Set up by old school ravers who decided that the party shouldn’t end when you have kids, Big Fish Little Fish put on family raves across the UK. Annie Ridout dusted off the glow sticks and took her daughter to one in Hackney Wick…
On Sunday afternoon, following a civilised coffee with friends and a quick pub roast for fuel, we hopped in the car and drove over to Hackney Wick for our first Big Fish Little Fish (BFLF) family rave.
Approaching the venue, we spotted a large group of families posing in front of a graffiti wall – looking a lot more dressed up than us. I’d forgotten there was a Halloween theme, which is a shame because our daughter’s nickname is already ‘pumpkin’ – we’d only have needed to dress her in orange.
We found a parking spot right in front of Shapes – the warehouse hired for the event – and decided that family raves are a lot simpler than the ones we used to go to: rock up in a car, park right outside and in you go…
We joined the queue and enjoyed watching the mini skeletons and frilly-black-dress witches excitedly scrambling about. Once inside, we weren’t quite sure what to make of the cavernous space decked out with illuminated hanging pumpkins and gigantic tie-dye balloons.
Going from bright sunshine into darkness was as confusing for Joni as it was for us and she started to cry. Normally, seeing slightly older kids darting about would be an instant distraction – and there were plenty – but she couldn’t quite make them out.
That’s when I realised why BFLF events are so popular: you can drink
We collected our free glow stick – Joni wasn’t hugely interested, but I was – made a bee-line for the bar and while Rich bought the drinks I took Joni to join other little people at the Play-doh table, and then to the large board with Halloween-themed outlines for colouring-in.
After knocking back my one glass of wine (designated driver), I began to relax. That’s when I realised why BFLF events are so popular: you can drink. But not just that; it’s an adult party, with adult music, that also caters for kids – unlike the brightly-lit soft play centres with weak tea and no music, which are fantastically stimulating for toddlers but somewhat testing for their folks.
Rich disappeared to take photos so Joni and I sidled over to the dance floor – dodging crawling babes and hyper kids – picked up a balloon from a collection on the floor and began tapping our feet and swaying our hips to the music.
On our next walk-around, we discovered a cake stall, lit up by fairy lights, selling bowls of rice cakes and crudités as well as the less healthy cupcakes and marshmallow bars. Next to it, there were tunnels and soft mats for babies to roll around on under bright lights.
We were reunited with Rich, finished our drinks, changed Joni’s nappy in the well-equipped toilets and had a walk through together, noting the outfit efforts parents had made not just for the kids; but also for themselves: glitter, facepaint, patterned boilersuits, wigs.
We were drawn back to the dance floor when the bubble machine came out. Parents scooped up their kids and popped them on their shoulders, while they squealed with delight at the seemingly never-ending stream of bubbles. The kids, not the parents.
They’ve been set up by a group of people who know what makes a good party: music you can dance to, the right lighting, a spacious venue and plenty of booze
The music was good – DJs Jude Rogers, Ian Wade and Lol Hammond (Drum Club) were smashing out the same tunes we were dancing to pre-baby. The volume was high enough to make it feel like a proper party but low enough to not need ear defenders for Joni.
By this point, Rich and I were really getting into it, alas – Joni had missed her afternoon nap and was yawning and grumbling. The 2-4 hour parties actually finish at 4.30pm but we reluctantly left a little early, collected our free smoothie, piled into the conveniently parked car and drove home for dinner.
These parties could so easily be too focused on the kids, as ‘family events’ often are, or just not very cool. But fortunately, they’ve been set up by a group of people who know what makes a good party: music you can dance to, the right lighting, a spacious venue and plenty of booze.
If you’re looking for a family event on a Sunday afternoon that will appease both parents and children, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better option than this. The rave/festival vibes left us on a high – we’ll definitely be going back…
Find the next BFLF event near you