DJs should give free rave tickets to mums

Alice O'Keeffe's "Squeezed Middle" column

‘‘What’s your name, darlin’?” The bouncer examines his clipboard. “Erm, Amanda Collins,” I say, my voice going a bit squeaky. I am lying to the bouncer in order to get guest-list tickets to a house rave.

No, that is not a typo. I, a thirtysomething, suburban mother-of-two, am attending a rave in Kentish Town. I have a very tight dress on. I feel like I should also be wearing a badge reading: “DON’T LOOK AT ME. I AM NOT SUPPOSED TO BE HERE.”

The only reason I am here is that DJ Slippa, the headliner, is a childhood friend of mine. One of my new resolutions is to get out of the house more. So when his sister offered me her spare ticket I thought, why not?

In more innocent days, Slippa (aka Dan) and I used to play “Daddies” together in the sandpit at Highbury Fields playground. Since then, our paths have diverged somewhat radically. I am living in a slightly-toosmall flat, bringing up two children and spending weekends grappling with Ikea self-assembly furniture. He is earning megabucks, jetting around the world first class, buying flats across Europe with nary a mortgage, playing to crowds of adoring fans, batting off the groupies . . .

 The bouncer waves me on. Inside, the club is dark and thunderous. Young people are milling about clutching bottles of water. I can’t help but notice that many of the girls are wearing very impractical shoes.

I make my way rapidly to the bar and spot my friend Lizzie, who is just about to be served.

“Thank goodness you’re here!” I pant. “I feel like a prehistoric fossil!”

 “I don’t think fossils wear Lycra. What is that dress?” Lizzie, who is more rock’n’roll than me, has bought a double vodka and Red Bull. I ask for a bottled lager (£4!!!) and we retreat to a dark corner.

Slippa’s set is about to begin. Hundreds of mobile phones wave in the air and green lasers dart up and down. In a puff of smoke, Dan emerges from the wings and ascends a great altar-like construction in the middle of the stage. He raises his hand to the audience, presses a button, and a bassline shudders up through my feet. The place goes crazy.

After watching for a few minutes, I turn to Lizzie. “What do those buttons he’s pressing actually do?”

“Oh, nothing. The music is pre-recorded. He’s just pretending,” she says.

Truly, the world is a strange place. Dan gets paid thousands of pounds an hour for pratting around on stage, not even pressing buttons, but pretending to press them. Meanwhile, I slave away from dawn till dusk raising the next generation and I get paid . . . nothing.

Never mind all that. It feels amazing to have a dance. My body has spent so long in the service of small humans that I’d almost forgotten it could move just for fun. As I head off into the far-too-late night, I conclude that in return for their huge salaries DJs should have to give free tickets to all mums. Come on, fair’s fair.

A New Year's Eve rave in Las Vegas. Photo: Getty

Alice O'Keeffe is an award-winning journalist and former arts editor of the New Statesman. She now works as a freelance writer and looks after two young children. You can find her on Twitter as @AliceOKeeffe.

This article first appeared in the 09 September 2013 issue of the New Statesman, Britain alone

All photos: India Bourke
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“They cut, we bleed”: activists Sisters Uncut protest closures of women's services

 “Our blood should not pay for our rape.”

Over 500 domestic violence survivors and support workers processed through central London this weekend. The protest, staged by the feminist direct action group Sisters Uncut, mourned the women’s services that are losing out as a result of the government's austerity drive.

Since November 2014 the group has occupied streets, burned copies of the Daily Mail, and hijacked the Suffragette film premiere. But on Saturday the mood was somber. In Soho Square the group staged a symbolic funeral service. Attendees stood in a protective circle, fists raised, while members took turns to read out the names of the scores of women who’ve been killed by men in the past year:  “Anne Dunkley, 67; Nadia Khan, 24; Lisa Anthony, 47…”. The youngest was just 14 years old.

The service culminated in a promise “to never forget” the dead, and also to protect the living: “We must love and support one another; we have nothing to lose but our chains".

As the protestors passed St Martins in the Fields Church, dressed in black veils and funeral attire, the crowd of passers-by broke into spontaneous applause. “It gave me goosebumps”, Caroline, an activist and former victim of abuse told me. “You expect people on the march to be supportive but not the people on the street. I’ve been on other marches and people normally complain about you being selfish and blocking up the streets but this response makes you feel like people do  care.”

The show of public support is especially welcome in the aftermath of the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement. Cuts to local authority budgets have already led to the closure of over 30 domestic violence services since 2010, including Eaves, a charity that provided services for single, low-income and vulnerable women.

Further erosions to local council budgets will only put more services and lives at risk, activists say. Also of concern is Osborne’s decision to devolve responsibility for raising a social care tax (of up to 2 per cent on council tax) to local authorities. This tips hostility to tax increases away from central government to local authorities, and could place greater pressure on women’s services to compete for funding.

The Chancellor offered a supposed silver lining to the cuts with the promise that VAT money raised from the EU’s compulsory tax on sanitary products will be ringfenced for women’s charities, such as the Eve Appeal and Women’s Aid.

The implication, however, that only women are to pay for helping the victims of domestic violence was met with derision from Sisters Uncut. As the marchers approached their final destination in Trafalgar Square, red dye turned the square’s famous fountains the colour of blood. “This blood won’t wash the blood from Osborne’s hands,” read one tampon-draped banner; “Our blood should not pay for our rape”, read another.

For those on the march, the cuts are an affront on many levels. All those I spoke to worked in some form of public service; everything from housing to foster care. But some have had to move out of the women’s services sector for the lack of funding.

Louisa used to work for a domestic violence service in London until it was forced to close last month. “I’m here because I’ve witnessed first hand what the cuts are doing to women and how much the organisations are having to squeeze what they can provide.”

All public services have legitimate claims to support - from the 14-strong police team that escorted the marchers, to the sweepers who were left to dredge the protesters’ roses out of the fountains and brush away the tampons that had fallen from their banners.

The danger, however, according to Caroline, is that the needs of domestic violence victims are all too easy to sideline: “This is by its nature something that goes on behind closed doors,” she says. As funding tightens, these voices musn’t be squeezed out.

Sisters Uncut is an intersectional group open to all who identify as women. The national domestic violence helpline offers help and support on 0808 2000 247. Members of the LGBT communities can also access tailored support from Broken Rainbow on 0800 9995428.

India Bourke is the New Statesman's editorial assistant.