Photos by Anouk Brekhof

The club is closed, let’s go to a rave

Secret parties

Photos by Anouk Brekhof
Now that pubs and clubs are closing early again, students are looking for other ways to dance the night away. When the police end one party, another one starts somewhere else.
By Denise Overkleeft, Sofia Strodt and Jonah Franke-Bowell
17 November om 12:10 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 18 November 2021
om 14:52 uur.
November 17 at 12:10 PM.
Last modified on November 18, 2021
at 14:52 PM.

Rain falls in sheets on the metal roof of the hangar-like building on the edge of the city. Bikes are clustered along the footpath. Student bikes probably, as the blue tires of the Swap-bikes reveal. 

Silhouettes of revellers move in the direction of off kilter 808 snares and a thumping bass that is emanating from the building.

Inside, the place is packed. Pills are everywhere. Jaws tight, eyes wide, hundreds of students are dancing, beats reverberating through their bodies. It’s almost as if the clock has been wound back to when Corona was still just a beer brand. Two years ago, a party like this would have been advertised across the city. Now people have to make do with only word of mouth and a WhatsApp group.  

Pissed off

But then, suddenly, the music dies. After a few moments of confusion, it’s clear that the men who just arrived through the main door are cops. After only half an hour, that’s it. The party is shut down.

‘I’m a bit pissed off to be honest… Who hosts a rave next door to the cop shop?’ one unnamed British student mutters on the way out. ‘I thought I would be here until the wee hours, I even packed my football boots for my match in the morning.’

Eyes wide, hundreds of students are dancing, beats reverberating through their bodies

‘Most of the parties we know of are through some other dudes in a DJ collaborative and they just say we have time “let’s throw a sesh”, says Seth, a Dutch student at the university college. In hindsight chuckles Seth: ‘Perhaps it was for the best that it was closed down -the building has asbestos in it and was supposed to be demolished the week after.’

Unpredictability is standard procedure for students looking for a night of fun: changing party locations, all manner of drugs and venues in living rooms and abandoned industrial spaces.

But this secret rave is not the only case of strangers getting together to enjoy larger scale parties past the curfew. More and more major private parties are popping up throughout the city, because clubs close early and many students don’t feel like calling it a night just yet.

‘Everything echoes through the streets and backyards around here’, says Jakob Wolters, chair of neighbourhood organisation Eerste Schilderskwartier. Because there are so many student houses in the neighbourhood, there’s always a party disrupting people’s sleep.

Partying much harder

Last year and this spring, things got out of hand. ‘People were partying much harder, drinking way more.’ Neighbours are powerless in the fact of that, says Wolters. ‘You can’t talk to anyone about their behaviour, because they’re drunk off their asses.’

Last June, the neighbourhood organisation raised the alarm. Again. They wrote the city council, complaining of ‘people yelling in the street at night’, ‘groups of students who act like they can party whenever they want’, and ‘sidewalks turning into a jungle of bikes and picnic tables’.

No one judges you for taking drugs

After the students, other neighbours, welfare organisation WIJ, and the police met up for a discussion, things were going ‘pretty well’, says Wolters. The parties haven’t come to an end, but they appear to be less extravagant.

Or at least they did, up until a week ago, when it was decided that pubs and clubs have to close at seven p.m. According to club owner and former Groningen night mayor Chris Garrit, this restriction doesn’t work and only leads to underground parties. People sign up with party app Amigos, join WhatsApp group chats, or announce parties on Tinder. People eagerly respond.

Student for business economics Xu is not vaccinated yet. Which is one of the reasons why he prefers house parties. ‘That would mean that every time I want to go out to a club I would have to get tested,’ he says. Also, Xu is fond of house parties because they are more intimate than being at a club and ‘no one judges you for taking drugs’.

Run out of hand

However, because these popular pop-up parties attract a wide array of different people who only too often don’t know each other, things can easily run out of hand. Student of film and contemporary audiovisual media Maitreya Penkar experienced that more than once. Like in September, when he and his friends decided to host an after party. 

They told a couple of people about it, but when he was cycling back home, other people were speeding past him to get to the house as well. ‘When we asked them where they were going they told us our address’, Maitreya recalls. ‘Suddenly I heard our address everywhere. Our house has become a hot spot ever since.’

At one point they found themselves inside their small, single storey student house with about ninety people, half of them strangers. ‘Someone overheard us talking about going back to my former student house. From there it was like a snowball effect, with people asking if they could just bring two more people until eventually the house was so packed we had to lock the doors and send people away’, Maitreya says. ‘I wasn’t living there anymore at the time, but I was anxious.’

The mayhem reached its climax when one of the party guests threw up from their tiny balcony, right into the neighbours’ garden. ‘The neighbours were livid and threatened to call the police’.

Master student Kevin, who has lived in Groningen for years, says that larger house parties have certainly become more popular due to Corona restrictions. In fact, he even prefers house parties because he’s not in the right mood to ‘see random people making out’ in clubs before twelve o’clock. Also, to him it’s too stressful to go clubbing, because then the pre-drinks would have to start much earlier. 

It’s really like the nightlife in the city but then in houses

Even though he’s had house parties with more than forty guests attending, things remained largely civilised. Because he makes sure to invite people who other guests know, Kevin doesn’t mind having strangers over at his house where he lives together with ten other people. ‘It’s really like the nightlife in the city but then in houses. But you have to be more careful because of course there is no bouncer at your door,’ he says.

Also, there’s way more drugs going around, he says, because no one checks. ‘If you use drugs at associations, you would have a problem because they have a zero tolerance policy. But when you’re at home you can just put it on the table,’ he says.

And his guests like to experiment with a whole bunch of substances including weed, ecstasy, ketamine, as well as designer drugs like 3-MMC. ‘People who use cocaine can be arrogant sometimes but generally people who are on drugs are behaving better than those who are wasted because of alcohol’, Kevin says. 


Xu uses Amigos to meet new people, he says, but also because he and his friends are concerned that the police might show up after midnight. So they are always on the lookout for the next party. But things can also get out of hand with Amigos, because anybody can invite other guests. And what if they won’t leave? 

‘Four weeks ago, we had a party with about a hundred people’, says Xu. ‘The host wanted to shut the event down at 2:30 but no one left, we even brought our own music. It took another hour before people started to take off.’ 

Maitreya used to live in an SSH house and in June, when their contract was about to end, they wanted to organize one last proper party. ‘There were at least 150 people and the police showed up twice. ‘We told everyone that they were strictly forbidden from going into our rooms but when the police showed up people ran upstairs, some laid in bed, pretending to be asleep,’ Maitreya says.

But there were three parties in SSH houses at the same time, so when the police showed up at one place, the crowd of partying students just went on to the next. And back.