Image copyright Marmite/ Tony Ladd Image caption Flyers for Sterns often referenced well-known household firebrands

At the high levels of its popularity, ravers blocked the roads of rural Sussex trying to get to a 19 th Century mansion whose floorings pounded with the clangs of the so-called Second Summer of Love. But the success of Sterns nightclub would partially lead to its downfall. Simply three years after it began, the party was over.

Worthing in the early 1990 s was “a very bearing place”, recollects DJ Carl Cox – except for the fact the coastal town had a club that was “1 00% equivalent to the Hacienda” – the Manchester club that epitomised the rise of rave culture at the time.

“There was this lunatic organization off the A24 – one of “the worlds largest” unlikely parts of the world, ” says the house music legend and Space Ibiza pioneer. “It was in the middle of nowhere. There was no Uber , no taxis , no internet, and the line-up was ‘London’.

“You saw this manor house – it was the only place which had three floorings when all other nightclubs had one. You started in and everyone was going mad. You went downstairs and they were going mad. You went underground and it was just going off.”

Image copyright Rachel Jones Image caption Parties at Sterns often went on into the early hours

The house formerly known as Sterns was bought in 1919 by Sir Frederick Stern – banker, horticulturalist and one-time private secretary to ex-Prime Minister David Lloyd George.

By the 1980 s it was owned by Richard Garrett, who worked with music promoters Interdance. It was the eyesight of its leader Mensa that turned the mansion on Highdown Rise into a rave venue that predated super-clubs like Ministry of Sound, Gatecrasher and Cream and lured headliners such as Moby, The Prodigy, Sasha, Fabio and Grooverider.

The club had a view of the sea from its top openings and overlooked a town that was – and still is – characterised by its older demographic. It was an unexpected point in which to find all-night raves which paid adoration to the Second Summer of Love – a shift embraced by British youth culture between 1988 and 1989 that came from the house clubs of Chicago.

Image copyright Rachel Jones Image caption Rachel Jones and Mensa would regularly travel to London to hear the most recent music

Life in Britain in the early 1990 s was punctuated by Freedom to Party marchings and Conservative rule, while the headlines were dominated by ecstasy and illegal raves. The prevalence of the latter, particularly those in warehouses and lands around the M2 5, eventually led to the Criminal Justice Act, which famously targeted music “characterised by the emission of a succession of tedious outdoes“.

But parties at Stern, which operated from 1990 to 1993, were legal under a public presentation licence granted by Worthing Borough Council. The official cut-off time was 03:00 but the music often carried out under until 06:00, under what former club staff describe as a “gentleman’s agreement”.

While it was licensed as a members-only club, its exclusivity was seemingly elastic. Mensa’s girlfriend, Rachel Jones, obstructed a handwritten list of members which she recalls topped about 12,000 figures.

“I was 19 and it was phenomenal. We roamed, we did happenings in other cities, we lived the good life.

“It was a vibe – that’s what Mensa put into the place. I can see him now, standing out there, wearing a suit, the dignity on his face.”

Image copyright Rachel Jones Image caption Sterns became staggeringly favourite, with parties touring from all over the UK

Sterns contacted people through flyers and word of mouth, producing parties down from London, Birmingham, Manchester, and even from across Europe.

Its point was certainly unique – Jody Cottier recollects how they dug the basement of the house out of the South Downs chalk hillside, which isolated the huge sound system. Sweat and moisture famously dripped from the walls and ceiling, a phenomenon drawn attention to by many as “Sterns rain”.

“You ambled downstairs and you felt the body heat coming up, and the resonate was like being in a loudspeaker, ” says Jody.

“It was a shared feeling, a sound. Everyone was into music – it was anarchy on the dance floor.”

Image copyright Phil Dent/ Getty Image caption Sterns hosted a number of behaves that went on to become big names, including the Prodigy

James Holdsworth, who runs the Sterns Facebook page, remembers how affairs were improved at the after-parties at Chaffinches Farm in Birdham – then home to the Interdance crew. He describes it as a “real, creative hub” where very best of the week’s music was recorded at the farm’s own studio.

Mensa prided himself on playing the newest music at the team, regularly walking with Rachel to London to listen to pirate radio and recording music on cassettes to bring home because the reception on the south coast was so poor. At the guild, DJs regularly countenanced lily-white descriptions from those in the crowd hoping to have their work played exclusively.

Former Sterns sound technologist Simon Scutt says Mensa’s distribution of music “fresh off the turntable” facilitated spread the word about the guild.

“He was very cunning, very savvy. It took a huge amount of energy. He’d drive thousands of miles. He circulated music as far as Scotland and abroad – and that music had only been heard at Sterns.”

Image copyright Tony Ladd Image caption One flyer was based on the government’s “Charley Says” children’s public intelligence films – although Sterns intentionally misspelled it
Image caption Sterns had three floorings open to its members with techno on the top floor, garage and house in the middle and hardcore in the cellar

Mensa’s DIY aesthetic too extended to the club’s peculiar flyers, a 50,000 led which took all nighttime to etch. Tony Ladd, who designed many of them, says they hit on the idea to use household names such as Marmite alongside tongue-in-cheek wordplay to distinguish Sterns from other fraternities.

“Using food and product-based hypothesis was a conscious effort to get the flyers to blend in delicately, as stacks[ of them] were distributed in shops and on bars in public situates everywhere, ” he adds.

The club’s popularity was to prove a double-edged sword. Each party was regularly attracting 2,500 parties when it merely had ability for 900, says Simon, and cars would block the roads and were left parked on the center territory of the A259.

