Party Like It’s 1999: Eerie, Forgotten Photos From an End of the World Rave

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Courtesy Luke Overin and Jerry O’Driscoll

In a new book titled Lizard Point ’99, artist Luke Overin and photographer Jerry O’Driscoll reflect on the illegal raves, stuffy campervans and IRL communalism of the pre-millennial era

Jerry O’Driscoll remembers where he was at the end of the world. The Kent-based photographer was at an all-night rave in Cornwall, on the furthest southern coastal point of the UK, adjusting to the “boatload” of acid he had just taken. “I was seeing frogs everywhere,” he recalls. “I remember at one point thinking the whole floor was covered in them, a plague of frogs with human facial features.”

The year was 1999, and the atmosphere in the world was tense. With the new millennium just months around the corner, there were whispers of a fast-approaching apocalypse: an end-of-year phenomenon that would induce mass cult-style suicides, a devastating Y2K computer virus, and planes falling from the sky. Weeks before that, in an ominous warning of the troubles to come, a once-in-lifetime full solar eclipse was set to darken the earth’s skies.

O’Driscoll decided to celebrate what may be his final moments on earth with a spontaneous road trip. The photographer, along with four of his friends, drove from Margate to Lizard Point in Cornwall (apparently one of the best spots in the country to view the upcoming eclipse). They were joined by around 300 other “crusties, hedonists and new age travellers”, in what ended up being an “amazing”, drug-fuelled, end-of-the-world-style rave.

But of course, the world did not end. It rumbled on, and the memories of O’Driscoll’s raucous night were confined to just two rolls of 35mm film, which would sit neglected and undeveloped in his attic for 20 years. It was only after being furloughed from his job at a security firm last year that he rediscovered their dusty remains and took them for processing. Around the same time, he had met artist Luke Overin, who was intrigued to hear – and see – more about O’Driscoll’s 1999 adventures. “I met Jerry through a mutual friend in Kent,” Overin tells AnOther. “Our conversations gradually moved on to discovering the rolls of film that Jerry had stored away. This began a lengthy process of developing the photographs, repairing them and curating them.”

The result is a newly released collaborative book titled Lizard Point 99 (Bronze Age Editions). Inside, we see the images from both of O’Driscoll’s unearthed 35mm films, remixed, curated and designed by Overin (a challenge, given how damaged and degraded the original exposures were). The book also includes an in-depth discussion between the pair, where the photographer reflects on his memories of the period. “I was drawn to not only the spontaneous and charming nature of the images, but also how the degraded quality felt haunting and eerie,” says Overin. He was additionally interested in the marked difference between late 20th and early 21st-century youth culture, and believes that O’Driscoll’s images “express the last dying embers of tribes and subcultures.”

“In our contemporary, homogenous culture, where a full outfit of a raver, punk or goth can be same day delivered to your house via Amazon, where does that place a project such as Lizard Point ’99?” the artist muses. “Ultimately, it was the overpowering feel and sense of the organic that drew me to the images; they represent organic people, places, relationships, events and activities. The images within the project have unearthed more questions than I thought and I am still processing much of it.”

For O’Driscoll, working on the project has inspired a sense of “hopeful” nostalgia about his youth: an era of illegal raves, stuffy campervans and IRL camaraderie. It also made him think more about England, a country he feels is currently “fractured and mired” in a major identity crisis. “If you can, get in a car, or rent a van with friends and experience life outside the city, town, or village you call home,” he says in the book’s closing conversation. “We need to create new understandings between the places and people who inhabit this country. People should mobilise and attempt to reach those understandings, and invest in a level of reunification. This is an eccentric country that presently feels trapped in a twilight zone, but I believe it still has plenty to offer.”

Lizard Point 99 is available now from Bronze Age Editions.