If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ve probably heard me
bang on talk about these guys a fair bit.
Big Fish Little Fish, the award-winning producers of mini festival-style raves for people with small kids, have been spreading their fairy wings and glowsticks far and wide since they launched in 2013. Born in London, BFLF parties are popping up all over the country — from Margate to Exeter to Nottingham — and the brand continues to expand.
BFLF has also formed exciting partnerships with companies like smoothie makers Happy Monkey, that sponsor their craft activities, and boutique travel company Villa Pia, that headline the Villa Pia Baby Chillout space.
What makes Big Fish Little Fish so successful is the fun-loving, creative and collaborative spirit of the team behind the vision: Hannah Saunders (founder/CEO) and Natasha Morabito (communications director). I caught up with these lovely ladies to chat about their inspiration, best moments in family raving and why toddlers are like tiny drunks. Enjoy (and scroll down to see how you can win tickets to an upcoming rave)!
Interview with Hannah and Natasha of Big Fish Little Fish
What was your inspiration for Big Fish Little Fish?
Hannah: I abandoned my career in the civil service after having kids and so was with them both all the time. Even though they were very young I took them to festivals (which I had always loved) and saw how much they enjoyed all the sights and sounds. I found other family type activities rather unengaging for all of us and craved the fun and freedom of festivals. So I decided to create the thing I wanted to take my own family to – a family rave inspired by my love of music and clubbing and designed to appeal to all ages.
What other names did you play with before this one stuck?
Hannah: I have all these written down still. Rave Child and The International Llama Society were two that were in the running — but when I thought of Big Fish Little Fish, I was sat on a sofa in my living room with a shaft of sunlight on me and knew it was the right name. Captures something about dancing and clubbing across the generations.
How did Natasha get involved and what’s it like working together?
Hannah: We were friends on Mumsnet so when I started telling everyone what I wanted to do (as a way to make myself do it) I wrote about it on there and Natasha suggested we meet up as she lives near me. Between her and her husband, they had a lot of contacts that could be useful and were interested in getting involved. We both work from home, as well as at the events, and a lot of our “business” is actually done in the evening over email.
Not seeing each other every day in an office means that we have to keep each other in the loop about things using the wonders of modern technology such as shared documents and To Do lists. It’s fair to say some proportion of this descends into messaging about what’s on the telly and swearing about things that annoy us. What we do is essentially a lot of fun — always lovely when the BFLF team get to have an actual dance together at an event.
Natasha: Yes I remember taking Marianne (who was only a few months old) and Joe to meet Hannah in the flesh for the first time in a pub in Peckham. I was very nervous but she was lovely and we hit it off from the start. I think for the first few months I was fairly nervous about everything, especially on the day of an event I’d be a wreck but these days even when we hit an obstacle or a last minute tech issue I know from experience it will get sorted in time. I like that Hannah and I share a similar sense of humour (we have a long running skit that we can’t do a high five without missing — yeah I know it sounds hilarious written down).
Was it difficult getting the idea off the ground?
Hannah: In some ways – but surprisingly mostly not. The biggest block to start with was persuading a venue to let us run a “family rave” – when I’d never done anything like it before. I doorstepped my local pub in the end and pleaded with the new manager. The parties have been massively popular from the off and the only issue has been about what people were expecting. We’re always clear it’s a “family rave” not a “children’s disco”.
Early on a customer came and complained that their children weren’t enjoying the music and I had to change it immediately, to make her point she waved her hand over a packed dancefloor of happy families all bopping about and said “See, no one’s dancing.”
We do still get the occasional customer who insists that we play some children’s music — most recently someone asked for The Birdie Song. We always refuse because that’s just not what we’re about.
What do you think makes BFLF stand out from the pack?
Hannah: We are designed as much for the adults as the children — so you can enjoy yourselves together. We don’t dumb down the music – so no birthday shoutouts, no Taylor Swift – and the more child focused activities (crafts, guest performers etc) are all high quality. We’re not twee, cute or baby-centred but daft, anarchic, social and relaxed.
