Seven years ago I acquired a pair of Caterpillar biker boots, not my usual form of footwear, being more your-trainers-(or in various muddy fields over the years, wellingtons)-kind-of-girl. These stylish and oh-so-comfortable, magic boots have been the caretakers of my dancing feet at every club, festival and rave I’ve attended since. I think I shall cry when they wear out.
I’m one of the world’s oldest ravers and I’m still raving. I consider it a radical act of defiance against the fear machine that promotes hard work until retirement, after which you’re expected to tip-toe quietly towards death. Dancing, especially the kind of trance-dance that sends you into an ecstatic state of Oneness, is an activity that keeps me looking, feeling and most importantly thinking young. I’m happy to reveal my age when asked. In fact, every time a spring chicken bounces over to me at a ridiculously late hour and shouts over the pounding sub; “How old ARE you?!” and I scream back, “Fifty three!”, I feel a frisson of pride.
The only difference between me and the youngsters that I find myself clubbing with – is that I’m wearing earplugs and they’re generally not. Okay, to be fair, there are a couple of other differences; in order to prepare for a night of jumping up and down in mad abandon, I make sure I’ve had a nap and eaten a solid meal. I don’t remember making sensible plans ahead of time when I was in my youth. One of the luxuries of raving in your early twenties is the permission to be in the Now, think Fuck It, pop another pill and not worry too much about recovery time. At that age most people are still relatively free of roles and responsibilities. After years of forging a career out in the ‘real’ world, becoming mortgage-laden, raising kids, it’s easy to fall into the trap of designing your days around TO DO lists rather than letting life spontaneously happen. This week I’m actually retiring from my career of the last fifteen years, and am determined to get back there – to the intoxicating freedom of dancing all night with no anxiety around potentially being tired the following day and thus not able to cope with the schedule.
Fuck the schedule.
My kids have both left home. I consider it a job well done. I’ve conscientiously worked for a living since I was in my teens. I’ve filed my tax returns and been through the menopause. The only major project I have going right now is cutting myself free from the ties that bind, abandoning those ‘roles’, and setting off to find a place to be in the world where I can dance to my heart’s content.
When it comes to dancing, it appears I’ve tapped into a source of boundless energy. If you see me out there, water bottle in hand, looking like all the ecstasy-fuelled revellers swirling around me with dilated pupils, it’s more than likely I’m going all night on a chai latte. And when they start to flag, I begin to surf my second or third wave of energy and dance till dawn.
I’m not a fan of alcohol for two reasons a) it brings out the worst in people and b) it renders one incapable of dancing all night. Being a responsible adult living in a country where any drug that makes people happy, in love, or free-thinking, is made illegal, I’m not about to condone the use of class A drugs, am I? Having said that, I completely understand the desire to get out of your head. In my humble opinion, most human beings I meet could well do with some form of radical, mind-altering experience, but these days I do just as well getting high on everybody else’s high. Mainly, it’s the music and the tribal experience that sends me into an altered state of cosmic expansion.
I started raving in 1983 when I joined about 50,000 other people at Glastonbury festival. I adore the thrill of the large party, everyone in love and loving it. The invention of Ecstasy did wonders for the raising of human consciousness. It is an intelligent substance. Ecstasy opened people’s hearts and brought them together. Furthermore, it got blokes dancing! This is a radical difference between my generation and my kids’ one. They seem to be born with rhythm. Like Africans, they speak the language of complex cadence. Rhythm courses through them, the guys as cool on the dance floor as the girls.
My sons got their love of music through me. I’m eclectic in my taste and my stereo was played at full volume through both pregnancies. The oldest went to Leeds University, the youngest followed four years later. Both left in their second year to become professional deejays and I was actively proud. These days deejaying is a true art form and my sons are highly skilled. I’ve danced to many of their sets in clubs and at festivals and nothing gives me more joy than seeing my boys doing what they love: working a crowd.
There are close to a thousand music festivals in England every summer. Not bad for a country that sees more rain than most. The one festival I make sure I attend every season without fail is called Give and it’s a classy knees-up for ravers of my age group. We get together once a year, leave our smartphones in the car, unplug for a weekend, and go mental. Sadly I’m going to miss it this year as I’m heading off to Denmark on a silent retreat. I had one chance to get to a festival before leaving, and last week I was lucky enough to be welcomed as a guest of honour at Virgo in Devon, a thank you for producing two of their acts. My oldest son Liam’s band, Desert Sound Colony was playing live and Reuben, his brother was booked for a disco set in the rose garden during the afternoon. Eight hundred kids in their twenties, and I (the only ‘mature’ person apart from the owners of the house) met in the grounds of a stately home and rocked the valley through the May bank holiday weekend. The sun shone, the music was perfect and much dancing was done by all. Some of the folk in the drum ‘n’ bass room might have been a tad surprised at 4am to find a decidedly middle-aged woman, throwing herself about like a maniac in front of the mammoth speakers, but hey, in for a penny, in for a pound…
On Sunday afternoon, while the sun was setting, and I chilled on the banks of the lake with a yogic, spiritually-aware guy who resembled Jesus, I looked around and realised that a bunch of young deejays and their mates, most of them not long out of university had got this extraordinary event together themselves. They hadn’t sat around talking about how great it would be to create a boutique festival of their very own – inspired by the music they’re passionate about – they’d actually made it happen! People who know how to throw a good party are my kind of people.
I have actually pictured my own death. It’s more like an ascension really. It happens on a dance floor, my last breath exhaled at the point of a particularly good drop in the middle of a brilliant set played back to back by the boys. And as I breathe out, throwing my best shapes ever, I vanish in a puff of stage smoke, never to be seen again.