‘If God is a DJ’: heritage rave, the ageing raver and the bodywork of the DJ

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this article we explore the revival of rave music in the UK, reporting original research findings and focusing, in particular, upon two emergent themes: (1) the lived experience of the ageing raver, and its embodied and collective nature; and (2) the changing role of the DJ. The paper draws upon 15 in depth interviews with both music professionals and ordinary participants who were part of the rave scene in the 1990s and who are now either returning to rave, after a period away from it, or who, having decreased their involvement, are now stepping it up again in the context of the revival. We explore how rave’s revival constitutes a form of heritage which is crucial to the UK’s creative economy and we illustrate how heritage rave events provide a collective space for ageing ravers to relive times, music and dances of old. However, we find that heritage rave is also a space of contention between advocates of ‘authentic’ and ‘commercialised’ forms of rave respectively. A further finding centres upon the ways in which reviving rave and reframing it in terms of heritage has transformed the position and role of the DJ. Having been a background figure in rave’s first wave, the DJ has become a centralised and revered figure within the heritage rave sector. There is a greater demand for professionalism and therefore sobriety, a demand which often agrees with those of their ageing body, but there are also performance demands which must be reconciled with the limitations of the latter. All DJ’ing involves non-contact bodywork – using music and mixing as a means of eliciting a specific and importantly, collective, bodily response- we argue, but this is heightened in the heritage rave scene.
Original languageEnglish
JournalCultural Sociology
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 6 Oct 2022


  • rave music
  • creative economy
  • craft
  • body
  • bodywork
  • heritage

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Creative Manchester
  • John Rylands Research Institute and Library


Dive into the research topics of '‘If God is a DJ’: heritage rave, the ageing raver and the bodywork of the DJ'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this