Since our baby Evan was born life has been inevitably tumbled upside down. Late nights and bar hopping may have been replaced with even later nights and hopping from his bedroom to ours as we pray sleep will come soon, but I’ve thrown myself into parenthood head first and love every minute of it.
Yet since weathering the storm of the insane newborn days and finally mastering the introduction of solid foods (I NEVER WANT TO SEE A SWEET POTATO AGAIN), I’ve been relieved to discover it’s just about possible to do some of the old stuff we love to do with our little man in tow - just a slightly pared down version of it.
We’ve viewed some Bourgeois at the Tate Modern. We’ve pelted around breathlessly at Buggy Fit. We’ve perfected our downward facing dogs at Mums and Babies Yoga. Evan has even accompanied me to an interview on assignment for music magazine RockShot, for which I’m a contributing writer. But we’re yet to combine our love of raving/dancing/going to NIGHTCLUBS* with our love of Evan assuming, quite reasonably, that the two did not mix. (*I’m pretty certain they’re not called that any more).
Until now that is. A few weeks back we were invited to a Big Fish Little Fish event in my original ‘hood, South London, and we literally jumped at the chance.
BFLF is an award-winning event that gives adults the opportunity to take a break from the norm and ‘rave on’ with their family. It’s a creative and exciting music and dance party for the post-rave generation of parents with children aged between 0-8 years old. Not only can you expect big name DJs, fancy dress themes, a licensed bar and club visuals, there’s free glowsticks and transfer tattoos, a licensed bar and baby chill out areas. Oh, there’s also a licensed bar. Did I say that already?
It’s the brainchild of founder Hannah Saunders who realised there was nothing to take her children to that would be relaxing, entertaining and daft but also where the adults could enjoy themselves as much as the kids. Don’t get me wrong, I genuinely love taking Evan to the Toy Library but sometimes there’s only so much Five Little Ducks you can take in one week. By blending their experience of being seasoned clubbers and parents, the BFLF team have grown the event from a monthly party in Brixton in 2013 to a major player on the family arts scene and an expanding force to be reckoned with. It takes place in large cities all across the UK, at special events such as at Selfridges on London’s Oxford Street and this year will see them take their mini-festival experience to Camp Bestival.
BFLF is always held in interesting and quirky venues and for our Sunday afternoon rave, we headed off to The Bedford in Balham, an old haunt of mine known for comedy and live music as well as booze. The main gig took place in The Globe Theatre, shaped “in the round” which is a remarkable space and the perfect setting for a party.
On arrival and once we’d made use of the baby change available (Evan makes me work for my free time), I literally could not believe my ears and eyes. The dance floor was illuminated and the room decorated spectacularly with technicolour balloons and glitter. There were bubble machines, glitter cannons and club visuals as a backdrop, including the BFLF logo which is a cheery, lime-green take on the discernible smiley icon. The glitter cannon spurted out a mass of sparkly ticker tape with one big bang and this elicited a huge cheer from the baby rave massive, and me, as I nearly cried with excitement at the sheer joy of BEING OUT SOMEWHERE WITH BEER AND MUSIC.
Ah, the music. BFLF don’t mess about with the tunes. There’s no iPod on shuffle or muffled Spotify playlists from a tinny device here. The heartbeat of a BFLF event is a live DJ spinning an eclectic mix of dance music - like house, rave, hip hop, ska, techno, disco, UK garage, drum’n’bass, dubstep, grime - and big names such as J Food, Mixmaster Morris, Hatcha and Slipmatt to name many. At The Bedford, it was DJ Eddy Temple-Morris who treated us to deep baselines and whose highlights for me personally included Origin Unknown’s Valley of the Shadows and Dead Prez’s It’s Bigger Than Hip-Hop. I got a little too excited by NRG’s I Need Your Lovin and if Evan was old enough he definitely would have been embarrassed.
Taking a break from dancing and embarrassing myself so my husband could glide through the bustling crowd and let loose on the dance floor, I went for a mooch around. I discovered a craft area with themed crafts, a giant colouring mural and play-doh table, a homemade cake stall with delights from Captain Cookie and a Villa Pia baby chillout with soft mats beanbags and ball-pool. I also stopped by the bar where two Dads had their daughters propped up on said bar, a baby in one hand and a beer in another, and were reminiscing about Bagleys in Kings Cross before Granary Square and gentrification arrived. As Eddie played another cracker, an overexcited Dad yelled ‘TUNE!' enthusiastically to his friend and I fought the urge to shout back in agreement.
When I was a 20-something I hated it when the night was over and I’m no different now as a 30-something. Sadly it was nearly time to go home. We used to be 24-hour party people but now we must adapt and, thanks to BFLF, we’re 2-4 hour people. As the last tune played out, a marvellous parachute dance took place on the dance floor as Evan chewed on his glowstick and a bunch of scarily-cool young girls attempted to flog me a glowstick for one pound, the entrepreneurs of the future right there.
We put on our raving shoes and boarded the car, and miraculously my little fish slept all the way home back to E17. Me and my big fish Alex reminisced about our clubbing days and played Ratpack at a volume so as to be frivolous but not wake the baby.
BFLF work tirelessly to make sure each event is unique and this party was no different. It’s been described as ‘responsible irresponsibility’ and I think this is a fitting portrayal. It was quirky, loud-enough-to-be-fun-but-still-at-safe-volume-levels and a massive great heap of fun. I‘d read some reviews of the event for blog research and a 6-year old BFLF first-timer said it was, simply, “the best day of my whole life”. I’m with the 6-year old on this one.
There were so many things I loved about Big Fish Little Fish; the music, seeing Evan grinning and looking around in wonder and dancing to old rave tunes. On reflection though, what I really loved the most was the opportunity to be out-out with my husband. To be like our old selves again, to be people as well as parents. Being sleep-deprived and passing like ships in the night, it’s so hard to carve out time for ourselves to laugh, dance and feel liberated. BFLF let us do that on a Sunday February afternoon in Balham and we had a blast.
I highly recommend it. Go get your rave on.