British DJs don’t come much more iconic than Norman Cook—AKA Fatboy Slim—who has played a huge part in popular culture over the last four decades since The Housemartins burst onto the scene in 1983. However, the pinnacle of his career to date came on July 13th, 2002, when over 250,000 people flocked to Brighton Beach for a rave that was unlike anything that Britain had hosted ever before.
The free event, which was called the Big Beach Boutique, had been expected to attract just 60,000 people which was a similar number who had attended Fatboy Slim’s inaugural event a year previously. However, it was glorious weather and authorities soon realised that the crowd numbers would quickly be way beyond their expectations.
The evening’s music was not due to start until 6.30 pm, but by 2pm there were already some 50,000 partygoers who had arrived in Brighton and were firmly in the mood to party with off-licences and beach bars packed like sardines with some even closing early after selling their entire stock of alcohol.
The show was labelled as “chaos” by national media outlets such as the BBC and The Guardian with Fatboy Slim having to abandon his set short by half an hour after the police requested him to do so. A total of 160 people suffered minor injuries, 11 people were taken to hospital, with police arresting six people, with 25-year-old Australian nurse Karen Manders sadly dying.
Thousands were left stranded in Brighton overnight, the beach was in tatters, and the town stank of urine for two weeks. The event cost Cook £200,000 and he then spent another £75,000 on the clean-up. The backlash was so severe that he took up the advice of his neighbour Sir Paul McCartney and left the country for a few days.
At the time, Cook said: “I felt very stressed because at one point I thought my nightmare scenario, that I might be responsible for someone being hurt or killed, was coming true. I was really rattled.”
The DJ was apologetic about the way that it turned out and even paid out of his pocket for the clean-up operation: “This was, without doubt, the biggest gig of my career. Brighton has responded superbly. I would like to thank the emergency services on the night and everyone involved in the clean-up operation. We now have to return the city I love to how it should be seen.”
The next time that Fatboy Slim hosted the gig in 2008, he maintained his promise of not making the same mistakes again by making it a free ticketed event with capacity limited at just 20,000 and mainly given to locals as a thank you for standing by him after the last event.
Watch footage of 250,000 people taking part in a rave that Britain has not witnessed since as Fatboy Slim plays to the adoring Brighton crowd.