In 2013, Hannah Saunders founded Big Fish Little Fish to hold monthly music-oriented events uniquely suitable for the whole family. Top of the list of priorities was to offer a safe and welcoming environment for families of all sizes, and to combine the unmissable atmosphere and vibrancy of traditionally adult-focused music events with child-friendly activities such as face-painting and arts and crafts, providing enough variety to keep even the smallest party-goers happy and engaged. The result was a monthly rave that prioritised good fun and great music.
Since then, Big Fish Little Fish has gone from strength to strength. They now run big weekend raves all over the country, a monthly radio show, and have top DJs on their books. Their upcoming events even include a ‘Boogie Wonderland’ Disco special at the Birdcage in Manchester on the 22nd April, at which David Dunne and Derek Kaye will be playing the best and brightest disco anthems. With a huge parachute dance finale, this is one disco spectacular that you don’t want to miss.
Events like this, as well as their family-oriented approach, have ensured that Big Fish Little Fish has become an indispensable part of the events and music scene across the length and breadth of the UK. They have earned excellent reviews from attendees, who praise the festival atmosphere of their events, and the unique variety of activities on offer. They have also earned multiple Fantastic for Families awards, including ‘Best Family Event’ and ‘Audience Choice’. These awards are especially important to Big Fish Little Fish, as they share a number of key aims with Fantastic for Families, such as creating a fun and safe environment in which children can flourish, and opportunities for parents and their children to have fun together.
Big Fish Little Fish’s mission statement promises enjoyment for the whole family, a balancing act that they have no trouble following through on. Their events are suitable for people of all ages, from babies to grandparents, and the great music – played at a volume suitable for even the youngest ravers – is guaranteed to get everyone’s feet tapping. Offering a unique opportunity for parents to enjoy great music alongside their loved ones, and a chance for the whole family to have fun together, the welcoming atmosphere of Big Fish Little Fish events ensures that when the music stops, you’ll be walking away with both a smile on your face and important memories of quality time spent with your loved ones.
In 2015, Big Fish Little Fish expanded to Manchester, establishing a North West team headed up by Rachel Wilkinson. I caught up with Rachel to discuss her work with Big Fish Little Fish, their presence in Manchester, and what to expect from them next.
How did you get involved with Big Fish Little Fish?
Unbelievably, it all started with a tweet. I was on maternity leave with my second child and I saw that BFLF was expanding out of London. I tweeted to ask them to bring the party to the North. Turned out that Hannah (BFLF founder) and I had mutual friends. Six months later I was putting on our first North West party in Manchester! Personally, I was definitely in that maternity leave headspace where I was looking for a new challenge and keen to have a career that worked around my family. BFLF is run by families for families, so it was an opportunity that I couldn’t miss, despite it being slightly terrifying at the start!
Why did you believe the North needed BFLF?
Bringing BFLF to the North was always going to happen. The North was pivotal in the development of rave and dance music. Clubs like the Hacienda and Cream were, and still are, a huge part of dance music and culture. When I went to Uni in Manchester in the 90s, it was one of the places to be because of the huge music influence there. Rave still holds a massive place in people’s hearts. I don’t think any of us anticipated what the response in Manchester would be though. Our first event at The Factory sold out in 20 minutes! Two and a half years on, our North West events still sell out, but you don’t have to be quite as quick to get a ticket!
How has the North’s love of dance music/music heritage influenced your events? How do they differ to the events in London/the south?
I wouldn’t say that it has influenced our events, as such, but we’re spoilt for choice with DJs. We’ve had so many amazing DJs. In Liverpool we’ve had a lot of the Cream guys – K-Klass, John Kelly, Andy Carroll, Paul Bleasdale. In Manchester we’ve had the Hacienda’s Tom Wainwright and Herbie Saccani, but also great DJs like Mark XTC, Tangled’s Steve Thorpe and, of course, our resident Dave Booth. Too many to mention.
I grew up going to clubs like the Ritz, so for me a Madchester and Indie party had to happen. We now do specials every so often in Manchester and elsewhere in the country. One of my favourite BFLF moments was hearing everyone singing along to the Stone Roses ‘I am the Resurrection’, bubbles and balloons in the air and a real sense of happiness.
The North is now leading the way with a Disco revival. The roots of House music lie in Disco and BFLF is all about great vibes. We’re lucky to have two fabulous Disco DJs in the BFLF fold, so our first Disco BFLF is happening in April with David Dunne and Derek Kaye back to back. We’re very excited!
Who can attend a BFLF event?
BFLF is open to all ages 0-100. Our youngest ever was just 9 days old! I love it when grandparents come along too and we have three generations on the dancefloor. The age range 0-8 reflects the activities available such as crafting, playdough tables, our chill baby area etc… Any kids that like to dance should be up for BFLF though. We had a group of older girls dancing at the front for most of our Chester launch – they were going for it!
We try and make our events accessible to children with disabilities, but it does depend on the disability and the venue. I always chat to anyone who is thinking of coming to explain more about the event and accessibility, so that they can ascertain suitability for their child’s needs.
How does BFLF aid children? What benefits do the events have?
We want to put on events that the adults will love as much as the kids, so our main aim is for families to all have fun, quality time together. It’s an environment where everyone can let their hair down, dance and have a laugh. Kids can be creative with their outfits and our crafting and playdough tables. It’s sociable and, of course, dancing is a great feel-good exercise. Kids love dance music. I hope that BFLF gives them an insight into the joys of music too.
What can a new visitor expect from a BFLF event?
At the heart of BFLF is an amazing DJ playing a (grown up) dance music set at noise levels suitable for all ages. We have club lighting, bubbles, glitter cannons, loads of balloons and our legendary parachute dance all on the dance floor. All our events are themed and fancy dress is encouraged. We’ll make something tied into the theme on the craft tables and have a large themed colouring-in mural. There’s a baby chill area for the very little ones, a tents and tunnels area for toddlers, a licensed bar for the adults, and more. It’s a lot of fun in a happy atmosphere. It’s not unusual for people to not want to leave when the lights go up!
What has the support been like from local visitors?
It’s been exactly what I expected – brilliant! From the start people have supported and championed BFLF. We have loads of regulars. At our last Liverpool event a mum said to me “I could cry that you put these on. I actually feel like I get to go out and the kids love it.” That pretty much sums us up!
The North West Big Fish Little Fish team currently hold events in Manchester, Liverpool, Lancaster and Penrith.
Their next events will be in Manchester on the 22 April (Disco special) and Liverpool on the 13 May. They will also be attending the Geronimo Festival in Cheshire, and the Highest Point Festival in Lancaster.
For more information on their upcoming events, and the chance to grab your tickets before everyone else, sign up to their mailing list.
The Big Fish Little Fish website, contains more information about who they are and what they do.
You can also connect with Big Fish Little Fish here:
An Editorial Associate by day, Charlotte spends most of her lunchtimes, travelling time, evenings and weekends in the company of at least one book. School reports state that an interest in books came early to her life, and these days she enjoys both fiction and non-fiction, and can reliably be found at her local library, or perusing the shelves in a secondhand bookshop (or two). Naming one favourite author is impossible, but her (long) list includes both Robin Hobb and Terry Pratchett, who she appreciates both for the unique brilliance of their writing, and the diversity of their characters.
When she isn’t reading, Charlotte enjoys writing, turning her hand to everything from articles and blog posts to short stories and creative writing projects, and trades traditional handwritten letters with friends all over the world. She supports local businesses and attractions, including quirky independent coffee shops, loves museums and theatre, and is a strong advocate of the National Trust and a number of animal protection charities.