“It’s done in a supermarket parking lot”… How a party of 8,000 people managed not to get burned

Do you remember the surprise party you organized for your friend’s 30th birthday? Big stress for weeks so that he doesn’t find out and that none of the 24 participants make a mistake. Do the shopping in scred and pray that it doesn’t top your WhatsApp group “Toto’s surprise birthday”. So imagine what the organizers of the Quimper party felt this weekend. Called TekWest, this event brought together between 8,000 and 10,000 people on the tarmac of the Finistère prefecture airport.

A gathering that the authorities like to point out is illegal because it is undeclared. The participants preferred the term “free party” and expressed their desire to gather without repression. How was the party organized? How was she able to escape the authorities? 20 minutes makes a small point.

Who are these parties organized by?

Parties are organized by sound systems, collectives not constituted as an association whose sole objective is to make people dance. Free parties or “free parties” are by definition illegal since they are not declared to the prefecture. In France, any gathering must be announced in advance. The people who organize these events are often very young and donate their time and money to make people dance. “It’s so complicated to organize events in France that we prefer not to declare them. When we declare them, we are prohibited from doing them. The party also means partying more freely, not being a customer. But it’s not anarchy,” says Abracadabra, DJ and party organizer.

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Party planners are not professionals. Most of the time, they are spectators themselves. “There is no guru, no established hierarchy. There are a few thinking heads, but they rotate, they renew themselves,” continues the DJ.

How do the organizers keep it secret?

Usually only the date is known. For an event like the one organized in Quimper, it is decided several months in advance, giving the collectives time to organize themselves. Participants are warned a few weeks in advance that an event will occur, without knowing where. The location is kept very secret until the last moment. “Only a handful of people know where it’s going to go. Even me as an artist, I didn’t know where it was going to take place,” smiles Miltatek, a DJ who has been a regular at tek parties for around fifteen years.

To avoid being detected, the organizers use encrypted messaging services such as Telegram and are careful not to publish anything on social networks. “We knew it was going to be held in the West because it was called TekWest, but we didn’t know anything else. Friday evening, we learned that it was in Brittany and we hit the road,” says Fanny, who left the Center region to come dance in Quimper.

How do participants know where to go?

The party scene operates via network. To be in the know, you have to know someone who knows someone. “There is a form of initiation rite to join the circle,” assures DJ Abracadabra. On the evening of the party, the organizers reveal one or more meeting places at the last minute. “In general, this is done in a supermarket parking lot,” testifies this regular. Here too, partygoers use encrypted messaging to be more discreet. A telephone hotline is sometimes set up. A telephone number is opened on which a message is recorded and communicates the location which has long been kept secret. Once gathered in several dozen, hundreds or thousands in a parking lot, the partygoers leave in convoy towards the identified location. It is then too late for the police to arrest them.

How do the authorities try to spot them?

“They announce the location at the last moment so that we cannot intervene,” summarizes this gendarmerie officer. In fact, the police are often aware in advance that an event is being prepared but they are unaware of the location. “We look at what is being said on open sources like social networks. We always manage to find little things. We have people specialized in intelligence who do that very well,” testifies this gendarme. Before this Easter weekend, the prefects of the four Breton departments had issued banning orders making any festive gathering illegal. A way to put pressure on the organizers by authorizing the seizure of equipment but also on the participants by allowing systematic verbalization. Around 600 reports were drawn up on the sidelines of the Quimper festival, according to the prosecutor.

How are the parties organized?

The scale of this free party reminds us, if necessary, that Brittany is a land of parties. Above all, it demonstrates that part of our youth lives for this type of gathering where the entrance fee is free and requires no dress code. A place where everyone can come as they want, if they want. “In a party, you are yourself, you are free. There is no discrimination. No one will judge you,” assures Fanny, 27 years old and a fan for four years.

Judgment comes above all from the outside, from those who do not know and are based on stubborn prejudices. To put it simply: partying is boom boom and drugs. If there is some truth, the observation should not stop there. “There is a new generation who discovered partying during Covid-19. That’s when they started going out. Once you have tasted it, it is very complicated to return to a more constrained and more expensive framework,” says Fabrice, a Techno + volunteer.

The association brings together volunteers responsible for risk prevention during free parties. For years, she has been trying to raise awareness among participants by training them. “In a party, it’s very difficult to separate the participants from the organizers. Many people lend a hand with setting up, taking down and cleaning. The entrance fee is free, the only goal is to have fun and dance,” assures the volunteer.

Why is the party so successful?

If the party scene is so successful, it is because it offers a relief for a whole part of the population. “The people who come are younger and younger, with people aged 16 or 17. These are kids who don’t want to go to nightclubs because it doesn’t look like them. They don’t like music and they don’t want to pay more than 100 bucks for a bottle of vodka. They prefer to stay in the open air. People think that there are only misfits partying. That’s not true, there’s everything. So yes, there are drugs, but like at all parties. Here, there are no schedules, no constraints. It’s the youth who are having fun,” says Miltatek.

A demonstration was held on March 28 in Munich, Germany to denounce the bans on the organization of festive gatherings.– A. Pohl/Sipa

Afterwards, let’s be clear, everything was not perfect. For local residents, this weekend of partying was sometimes difficult to digest. Because the party is loud, everyone knows it. But also because we don’t welcome 10,000 people without leaving a trace. For several days, traffic was complicated around the site and uncontrolled parking grew as quickly as wild pooping. Like every legal festival.

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