What’s the formula for a great party?
Hannah: See the previous question – but the reality is it’s the crowd BFLF attracts that makes for the great party. People are actually blown away that they’ve come along to a family event and ALL of them have had a great time. Proper rave ethos of inclusion and support – party created by the people for the people.
Toddlers are often compared to tiny, drunk people. Thoughts?
Hannah: It’s probably fair to say that drunk people are like big toddlers. Hard to call who would cause the most destruction in a room when left alone. My two smashed the television last year.
Most memorable moments from BFLF events so far?
Hannah: So many… support DJ cancelled at last minute so the unexpected hero was Marian the security guard who was a DJ back in Romania and had been playing on the decks while we set up; complete technical failure at one huge event that meant for the first 20mins customers were listening to my mate’s phone playing the Alt J album!
We’ve also turned up to find the venues in complete disarray and had very little time to clean them up — that’s always a bit nerve-wracking. At the Royal Festival Hall this year we closed the Imagine Children’s festival with a free rave and 3,000 people turned up. This took the festival director by surprise and we had to stop the music for 10 minutes to re-establish crowd control. That was our Castle Morton moment. It was ace.
Natasha: One of my favourite BFLF moments was at Camp Bestival this summer: Epic Rave Dad. He came to all our sessions I think, in different amazing costumes. He wasn’t contrived or ‘wacky’ — that was just him, you could tell. The kids all loved him and my memorable moment was him leading them in a dance — they were all copying him while he was dressed in a dusky pink leather cocktail dress, wig and beard. As a finale he tossed his wig into the crowd. There is video evidence.
How do you balance work and family life?
Hannah: My boyfriend, David Round, is the primary caregiver which makes life easier for me. Working from home (during the week) with no commute means I can be around for them after school — which makes up for the weekends when often I’m less available because I’m working a party. Also they usually come along to the parties and even help out on the transfer or tidying up.
Natasha: I’m very lucky that I have a supportive partner and a mum who lives locally. I don’t work on Monday, Thursday or Friday daytime (well, maybe just to reply to urgent emails or do the odd tweet) so I have days where I can focus totally on the kids and do fun things with them and keep my working hours to when they are at school/nursery or in bed.
Biggest challenge of managing BFLF?
Hannah: Venues. BANE OF MY LIFE. My regular venues are wonderful and I have a great relationship with the owners and managers but I have to say some of the venues we’ve had have been run by a rum old bunch of charming but often irresponsible characters. Some bordering on the downright shady. This isn’t helped by the fact that venues across London are closing at a rate of knots.
What would be your dream DJs and location for a BFLF future rave?
Hannah: Jeff Mills in Chistlehurst Caves or Andrew Weatherall in Turbine Hall, Tate Modern.
Natasha: I’d love to have the Optimo DJs and indoor/outdoor locations are brilliant — maybe Kew gardens or an arboretum… people could dance amongst the amazing trees and plants and we could have a giant temporary structure to have the dancing and bar in.
Win Tickets to Big Fish Little Fish at the Museum of London Docklands!
Big Fish Little Fish are throwing their next party Family Rave: Anchors Aweigh at Museum of London Docklands (West India Quay, Canary Wharf, E14 4AL, West India Quay DLR/Canary Wharf tube) on Sunday Nov 29. The event will feature DJ Will Nicol (Northern Soul Rave Patrol), Korg synthesiser workshops, pirate storytelling, craft activities, giant colouring mural, glitter cannons, bubbles, parachute dance and free glowsticks and transfer tattoos. Tickets are £8.50 adult, £5.50 child and pre-walkers go free. Ages 0-7 and parents/carers.
We have a Family Ticket to give away to the event for one lucky reader. Simply fill your details in the Rafflecopter form below and best of luck!