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Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

Big Fish Little Fish Family Raves: an interview with founder Hannah Saunders

We experienced our first Big Fish Little Fish rave at Shapes in Hackney Wick. Here's an interview with founder Hannah Saunders.

Written by Amelia Gregory

Big Fish Little Fish Hackney Wick Snarfle-photo Tim Adey
Last weekend we took Snarfle down to party with Big Fish Little Fish at Hackney Shapes, a grungy warehouse venue in Hackney Wick. Inside children and adults of all sizes frolicked under the UV light… creating fabulous neon headbands with Captain Cookie, bouncing around the play area (copious tents were a great hit with our one) or eating delicious cakes by BakerChef. Below the stage everyone danced with great abandon to the Old School rave tunes, with bubbles aplenty popping over little heads. I caught up with founder Hannah Saunders to find out more…

Big Fish Little Fish Hackney Wick-Photo Tim Adey 2
Big Fish Little Fish Hackney Wick-Photo Tim Adey
Big Fish Little Fish Hackney Wick-photo Tim Adey 3
All photography above by Tim Adey.

How and when did the idea of Big Fish Little Fish come about?
I came up with the idea in March about two years ago. I had left my previous career in the civil service and wanted to do something completely different. I love music and have young children and had already introduced them to festivals – having a great time together. I realised there wasn’t anything else providing that celebratory sense of freedom for all ages outside of the summer and so decided to create it myself. I’d been to kiddie discos and hated the music. I wanted to create something that would appeal to children and old clubber parents (and carers, uncles, aunts, family friends, grandparents) alike. One afternoon the name came to me and I decided that was it… so I started telling people my idea and went about running the first one.

BFLF Camp Bestival
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Who is behind BFLF?
I do the majority of the organisation, negotiation, production, operational management and artist liaison. Very early on I teamed up with a friend I met through MumsnetNatasha Morabito – and she manages all the comms/social media side of things. She also has an excellent instinct for good performers to link with and has been instrumental in setting up partnerships with children’s theatre groups, hula hoopers, Out With the Family (in support of LGBT families) etc. Natasha got on board a neighbour of hers who was a textile designer – Alfie Willmott – who now designs and manages our magnificent craft area as Captain Cookie. We’re the core 3 – all seasoned clubbers, parents of young children and lovers of a fine old time. All 3 of us are massively supported by our partners who usually take on driving/roadie duties for a party as well as all the childcare.

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Natasha’s husband Joe Muggs is a dance music journalist and has been key in connecting us to our excellent DJs – Tom Middleton,Terry Farley, DJ Food, Si Begg, Coldcut, Readers Wifes, Mixmaster Morris have all played – and mine, David Round, has provided invaluable business development advice, bookkeeping and looks natty in a steward hi vis jacket. We have a lovely crew of regular stewards – shout out to Helen Poole! – and loads of DJs and performers who have played/performed multiple times. At the beginning in particular I drew on all my friends for help and advice – it was like I’d spent my life creating my ideal management board. One friend, Dave Faunch, stayed up till 4am the morning of our first party painting the BFLF logo onto a backdrop in my back garden under a spotlight. We were also really lucky to get Happy Monkey smoothies on board as sponsors and with their support we’ve made the craft area a really high quality creative hub at the events. I’ve also been lucky to find some great venues and owners/managers for our regular parties – Shapes (Hackney Wick), The Bedford Arms (Balham), Electrowerkz (Islington), Brixton JAMM – as well as lovely producers at venues for occasional one offs e.g. Stratford Circus, Mini Vault, Southbank Centre, Winterville.

BFLF Captain Cookie craft area
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How do you ensure a great team of DJs and interactive arts and crafts collaborators?
Joe and Natasha have both recommended and introduced DJs to BFLF. I also had a few DJ mates who have played slots and after the first few the DJs started generating interest from other DJs e.g. DJ Food recommended us to Jon More (Conduct), and some are friends of friends who came along as customers with their families and asked to play! Alfie is the craft genius who so brilliantly designs themed crafts and drafts the giant mural – children love her. Other performers we either approached after being impressed by their work (Tea Dance for Little People) or approached us and clicked or in some cases were a wild stab in the dark that paid off (Korg synthesisers, artists Helicar&Lewis). So that’s how they got to us but I think we retain them because people really enjoy the parties, understand what we’re trying to create and want to support BFLF. There’s a real sense of social inclusivity and fun – proper old rave ethos. Altered Natives even remixed the classic track Energy Flash as Energy Fish and several DJs have given us mixes for our use. Basically I think we’re nice and people appreciate that.

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Why is a BFLF event as much fun for adults as children?
You might be better off answering this yourself! I deliberately set out to create something that was as much about the adults having a good time as the children – as a means for everyone to have a good time together. There’s something faintly rebellious for parents to be taking their children to real club venues where they’ll hear decent tunes and can drink a pint while their kids are having a laugh too. One regular described it as “responsible irresponsibility” and I think that sums it up nicely. My favourite move is the shoulder dance when the adults pop their little ones on their shoulders and everyone bops up and down while some drum’n’bass plays. I’ve also got some hilarious pics from our recent Mother’s Day rave where 4 of the Dads had their babies in slings, pint in hand, in a row – dancing.

Big Fish Little Fish Snarfle Marianne
Snarfle with Marianne, Natasha’s daughter.

What have been the most memorable events over the past few years?
I can honestly say every single one of our parties has been memorable in one way or another but some particular moments include: the first ever parachute dance to DJ Food playing Max Sedgley‘s Happy, seeing the BFLF crew (including me) dance with their kids at parties, dancing dressed as a dalek next to Mixmaster Morris as he played an awesome space funk set, the straight down the line techno set of James Tec (Plex) where I danced on the stage with my old clubbing friend Mog and her eleven year old son, the ginormo crowd at the Southbank Centre where we had to stop the music for 10mins to re-establish crowd control, having Marian the security guard step up to DJ brilliantly when my support DJ was a last minute no-show, seeing some children with autism spectrum disorder enjoy the parties, Camp Bestival residency, Magic Under London Mini Vault mini festival.

Big Fish Little Fish awards
I hear you recently won an award, what was it for and why do you think BFLF won?
We won the National Family Arts Festival awards for Best Family Event 2014. It was voted for by the public out of 4,500 events. The particular party we won it for was where BFLF hosted a social with Out With The Family (supporting LGBT families) and our DJs were Readers’ Wifes. So we all went to collect it together. The award organisers sent us the anonymised comments by voters and they all said things like “the most fun I’ve had for 5 years“, “I’ve never enjoyed myself so much with my kids” etc etc. So it was with genuine public appreciation.

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Where can we catch up with you over the coming months?
We’ve got parties coming up in Balham, Islington and Hackney plus festival appearances at Elderflower Fields and Camp Bestival. I do have other things in the pipeline for over the summer – both inside and outside London – but I can’t say anymore about them yet. Best thing to do is Follow @BFLFEvents, Like Facebook or sign up to our mailing list via the website www.bigfishlittlefishevents.co.uk to hear the latest news. We have some very exciting things coming up!

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