A deep blue droplet creates a ripple effect across a velvet green galaxy, instantly catching the eye.
This abstract sci-fi artwork is advertising for a rave called Technotown ‘96 in the former Ormond Multimedia Centre in Dublin city, and is one of many pieces of memorabilia that Senan Shortt has collected from this scene.
“People would have posters of Pamela Anderson, I had flyers from all the nightclubs in Dublin,” says Shortt, who is now in his forties, over the phone.
Paul O’Connell, meanwhile, collects ticket stubs. He says they take him back to “dancing in the middle of a thousand people all wanting to hit a happy zone,” he says.
Both Shortt and O’Connell hang on to memories of their 1990s rave days through memorabilia they collected through the years: flyers, records, ticket stubs.
As ravers from the ’90s share their keepsakes online, it continues to inspire a new generation.
Introduced to the Scene
Shortt was introduced to the rave scene in the early ’90s through his brother and sister.
“They used to go to raves in the Mansion House or a famous club called the Asylum,” he says.
His brother would come back from the Asylum with tapes, says Shortt. “So I used to get the tapes and I’d be listening to them non-stop,” he says.
One of the first gigs that Shortt can remember going to see was The Prodigy on New Year’s Eve in 1993 at The Point Depot, he says.
“It was supposed to be over 16s, but sure I used to get in there when I was only 13,” he says.
O’Connell got into the scene another way: as a self-professed “no name” DJ, he says.
“But you always felt like you were in the thick of it”, he says.
From 1995, O’Connell worked as a DJ on various radio stations, after playing a small residency in Madigan’s on O’Connell Street in 1991, “mixing late ’80s and early ’90s club tracks”, he says.
In 1997, he and a few friends ran a night in the Funnel Club, he says. The Funnel Club would then close just two years later.
“The guest list was more often bigger than the paying crowd,” says O’Connell.
Shortt says his flyer collection would normally start in record shops like Abbey Discs, Music Power, Tag Records, or Outlaw Records.
“There was loads of record shops in Dublin, little small ones,” he says. There, he would buy records and also find out about upcoming gigs, he says.
Shortt doesn’t know exactly how many flyers he has, but he says he has a lot. “A couple of thousand I reckon,” he says.
“I used to collect and keep flyers like there was no tomorrow,” says O’Connell.
“Collections like these are so important,” says James McGuirk, who works as a graphic designer and has designed posters for many gigs in Ireland over the last few years.
“It is the most unbelievable reference point you can look back on for your own work,” he says.
“Looking at all these flyers from the ’90s I just think, this is the coolest stuff of all time,” says McGuirk.
It’s the contrast between different artwork from the ’90s that really stands out for McGuirk.
“It’s either really simple, like really punchy and to the point. Looking at other stuff it’s so nuts, like faces that come out of digital landscapes and stuff,” he says.
As well as flyers, Shortt says he has a collection of about 15,000 vinyl records from the techno scene.
He shows a photo of himself surrounded by his collection. In the black-and-white photo, Shortt stands at the end of a narrow, 10-foot-long room.
Like an optical illusion, the more you look at the photo, the more records seem to appear. They fill the shelves end-to-end and floor-to-ceiling, with some precariously pushed out. Others sit in stacks on the floor, and others still are slotted between sound systems and turntables.
Starting at the age of 13, he would work on building sites after school on Wednesdays and Saturdays, says Shortt.
Then, with that money, he would go into Abbey Discs and buy records, he says. And he’s been buying records since.
O’Connell shows five ticket stubs from his collection. Many show details from a different time.
One stub is from a £15 ticket to a gig at 8pm in The Point Depot – now known as 3Arena – on 20 July 1990.
At other events, O’Connell remembers the band Underworld playing the Redbox in 1998 and “absolutely blowing the place apart with energy”, he says, and in the same venue the year before “Daft Punk being well oversold, but smashing it with an amazing set – before the masks”.
“I needed something to hold onto,” O’Connell says, explaining why he kept all the ticket stubs.
They bring memories of nights “dancing in bigger clubs or DJing in smaller grubby venues,” he says.
He remembers getting handed a bottle of water from a stranger who noticed he was struggling with the heat of the night, or feeling a stranger pat him on the back on the dance floor, he says.
“Jesus you’d be talking to people from the city and everywhere else”, O’Connell says.
And what about Shortt? Why did he keep his flyers while others threw theirs away? “I don’t know to be honest with you,” he says.
He began his collection by just hanging the flyers up on his wall, he says. “It was probably because I was mad into the music like,” he says.
Shortt has managed to keep his flyers despite a few people asking for them, he says.
“I have them there – you wouldn’t throw them out. I suppose I would say for sentimental reasons,” he says.
While O’Connell still has most of his memorabilia like ticket stubs, vinyls, and t-shirts he has some regrets about his flyer collection he says.
“I moved house 15 years ago and had a clear out, and being the gobshite that I am, they went for a hop,” says O’Connell.
Shortt says he thought about selling his records. “But I just haven’t gotten around to selling them yet,” he says.
Every now and then, he will still DJ, he says.