We went to a daytime rave in Leeds on “freedom day” – here’s what went down

You can barely tell the party’s been on hold for a year and a half.

It’s 3 pm in the afternoon and we arrive at Mint Warehouse in full-blown sunshine, ready for a sold-out terrace party.

The nightclub, one of Leeds’ most iconic clubbing venues, is throwing on of the city’s very first parties back – a boisterous tech house all-day-and-night terrace rave with sets from a host of local talents, some of whom are so happy to be back they were also down here playing the night before.

There are some big headliner sets coming later,  but people have piled in early for the dance, they’re not waiting about any longer. 

The DJs and promoters tell us that last night, at the 00:01 opening party that marked the official end of nightlife restrictions, the atmosphere was “electric” – and we can definitely feel that elation here today, albeit if a few may be a tad beleaguered from partying the whole night before. 

“The crowd was just reacting to everything last night,” one tells us, with a smile tinged with just the faintest hint of surprise.  

“It was pure magic in here,” he adds, perhaps in acknowledgment that before the pandemic and the shuttering of Leeds’ nightclubs the crowds weren’t always so easy to please.

Even though a lot of people we meet confide that they haven’t slept, they don’t seem to care – after all, who needs eight hours when you’ve got thumping tech-house and vodka lemonades (and then some) to power you through? 

The crowd is pretty mixed, it’s mostly younger but there are a few old school ravers here too including a pair of 40-year-olds in bucket hats who were first in at bang on 3 pm, ready and waiting for the dance to return. 

Inside, a mournful Mona Lisa is projected over the indoor room facing the bar, whilst out on the terrace huge weighted speaker stacks pump bass into a heaving dance floor, already nearing full an hour in with high-spirited revelers acting like they never left the party, to begin with.

We meet Jemma, a second-year Leeds Uni student that lives in Headingley, in the bathroom upstairs – a classic melting pot of conversation amongst strangers at any nightclub, 

Asked how it finally feels to be out after so long, she tells us she and her group of mates “are absolutely buzzing to be here.”

“It just feels like we’ve been waiting so long, you know? I actually can’t believe it. But oh my god is it hot!” 

It is hot, she’s not wrong. With the bass pounding through the crowd, girls have their fans at the ready as they bop and fist pump to the hefty four to the floor rhythms pulsating across the dance floor. Between the bronzed midriffs and mid-summer heatwave, it honestly feels like we could be in Ibiza. 

At first, the crowd’s pretty spaced out but as people get into it that all dissipates – girls are pushed up against the front of the decks two-stepping from side to side, lads in their bucket hats and shades sip Red Stripes and smoke cigarettes behind them. At first glance, it’s like nothing ever changed.

That said, there’s a definite commitment all round to not stop dancing, to make the most of this – as if no one is really sure when it might all come to an end. 

But for now. It’s only positive vibes: the club’s all fist pumps and cheers, and there’s a true feeling of elation, of coming together on the dance floor again, of moving side by side with strangers who love the music just as much as you. 

It really is magic and we, for one, are mighty glad to see the rave return. Long may it last.

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