Fresh Fields

Elderflower Fields was born in 2012 out of a desire to create a new festival in Sussex that puts families and kids first. So what better arena for dance phenomenon Big Fish Little Fish? Title caught up with BFLF founder Hannah Saunders…

Photographs by Leon Neal and Sophia Spring

What is BFLF?
Big Fish Little Fish is a family rave. We are seasoned clubbers and parents and use this experience to create anarchic, social, daft fun parties for all ages. I designed it with my own family in mind – somewhere relaxed, entertaining, and where the adults enjoy themselves as much as the children and vice versa.  It’s a great mix of music, dancing, crafts, play, drink and food and people are evangelical about us.

Where did the idea come from?
I love music, dancing, clubbing and have young children that I have taken to festivals since they were a few months old – having a great time together.  At other times of the year I was at a loss to find something we all enjoyed.

Family friendly activities were either 100% child-centric or, if it’s more adult-orientated like going out for a Sunday lunch in a pub, then the kids get bored.  The kiddie discos I heard about didn’t really do it for me musically and I realised there wasn’t anything providing that celebratory sense of freedom for all ages outside of the summer and so decided to create it myself.

Tell us what happens at a typical event, if there is such a thing…
Our regular parties are two and a half hours long on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon in a quirky pub or club venue.  About 500 people attend – families with children aged eight or under.

The main dance room has top club and festival DJs spinning excellent music – from hip hop to ska, big dose of 90s rave and a good smattering of drum ‘n’bass with a splash of quality pop – under club visuals, bubble machines, glitter cannon and the legendary parachute dance at the end.

20140412-LSN321-GBR-0329-cutIn another room is the Happy Monkey craft room with themed crafts (each party has a theme), giant colouring mural, Play-Doh table and transfer tattoos – all managed by Captain Cookie.  We also have other areas: a baby chill-out space with sofas, yoga mats, bean bags and small ball pool and a more rough and tumble play area with tents and tunnels.

Every child gets a free glowstick when they enter and a goodie bag with a Happy Monkey smoothie and Bear snack when they leave.  Increasingly we also have additional performers and workshops – we had a Korg synth one, children’s theatre, storyteller, interactive light projections, Thames Discovery Project brought some artefacts along to one recently.

Who are the people involved in the event?
We’re a small team – we do indeed feel like a family.  The main organisers (myself, Natasha Morabito, Alfie Willmott) are all parents who got to know each other through our children and are all big music/club/festival lovers.  Our other halves get roped in to roadie/bookkeep/take care of the kids/steward at parties.

Natasha’s husband Joe Muggs is a famous dance music writer, manager and DJ and will be doing the DJ honours at Elderflower Fields.  A huge number of DJs have now played BFLF like Tom Middleton, Terry Farley, DJ Food, Si Begg, Coldcut, Readers Wifes, even Mixmaster Morris.

We have a lovely crew of regular stewards who are a mixture of mates of ours and childcare professionals.  My old friend Mog brought her 12 year old son along to buggy steward in January.

We got Happy Monkey smoothies on board as sponsors and 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.

Who are the best movers?
Some of the children pull some quite astonishing moves but to be fair to the adults it is difficult to throw your best shapes when you’ve got a five year old on your shoulders or a six month old strapped to your chest and you’re holding a pint.

Tell us a bit about the DJs – do they see it as an easy gig?!
Oh dear no.  Almost every DJ who has played has said they’ve sweated over the BFLF tracks more than they’ve done for a gig for years.  Most of them are parents themselves and whilst excited about showing off what they do for a living to their kids, they are terrified about getting the right mix.  Altered Natives even did a special remix of the Joey Beltram classic Energy Flash for us – Energy Fish!

Never work with children or animals – true or false?
True(ish) – I absolutely love running the parties.  But when I’m running one and my children are there they have to understand that I’m working and will be busy (though I do usually sneak a dance in with them).

Funny anecdotes/near disasters?
So many… a support DJ cancelled at last minute so the unexpected hero was Marian the security guard who was a DJ back in Romania. We had a 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.

Recently at the Royal Festival Hall 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 10minutes to re-establish crowd control.  That was our Castle Morton moment.  It was ace.

BFLF-rave-1-smallerHow’s it going to work at the festival?
There won’t be the usual chill and play areas – there’s a whole festival to do that in! But essentially the brilliant music with glitter, bubbles and parachute will be there, along with some craft tables to make stuff.  It’ll still be about bringing the night-time club music into the middle of the afternoon for everyone to enjoy.

Times/dates for the event at the festival
I don’t know these yet – but it should be somewhere between 2-5pm.

Big Fish Little Fish at Elderflower Fields, 22-25 May, Pippingford Park, East Grinstead

Big Fish Little Fish events are held throughout the year at different venues and tickets are available for all events from their website

About Sam Harrington-Lowe
As the managing editor Sam is responsible for all the Title publications and works diligently to develop the brand and support relationships with all partners and clients. She runs things with her dedicated PA Ms Alice Pickle Pug