“I gave up my career at the Home Office after having my two children. I’m a lifelong music fan; dancer, clubber, raver, you name it. When they were small I took my kids to music festivals, and we had a lovely time together in the same space. I wanted to try and create something like that – to entertain all the generations.
We started in a pub, The Efra Social, at the end of my road in Brixton. This was the first time I’d done something like this. We decorated it with rugs from my house, the staff were my mates and their kids, and I paid them in beer. Within a couple of months, we were playing in venues in North London too, and soon we did our first out-of-London event. We played our first festival the following year, Camp Bestival, and have been regulars there ever since. We now have teams doing BFLF all over the UK and worldwide – Australia, Athens, even LA.
All the families that come are participants in making it fun, it’s not something that’s done TO them, it’s done WITH them.
DJ Food headlined our first proper event; I‘m working with my heroes. Often our DJs have children, so they get to show their kids what they do for a living. They’ll often say to me that we are the most appreciative crowd imaginable. Not just the surreal sight of a crowd of tiny children really getting into to drum ‘n’ bass, but the grown-ups who are so grateful to be out dancing to some decent music. It’s a really, warm, generous, old-school rave ethos, everyone together on the dance floor, equal. All the DJs tell each other, that’s how we spread the word.
“When I have someone playing their debut BFLF, I say, "Don't dumb it down, don't try and make it kiddiefied. Play like it's 3 o'clock in the morning in Fabric”
Alex Patterson of the Orb played; that was incredible. Early on, Mixmaster Morris DJd for us, and he did a space funk set, and there’s a picture of me on the stage next to him dressed as a Dalek! Mark Archer of Altern-8 plays with us at Camp Bestival, and last year hundreds of teenagers turned up and went crazy to his set. He came down and danced with them all. When I have someone playing their debut BFLF, I say, “Don’t dumb it down, don’t try and make it kiddiefied. Play like it’s 3 o’clock in the morning in Fabric.” So Aphrodite will come along and pay a no-holds-barred drum and bass set, and the place will go mad!
Music is the beating heart of BFLF, the love of music, the love of sharing that love of music! But we also have a strong emphasis on creativity, the dance-floor sets, the glitter, the parachute dance, a big craft area, and themes. When we played The National Gallery we did an animals theme to reflect the paintings. The play aspect of it is really important too – to laugh, be social, enjoy; we have breakout areas for babies.
Because we were inspired by festivals, it wasn’t that big a move to start playing them. I find it strange that some festivals ghettoise families - but when we played Glastonbury, we were on in The Park; the grown-up bit. The idea is about finding something family friendly in the heart of the festival. If you’ve got kids you don’t have to stick in the family field.
We take our kids to every festival. BFLF is delivered as a family; my kids give out glow sticks and stick-on tattoos.
We all camp – not glamping, proper, normal camping. You need to be mentally prepared for camping in all sorts of conditions with kids, but I just think that whatever happens, we will cope!
I always carry a bum bag, with things like string, scissors, a little torch, a bottle of water, some wet wipes and some holographic glitter. I get bags under my eyes at festivals – but I just bung some glitter on them, and they’re gone! At the tent I’ll always have gaffer tape and some snacking food; dried fruit, rice crispy bars. And some crisp, green apples too, if you’re feeling a bit yucky. We take pens and paper and put them in backpacks for the kids – they work in every circumstance we find – they can write, draw or colour.
Festival rules work for kids as well as grown-ups; it’s a holiday from life, it’s a change, it’s different. Normal bedtimes do not apply! Hopefully if they stay up late, they’ll sleep in a bit too…”