Fantastic for Families Award 2020 nomination

An outdoor festival for families:
BFLF and The Horniman

Big Fish Little Fish have made the shortlist for this year’s Best Family Event award for their Outdoor Family Festival, in partnership with the Horniman Museum & Gardens. Here, the founder, Hannah Saunders, talks us through how they got started and went on to develop an award-winning programme for families.

Big Fish Little Fish created the family rave phenomenon in 2013 when they ran the first ‘family rave’ in a pub in Brixton, South London. The Founder, Hannah Saunders, loved taking her young family to music festivals but could not find other family events where all generations were catered for in the same way. Inspired by her lifelong love of raving/clubbing and wanting to share dance music with her family she thought of the idea of a ‘family rave’ – a mini festival for young families where everyone could enjoy themselves in the same place TOGETHER. Drawn very much from the ethos of raving, Big Fish Little Fish is inclusive, creative, quirky and a lot of fun.

BFLF events have at their heart great music – over 250 world famous DJs have played BFLF – with amazing sensory effects for families to interact with on the dancefloor such as foam, bubbles, confetti, visuals and parachutes – to give a magical place for all to dance. Child craft experts design and run multi- activity craft areas, reflecting the fancy dress theme and allowing children of all ages to be arty. There are also break out play and chill areas to let imaginations run free and work with other organisations to bring in workshops such as synthesizers/drumming/circus skills/DJ skills and theatre or storytellers and even comedy shows. BFLF is able to bring a family audience into iconic ‘adult’ venues such as fabric, Glastonbury Festival, Lakota (Bristol), Epic (Norwich), Leadmill (Sheffield), FAC251 (Manchester) and Phoenix (Exeter) and allow for prestigious venues such as National Gallery, Coventry Cathedral, Cardiff Castle, Melbourne Music Week, Whitworth Gallery, Museum of London and V&A Museum to engage in new ways with a family audience.

Families are doing the parachute dance at a BFLF rave

The 2020 shortlisted event is for the very special family fun day with the Horniman Museum in July 2019. After two small, highly acclaimed events inside the Horniman Museum in 2018, the Museum asked Big Fish Little Fish to work with them to deliver a full afternoon family festival in their grounds in the summer for 2,500 people. Drawing on customer feedback from the smaller events and the Horniman’s extensive research on their visitors, we designed the day suitable for the age range and visitor needs. They developed a programme, highlighting both the essence of Big Fish Little Fish and showcase the Museum’s collection. To appeal to all generations of families in South East London and beyond. There were a range of different activities: for larger groups, one-to-one, and others for small families or individuals to make sure there was something for everyone.

The main focus was the DJ rave where families could dance together through bubbles, foam and balloons. Held on the historic bandstand – with London laid out in a panoramic view – over the large terrace and up the sloping green hill. DJs included BFLF residents Baker &Beale and world famous drum and bass legend Aphrodite, finishing with Alex Paterson (The Orb). Activities included a nature trail around the Horniman Gardens to explore and learn about the plants and wildlife around them. Crafts were provided by Captain Cookie, in a large teaching shed to make flower crowns. The Horniman provided artefacts from their collection to handle and learn about their history from their staff. People could use a photo booth with the artefacts as props and costume. The Museum also provided a storyteller from the World of Stories programme in a quieter area of the Gardens created as the chill area. There were food and drinks stalls, face painting, plus access to the Butterfly House and mini golf. At the end of the 4 hour event attendees were given cups of coloured powder and had a colour throw!

Since March, BFLF has been unable to run their usual events and so have gone online to provide free weekly ‘Kitchen Rave’ live DJ streams every Sunday. These have been extremely popular and over 500,000 people have watched. They are a wonderful way to connect with families during these socially distant times and they have also streamed as part of virtual festivals such as Camp Bestival, Pride and Greenpeace as well as for culture partners like Museum of London. BFLF were delighted to be able to help celebrate the re-opening of the Horniman Museum with a live stream from within the Museum galleries with DJ Prime Cuts. In this way BFLF has managed to continue to provide fun, inclusive activities for families during 2020 and indeed been able to help their cultural partners to engage with their audiences too.

4 September 2020 


Hannah Saunders is the Founder of Big Fish Little Fish productions.

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4 September 2020