Concrete crumbs trickle down shady beams, down tag-licked wobbly pillars, down jelly legs, rendered catanionic by deep, dark bass frequencies that rattle an echo in the skull and continue to scatter brain cells five days after. In amongst the peeling paint and pitch-black fire escapes they dance to hard, industrial sounds, 4/4 or maybe a different beat that we don’t quite comprehend yet. The year is 2040 and the rave has been outlawed. It’s on the outer fringes, caught up inside the plaster-board dividers of what was once a call centre, submerged into secret among the abandoned nooks of a pre-Covid life, tucked inside woodlands with pixies and badgers. Frank hears about a time before this, another time, of festivals and nightclubs, legal parties and huge gatherings, a time before the Government fucked it. But that’s just myth and legend. His parents feel responsible somehow, they could have done more, it crawled forward slowly with a sneaky force. No one could really believe what was happening, until it had already happened.
The year I was born the Beastie Boys implored us to fight for our right to party and the year Frank was born this never felt more crucial. An industry disappearing, a culture being driven underground. Generations of talent told to retrain as their jobs were no longer viable. Nightclubs sinking with no aid, left for scraps and immediately picked apart by vulture Tory-chum-scum, sold on for expensive flats to make the same felines fatter and strip-out our city part by part of all its life. Deaden it. No nightlife, no help. Industries that make millions forgotten in a land led by those too senseless to see the real value of existence. It happened before and it will happen again. Crushing the freethinkers and nonconformists is something these bacon-lickers like to do over breakfast. Silence the voices, dull the expanded minds, push them down, down with another caviar stuffed croissant.
You can’t stop people dancing but these times are grim. Frank will dance but where? I’ve enjoyed illegal raves so I can’t say it’s somewhere I wouldn’t want Frank to go, but I do want him to have the choice. I want him to be able to party without glancing over his shoulder, to live in a world where Soundsystem rigs and records aren’t shattered pointlessly by police, to have fun in a place where capacity is monitored along with the sturdiness and safety of the floor. If we continue the way things are going the underground will thrive, but a variety in the arts is what makes life POP and we are losing it, disintegrating right before our retinas. We are losing places, we are losing people… So where are we headed?
“To the pub!” Clifford proclaims, “He’s just happier at the pub,” and I wonder who he’s really talking about. But for now, the pub is what we have, curfew of 10 and Frank’s a regular, he has many mates down there. He sits giggling on the decorated sofas, taking it all in. There’s music and drinks. It’s somewhere close to normality. It’s something like life before. It’s important for the economy. Boris likes a drink. It’s “viable”. I’m glad Frank can enjoy the great British pub and I love enjoying it with him.
But the times I’ve stayed out after Frank have felt epic too. A connection to a part of me lying dormant for now is suddenly awake. “Baby free!” we shout and order another beer. “Be back by ten,” we are warned by our parents, but 10pm feels like 4am and we regress into teenagers, flout the curfew and push the boundaries, leave the pub as late as possible and leg it up the hill. “He’s been crying since he woke up,” my mum tells us, but Dad shoots her down, “Oh it wasn’t that bad, I just put him in the pram and went round the block and now he’s asleep again.” Maybe it’s differing generations or the male/female mentality but the truth, I suspect, is somewhere in between. The protection of my feelings mixed with a splintering from every cry, me and my mum equally soft in the heart.
That crying does bother me though and I appreciate why new parents don’t always make it out. It’s something I never really understood before and thought was purely down to choice. It is a choice but your baby needs you. Frank cries out for me when I’m not there. He isn’t trying to manipulate me (not yet), he just needs comfort until he feels more secure and confident in the world. I made him so I can’t be super quick to sack him off just to get my own life back on track. Then again, the self is so important; happy mum, happy baby. Every mother must cautiously tread the line of self and baby, dropping a toe over the mark and pushing the limits little by little to see what can be achieved in separate spheres.
Still, it remains difficult for us to leave Frank right now, especially at night. “How is he sleeping?” everyone asks and I think, I don’t know, like a baby? People love to tell you when their child “slept through the night” but Frank isn’t there yet. I co-slept with him for a while, which meant we both got lots of sleep but he hasn’t quite mastered independent sleep yet (we’re working on this now he’s in his cot so lots to write about this soon!) But that’s okay. I hear a silly pop song on the radio – “I don’t know how to fall asleep if you don’t say goodnight” – in a sappy, sugary voice and I think of Frank. One day soon he won’t need me to sleep and he won’t give a toss if I’m out all night and I’ll probably feel a little bit sad. But also you’ll find me knocking back the double rums and dancing on a table.
The last time I went “Out Out” was Saturday 20th July 2019 in Stratford, about a week before I found out I was pregnant. I tripped happily home in the small hours, no idea the night’s historic significance, the last night of its kind, not ever, but the last night out where I wouldn’t have a child. I did go to a few nights when I was pregnant (and thank god I did!) but it’s safe to say I’m itching a tad. I need to stick my head inside a speaker… But so does everyone.
I have to think that nightlife culture and the rave scene will be sturdier and more robust than ever in 2040, and not just in the underground. DJs and musicians were some of the most active in coming together to get us through lockdown with their live streams and radio shows. Saying their life’s work of entertaining is no longer viable and that they should retrain is not good enough. And not just them, but everyone in the arts from performance to production. Telling people to ‘go get a real job’ is the dumbest fucking thing I have ever heard. Entertainment and escapism is a vital need for every human on this planet, where do you think all that comes from?
Even if we can’t do certain things now these industries must be protected for the future. We can’t roll over and do nothing. If Frank asks what happened, we can’t say that we didn’t try. We will party again and it’ll be one hell of a dance when we do, as long as there’s a test for entry on every door. A test to check for Tory symptoms; anyone who votes Conservative after this should be denied entry into any entertainment, because you don’t really need it, right?