Sussex Police already had Sterns on its radar over medicines subjects of concern and the added courtesy from overcrowding fuelled the issue. Simon remembers how he and Mensa were arrested on Fontwell roundabout during a raid in 1992 when men targeted autoes approaching the club.

“We thought we were being cheated, but it was the police. They got us out[ through] the car windows and they handcuffed us to each other across the top of the car.”

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Media captionMichael Hassanyeh and Nigel Bulloch captured the spirit of Sterns on cinema

Sussex Police says it no longer maintains any records about Sterns but David Kenny, who has grew a 90 -minute documentary about the association, says the 1992 attacked was a game-changer.

“Once police started knocking on the door, it changed the vibe, ” he says.

“There were dopes, without a darknes of a uncertainty, but the practice things went be dealing with pushed them right underground. Closing the organization doesn’t tackle the issues.

“Those editions were freedom of expression and the music shift spreading through the country.”

Image copyright Rachel Jones Image caption Sterns regularly allured 2,500 beings when the society merely had capacity for 900

Councillor Steve Waight was tasked with visiting the mansion when he was elected. He said concerns about the organization were nothing to do with the music, the clientele, or any kind of reaction to a youth movement.

The 64 -year-old, who still baby-sit on the Worthing and West Sussex permissions, is to continue to resist renewal of the licence, which was awarded in 1990 when Mensa procured money from Margaret Thatcher’s Enterprise Allowance.

“I departed up there with uniformed the police force and we envisioned open drug-dealing in the car park. My concern was solely the flagrant and widespread utilize of illegal drugs.”

Image copyright Rachel Jones Image caption Revellers would often clog up the urban country roads trying to are going to the venue

Richard Garrett contend the courts over the licence, telling magistrates that medications researches at the fraternity were so thorough he would have been humiliated to undergo them himself. But ultimately, he failed to convince them.

Newspaper reports at the time cited a number of issues, including overcrowding and drug users. According to papers identified by the BBC under the Freedom of Information Act, Interdance lodged a further appeal with the crown courtroom, but the law proposal was withdrawn.

Journalist Thomas Green, who lectures on dance music at the University of Chichester, speculates Worthing Council has never wanted to celebrate Sterns, describing the town as tiny, republican and, at the time, “offended by the club”.

“They subjugated and crushed it. People involved with it certainly felt harassed. The principle and council did not want it.”

Image copyright Rachel Jones Image caption Punters remember how the mirrors and fluorescent decorate of the basement somehow obligated the opening seem larger

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Image copyright Rachel Jones Image caption Others remember the hot of the club’s parcelled areas

Sterns closed before the Criminal Justice Act came into force in 1994. But its downfall indicated the national disconnect between youth culture and the authorities.

Two years earlier, thousands of ravers had gate-crashed a free celebration for new age travellers at Castlemorton Common – different situations widely viewed as the catalyst for what came next.

The then-Home Secretary Michael Howard had told the BBC the law wasn’t designed to counter rave culture, but preferably to match one group of people’s interests with another’s. But this was also a Britain whose Prime Minister John Major had famously hit out at new age travellers and decorated a picture of a nation that prided itself on warm beer and cricket sand .

“Sterns was the antithesis – dancing to loud music in an empathic and affection culture that was not necessarily based on people settling down, ” says Green.

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Protests against the Criminal Justice Act 1994 became known as “Kill the Bill”
Image copyright Rachel Jones Image caption Rachel recollects a feeling of belonging at the club

Sterns contained its last party on 14 August 1993. Six months later, in February 1994, Mensa was killed in a gondola crash.

Rachel recollects how he had set off, merely to return five minutes later because he had forgotten his Filofax.

“He joked and he said ‘I love you, but only just’ and off he went.”

At the inquest, the coroner said Mensa – real call Adam Todd – had been overtaking , not wearing a seatbelt and quickening at 80 or 90 mph in a 60 mph province. His death from multiple hurts was ruled industrial accidents, and a beer he had drunk at lunch was cited as a relevant factor.

Interdance extended a few cases more phenomena in Bracklesham Bay, near Chichester, after Sterns closed and the association briefly reopened as Mansion House. But the party was over.

Jody, whose cousin survived the car gate-crash, says: “When Mensa died, Sterns died with him.”

Image copyright Thomas Niedermueller/ Getty Image caption DJ Carl Cox says Sterns was “1 00% equivalent” to Manchester’s Hacienda squad

The building is now a inn, but retentions of the south coast’s tribute to the Second Summer of Love are fondly recollected by those who whiled away the nights within its walls.

Highpoints for Danny Bushell include the police helicopter descending in the car park to disperse ravers at noon – the day after the nighttime before – and reading Prodigy for the first time in October 1991.

“Entering Sterns was like opening a secret door, ” recalls another punter, Rob Ford. “Being in the house immediately gave you an vigour numerous had never felt before.”

Image copyright Getty Image caption Freedom to Party objectors rallied through London’s streets in 1990

Green describes what happened at Sterns as a “socio-music phenomenon” – something not investigated since punk in the late 1970 s.

“Sterns was a key plaza where people would come to dance to music create in people’s bedrooms, music that was getting in the charts without being played on the radio: instrumental, electronic, minimalist music.

“We wouldn’t have The Prodigy and the Chemical Brother without it.”

Filmmaker Kenny, who is expected to exhaust his documentary pending licensing agreements, speculates the vigour that fuelled Sterns indicated a feeling of freedom and belonging.

“We should be hugely proud of what we were a part of, ” he says.

“But it happened too quickly. It was a moment in time. For a lot of people that was their time in life.”

A Sterns reunion will be held in Brighton on 24 August.

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