By the time I had my first child, at 41, I had been a dancing party girl for nearly 3 decades and had perfected my own take (heartfelt if inept) on dance styles from goth shoulder shrug to drum ‘n’ bass bounce.
My daughter was followed 17 months later by my son and, as is to be expected, my life radically changed. I discovered whole new aspects of my personality (who knew I would overcome my vomit phobia?) and sloughed off other parts like dead skin. But I wouldn’t let go of music. I didn’t want to lose myself completely in motherhood – it’s easily done and I needed something that was for me, about me, an anchor for my personality.
I’ve always loved clubbing. I went to my first club (proto-indie – lots of Bowie, Banshees and The Jam) one month before my 14th birthday and loved every noisy, messy second. When acid house and raving came along in the late 80s/90s it was like my love of music and dancing was suddenly shared by everyone else. A magical time, when I made lifelong friendships on the dancefloor, something which seemed rather unlikely at the time.
Going out dancing has seen me through the usual gamut of life crises – mild depression, shit boyfriends, pet deaths – and has run parallel to a successful but rather dull career in the civil service. It has always been my safety valve to escape life’s pressures and celebrate life’s joys.
As I approached motherhood I thought my clubbing days were over – I saw Phil Hartnoll (Orbitol) DJ in the early hours of the morning two days before I had my first child as a last hurrah. But it didn’t take me long to realise that, with careful planning, I could still have music-based fun.
I managed to go to a Pete & the Pirates gig round the corner from my house when my baby was 3 weeks old. I breastfed her to sleep, left her with my mate, watched the gig for an hour, danced on tables, had my photo taken with the band and then dashed back before she woke up. My favourite band were playing, practically on my road: I couldn’t miss it!
Music was also integral to my feeding routine. I played music to my newborn as I breastfed and danced around with her in my arms. My boyfriend still remembers when I was swinging our 3 month old about to SL2 and she just kept smiling and smiling.
It was obvious to me that listening to music made my baby happy and it became something I wanted to share with her more and more. Before she was 5 months old I had taken her to 3 festivals: Rage Against the Machine in Finsbury Park – she was the only child there and caused a sensation, I went to the loo and when I came back my pram was surrounded by a paparazzi-like crowd, my boyfriend had lifted her out and everyone was taking her picture, All Tomorrow’s Parties weekender (where she watched the XX twice) and Glastonbury (where she fell asleep in the sling every night whilst I watched the headliners but she loved all the people, lights, colours and noise during the day).
I must admit that the birth of my son a year later did make all this more complicated, though I did manage to fit in 2 one day festivals and a gig the week before he was born, and we’ve taken them both to festivals since (including Latitude earlier this year).
As they get older, it becomes more and more fascinating seeing their reaction to music. Both my kids (now 3 and 2) are transfixed when a band comes on stage and drum and bass beats go down a storm. Anything fast makes them jump up and down – like they’re practising for the Prodigy moshpit but they also enjoy a nice chorus to sing along to.
Now, with Big Fish Little Fish – the indoor, weekend afternoon family raves I run – I get to have this fun with my kids and a whole bunch of other family ravers on a regular basis. Seeing the parents dance with and hold their children aloft is lovely, even the DJs are moved by the experience. Last month DJ Food Tweeted his photo from the decks of the parachute dance and said it was the “maddest” crowd he’d ever played. High praise indeed.
20 old-school tunes for inter-generational dancing:
Rhythm is Rhythm – Strings of Life
Paid in Full (Coldcut remix) – Eric B & Rakim
Papua New Guinea – Future Sounds of London
On A Ragga Tip – SL2
Together in Electric Dreams -Giordio Moroder & Phil Oakey (beyond old school!)
Girl/Boy – Aphex Twin
Is There Anybody Out There? – Bassheads
Open Up – Leftfield and Lydon
Yeke Yeke (Hardfloor remix) – Mory Kante
Rez – Underworld
Love Story – Layo and Bushwacker
Voodoo Ray – A Guy Called Gerald
Acperiance – Hardfloor
Bug Powder Dust – Bomb the Bass
Sugar is Sweeter (Armand Van Helden mix) – C J Bolland
Rhythm is a Mystery – K-Klass
No Good – Prodigy
Pacific State – 808 State
Chime – Orbital
Smoke Belch II (Beatless mix) – Sabres of Paradise – best chill out song of all time
Hannah is the founder of Big Fish Little Fish parties, afternoon family raves – the next are happening this November in Brixton (Mixmaster Morris) and Tufnell Park (Si Begg).