The silent discos being held in Canterbury Cathedral this week have made headlines across the world.
But are such events sacrilege or just a bit of fun? Our reporter Max Chesson joined hundreds of others at the ‘Rave in the Nave’ last night to find out…
“Oh my god, you’re going to love it,” said one person. Then another. Then another.
The feedback coming from Thursday afternoon’s silent disco in Canterbury Cathedral was all positive.
But standing in the pouring rain yesterday evening, I couldn’t help but think of the peaceful protesters I’d seen by the precinct just hours before.
In case you missed it, the ‘Rave in the Nave’ has proven to be quite controversial among the Christian community.
Critics called it profane and claimed it would descend into a rowdy rave which desecrated God’s house.
Even the New York Post has covered the unholy row.
But the Church of England argues it needs the money and to attract younger people – and believes this is the way to do so.
I’m not a religious man, but I do understand both sides. So the best way to find out if these really are “alcohol-fuelled raves” was to go along, right?
Walking in, we were given headphones with three different channels – each controlled by a different DJ near the altar and lit up with LED lights.
Red stood for hip-hop/R&B, green for pop/dance and blue for more alternative/indie/Britpop tunes – a fine balance.
God is a DJ – but not in this Cathedral.
As is the way when you first walk into any event when it’s just opened, there was an awkwardness as everyone built up the courage to cut some shapes.
But as the crowds gathered and the disco sticks began to illuminate the dance floor, the atmosphere shifted into a more vibrant and passionate one.
A sea of colour bobbed up and down in a slightly disjointed manner, each person adding their own spin to the meaning of dance.
Across the two-and-a-half hours, each DJ probably played 150 songs each – 450 overall, which is a lot of nostalgia.
I’d say the ‘green DJ’ probably won the battle for this session, but the ability to alter the mood at just the click of a button on a headset was well utilised by all.
And with this many songs, it was hard not to find yourself becoming more excited when a track you hadn’t heard in a while came on.
The usual offenders got the crowd pumped: Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears, Robbie Williams.
I personally found myself getting a bit carried away with some of the club classics – Rhythm of the Night by Corona springs to mind – but as far as I can remember there wasn’t a single song I didn’t like and you could tell that was the general mood in the room.
B*witched, Snoop Dogg, Spice Girls, Vengaboys, TLC, Haddaway, Lauryn Hill, Blur – the list is simply impossible to fully regurgitate.
I can’t wait to update my Spotify playlist with all the gems that lurk underappreciated in the 21st century.
There was genuinely something in there for everyone – which brings me to my next point.
If the fear had been it would descend into a drugged-up end-of-days party, it pleases me to confirm this was not the case.
Everyone was tremendously friendly and polite, with big cheesy grins worn by all.
It’s always nice when nobody in the room is too cool to dance or can’t ever relent from an overly serious persona.
There wasn’t as much 90s clothing being shown off in the room as you might think, but props to those who went the extra mile to recreate the feel.
There was a lot of love in the room and this event did bring people together where possible.
It wasn’t as raucous as a concert of your favourite band with thousands of other people but it was still a great feeling.
Truth is, if there were 750 people in here like predicted, it didn’t feel like it.
At the risk of sounding stupid, the Cathedral’s Nave is far larger than I ever gave it credit for – despite having graduated in here a few years back.
The whole experience was surreal, I found myself in awe of the ancient building.
At the bar, the wait was reasonable – though the prices of the drinks ranged from the usual absurdness (£3 for a soft drink) to predictably pricey (£5 for a San Miguel or Kopparberg).
I suspect this is to boost profit margins whilst also encouraging those engaging in booze to take it easy.
Before I knew it, it was time to leave and on came the uncomfortable light marking the end – for some at least – of the night’s festivities.
Party lovers chatted happily reflecting on the evening’s fun and a few made mention of the nearby city centre McDonald’s to celebrate a good workout.
I booked my ticket to the event when it was first announced last year, partly out of fear of missing out and partly because I knew the topic would wind up generating heated discussions.
At the time, I wondered if £26 would seem steep – and it does, but only slightly.
It did have teething problems – the card machines stopped working for a bit, the toilets are a fair walk away and the organisation of the entry queues wasn’t the most efficient.
But what event can say they always get it completely right?
And to be perfectly honest, there was a lot the organisers did get right.
It was a safe environment for both individuals and large groups to dance their hearts out, rediscovering the forgotten anthems of the years gone by.
And as these sorts of events go, it was a pretty tasteful and inoffensive night – all the swear words in songs were bleeped out to prevent upset.
I’d seriously doubt Horny ‘98 by Mousse T will be the worst thing ever heard within those hallowed walls.
Nobody got ruined beyond recognition or started a fight they couldn’t finish.
It was a good night – and I hope the Cathedral hosts another one soon.