he carried on photographing for them for every subsequent copy. It too, set the pathway for his career and he went on to set up Exit Magazine. As a raver himself his photos are relaxed with sense of familiarity between himself and the subject.

By issue seven or eight, they began producing work by graphic artist, Kris. Warlock describes him as an amazing artist like, graphic sort of illustrator and he did these amazing graffiti style drawings, very of the time.

Artwork from Ravescene magazine, by Kris
Image of Warlock by Kris for Ravescene magazine, c.1992

As the music scene started to shift and fragment, Ravescene magazine seemed to struggle with their identity and to keep the same enthusiasm for the new scene. In the penultimate copy Gwen writes: “The jungle scene breeds moodiness and bad attitude. The only answer is this – let jungle go it’s own way and the people that are involved in it to do their own thing (and there are some good decent jungle producers out there), even publish their own magazine but don’t pretend it has anything to do with rave – it doesn’t [4].

For DJ and Producer, Adrian H, he felt this conflict whilst writing for them. He began writing charts and articles at the time the music was shifting, “I suppose hardcore was getting more mainstream and then you had jungle coming up which was getting more ‘urban'”, meaning more black. He felt that there were agenda’s at play and that Ravescene wanted to steer the scene away from the more ‘urban’ scene. He left the magazine, “Because to me it was like a magazine that was trying too hard to push the scene in a way that they wanted it.

Ravescene closed in 1994. Gwen went on to pursue a number of careers and run businesses, and is currently a local councillor for the Conservative Party. 

In 1994 a new magazine appeared on the scene, also produced in the borough. Prestige branded itself as ‘The UK’s First National Designer Rave Magazine’ was published from a studio in Lea Bridge Road, Leyton. Far glossier than Ravescene, it reflected both the change in desktop publishing and was able to reflect and embrace the shifts in the music scene more holistically, featuring artists like DJ Rap, Doc Scott, Swift & Zine; events like Roast and local writers like Dlux.   

Front cover of Prestige Magazine, 1994
Spread of Prestige Magazine, 1994


[1] Originally published in an article in www.oldskoolreview.co.uk

[2] Ravescene Year Book 1993 ISBN 095207539x

[3] Originally published in an article in www.oldskoolreview.co.uk and republished on www.its-all-about-flyers.com

[4] Ravescene no.5