Morning Raves and Legal Highs in London
Sober raves are sweeping the nation at one of London’s most impressive landmarks.
It’s 5.30am, and I’m on my way to a rave. It’s not the weekend, it’s a cold, foggy London morning, and I’m the only one on the train. No one gets up this early, let alone to go partying before work. I’m tired, but I’m also curious to learn more about Morning Gloryville, the cultural movement sweeping London.
I’m soon at London Bridge and standing in the shadow of one of Europe’s tallest buildings. The Shard looms over me, its 310m- (1,017 ft.) tall tower piercing the sky. It is 6am, and already there’s a queue forming for the elevators that will take us up to the venue on the 72nd floor. Partygoers are turning up in their dozens, looking ready for Glastonbury festival rather than the morning commute. ‘People are really going for it,’ I think as a herd of revellers dressed as unicorns approaches.
Once inside, I’ve already been hugged three times before I reach the 10th floor. Volunteers — more like ‘believers’ in the sober revolution — have turned up to spread the love. Instead of pills, ravers cram chunks of cacao into their mouths, their pupils widening larger than their grins. It is strange to think that no illegal highs are permitted, but that doesn’t stop people from letting loose.
You can hear the commotion before you see it. Stepping out into The View from The Shard, I see yogis limbering up in one corner and a raised DJ booth in another, already surrounded by a crowd swaying to the beat. Beyond, through the Shard’s floor-to-ceiling windows, the jaw-dropping, serene beauty of London is still fast asleep. I wonder what they’d think of the scenes unfolding above, approaching the clouds.
As the sun begins to rise, the quiet calm surrounding the areas of Westminster, Southbank and St Paul’s offers a stark contrast to the dancers, jugglers and morning ravers hot-stepping their way across the thudding dance floor. Smoothies and coffee are on standby for more natural highs. My body is confused as the initial shock of waking up at 5am gives way to the surrounding euphoria, and suddenly I understand what turns people into believers.
‘I don’t really consider myself a CEO — more the founding mother of the sober revolution,’ explains Morning Gloryville’s Samantha Moyo, who adds, ‘I realised I was done partying with drugs and alcohol, but still wanted to be wild.’ It turns out Samantha wasn’t the only one with this desire, and now her events company counts over 40,000 fans in London alone, and countless other in cities including Melbourne, Dublin and Berlin. ‘It’s like waking up in the morning and going to the gym — you have to be up for it,’ she says.
Since making that decision, Moyo has been on a mission to turn clubbing on its head. Morning Gloryville has evolved in the four years since it launched; as crowds got bigger, Moyo realised the event had to cater to a wider variety of tastes. ‘We realised we still need the traditional structures. For a millennial like me trying to challenge the societal norms, I realised you can’t be too progressive.’
It’s a fair point, and one which has seen audiences grow from just a handful to several hundred revellers per event. Morning Gloryville’s unique blend of unadulterated enthusiasm and health-conscious hedonism has also attracted some of the world’s biggest acts, including Basement Jaxx and Mark Knight.
The View from the Shard is the third London location to host Morning Gloryville. On my way out, I bump into two veterans who’ve already been to events at Oval Space and Portobello. ‘This is definitely the best view, but Oval Space has the best vibe,’ one tells me as the glitter falls from his face. Who knows, he might be a high-flying executive during the 9am–5pm workday, but this morning he’s just another dancer high above the sprawling city below.
As I leave the ground-floor foyer of the Shard, it’s a bitter shock as the brisk morning air brings me back to earth, but it has all been worth it. As I start heading back towards London Bridge station a man dressed in a kaleidoscope of colours, another volunteer, runs over for one last hug. ‘Hope to see you next time!’ he says, and he just might for the sheer infectious mess of the occasion has turned one more person into a believer in the power of the morning rave.