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When I finally got to experience it myself, it didn’t disappoint. Big raves with fairgrounds and bouncy castles, little clubs with whirling lights and lasers, people falling around grinning to a surreal sci-fi soundtrack – it was like entering a cartoon world, or one big funhouse that you could play in as long as you had the stamina. This was grown-ups abdicating daily responsibility in favour of goofing around like big kids on a massive scale, and it was brilliant.Yes there were darker sides and chemical enhancements, but it was a magical shared adventure that my generation wanted to hold on to even as life’s responsibilities weighed heavier on us. That holding on started in the late 1990s with the Big Chill festival. As its constituency got older, it grew from a ravers’ awayday to something that could accommodate families as well as bug-eyed party people. Then the new millennium brought the boutique festival era: Green Man, Latitude and Camp Bestival, where the lines between parents’ hedonism and kids’ entertainment could be blurred, all beneath a veneer of middle-class respectability.
It’s easy to mock some of the more pretentious aspects of this, as in the classic, much retweeted, Daily Mash article ‘New Festival Aimed Directly at Twats’. But in a world of increasing work and financial pressure, the chance for families to go wild, socialise and simply enjoy music and dancing and being foolish is something genuinely important and rare. Sharing musical moments with my children is a chance to see their personalities grow: my three-year-old boy, who’s into machines, loves the meticulous structures of disco, dubstep and ‘techno with no singing please daddy’, while my livewire baby girl reacts with wildness to high-velocity noise like punk and jungle. As festivals became part of young families’ calendars, it was inevitable that people would start to want the same kind of thing closer to home. Cue the birth of the kids’ disco. Baby Loves Disco, Disco Loco (Reverend Milo Speedwagon’s east London party) and Ministry of Sound’s Lollibop Mini Disco are already here in London. And I was thrilled when my wife got involved in Big Fish Little Fish (‘for two-four hour party people’) – which caters for raver parents as well as their kids.
The launch of BFLF in Brixton was more fun even than I’d imagined. With bubbles, confetti, glitterballs and manic movement, the energy of families cutting loose at 4pm wasn’t far from the primal delirium of a club at 4am. And seeing the old folks singing the lyrics of sentimental acid house classics (‘brothers, sisters, one day we’ll all be free’) to their little ones was just magic. This isn’t just a nostalgia rush: the holiday from life’s routines that raving offers is something that everyone can share.