I’m standing at the bar with a cool glass of rose, tapping my feet, with my eyes closed. Behind my eyelids flicker the unmistakable lights of a club. The beat vibrates through the floor; an expert mix of reggae, dance and just a hint of drum and bass. As I sway my hips and sip my drink, I can just begin to feel the stresses and strains of the working week drift away.
The next thing I know a hand reaches out and guides me to the dance floor. We move to the beat, joy filling our bodies and my dance partner looks up at me with love in his eyes and says…
‘Mummy! Do the wiggly bum dance!’
No, I am not dreaming. Nor have I taken leave of my senses and, desperately unable to find a babysitter, taken my two year old out clubbing on a Saturday night. I have, however, take him to a club.
This is the phenomenon of ‘baby disco’. On Saturday afternoon at 3pm, the hipsters of Hackney congregated in a warehouse to combine their love of rave with their love for their kids. Not for these parents the run of the mill toddler group. There were no cringeworthy ‘hello’ sing song introductions, no coordinated dance moves and no tailor made kiddy songs. No. This was a full on club night: flashing lights, banging beats, fully stocked bar and a DJ shouting things like ‘Get on your feet! Go crazy! This next tune’s going to be mind-blowing!’, pausing briefly in between statements to dance like a loon with the crowd of adoring pre-schoolers before him. It even came complete with bouncers clad in skin tight black tops hinting at intimidating muscles and biceps adorned with official security badges. At one point, their skills were required to remove a gang of rowdy 6 year olds from dancing enthusiastically on the DJ stage (yes, really!). Yet, somehow it achieved the seemingly impossible – it was a truly family friendly event.
While the walls may have still been decorated with signs declaring that ‘anyone found with illegal drugs will be asked to leave’, immediately to the right was a cupcake stall and ice cream stand. The glittering disco lights were complemented by swathes of transparent balloons, coating the floor with a sea of colours which would surely transfix any tripping clubber, but garnered a far more energetic response from the average infant. In the corner sat a street artist, teaching toddlers how to tag and advising on the best way to colour in a graffiti skull.
It was truly a surreal experience. And yet somehow, amazing!
The event was Disco Loco. I first discovered them when my son was tiny. Pre-pregnancy I had been a regular at the strange and kooky club nights of Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club: an obscure mix of Shoreditch, Eastenders and Peter Kay’s Phoenix Nights. Weird, but brilliant. So, after months of being deprived of anything resembling a night out (never mind a night’s sleep) when we discovered there was now a daytime version to which you could take your baby, we jumped at it. At that time, it was all about the parents: come and listen to good music in a cool venue, and just happen to have your kid by your side. In time, however, it has morphed into a far more all encompassing event.
Truth be told, I’m fairly certain the parents’ intentions in taking their children were far from altruistic. There’s no doubt the kids loved charging around, kicking balloons and eating cake. But the joy as a parent in being able to dance and mess about with your family, without having to sing Wind the Bobbin up for the fifty millionth bloody time, is immeasurable.
Is it a good idea to take small children to what is, essentially, a sanitary rave? I’m not sure. Perhaps it is irresponsible to introduce them to the ideas of drinking and dancing so young. Or, perhaps it will demystify the whole thing, making it much less exciting and rebellious when they’re older. Perhaps they won’t even remember, and I should point out here that it was generally an unspoken one drink rule – there were no drunken and disorderly parents! Or maybe kids won’t care because they’re too busy kicking balloons. What I do know is that it was a better afternoon for everyone than hanging about in a grubby soft play centre; the fluorescent lights slowly bringing on a migraine, the constant droning noise sapping your will to live and your child coming back crying because some big kid kicked them out of the ball pool.
Whatever your views, we had great fun and I don’t think my son has ever slept so well. Plus, these guys could definitely teach a thing or two to the clubs I used to go to. It might have been full of kids, but there was none of the urine and vomit you found at student nights, cupcakes do indeed make an excellent addition to a bar and dancing with balloons is much more fun than you remember!