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

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I was wrong about Help to Buy - but I'm still glad it's gone

As a mortgage journalist in 2013, I was deeply sceptical of the guarantee scheme. 

If you just read the headlines about Help to Buy, you could be under the impression that Theresa May has just axed an important scheme for first-time buyers. If you're on the left, you might conclude that she is on a mission to make life worse for ordinary working people. If you just enjoy blue-on-blue action, it's a swipe at the Chancellor she sacked, George Osborne.

Except it's none of those things. Help to Buy mortgage guarantee scheme is a policy that actually worked pretty well - despite the concerns of financial journalists including me - and has served its purpose.

When Osborne first announced Help to Buy in 2013, it was controversial. Mortgage journalists, such as I was at the time, were still mopping up news from the financial crisis. We were still writing up reports about the toxic loan books that had brought the banks crashing down. The idea of the Government promising to bail out mortgage borrowers seemed the height of recklessness.

But the Government always intended Help to Buy mortgage guarantee to act as a stimulus, not a long-term solution. From the beginning, it had an end date - 31 December 2016. The idea was to encourage big banks to start lending again.

So far, the record of Help to Buy has been pretty good. A first-time buyer in 2013 with a 5 per cent deposit had 56 mortgage products to choose from - not much when you consider some of those products would have been ridiculously expensive or would come with many strings attached. By 2016, according to Moneyfacts, first-time buyers had 271 products to choose from, nearly a five-fold increase

Over the same period, financial regulators have introduced much tougher mortgage affordability rules. First-time buyers can be expected to be interrogated about their income, their little luxuries and how they would cope if interest rates rose (contrary to our expectations in 2013, the Bank of England base rate has actually fallen). 

A criticism that still rings true, however, is that the mortgage guarantee scheme only helps boost demand for properties, while doing nothing about the lack of housing supply. Unlike its sister scheme, the Help to Buy equity loan scheme, there is no incentive for property companies to build more homes. According to FullFact, there were just 112,000 homes being built in England and Wales in 2010. By 2015, that had increased, but only to a mere 149,000.

This lack of supply helps to prop up house prices - one of the factors making it so difficult to get on the housing ladder in the first place. In July, the average house price in England was £233,000. This means a first-time buyer with a 5 per cent deposit of £11,650 would still need to be earning nearly £50,000 to meet most mortgage affordability criteria. In other words, the Help to Buy mortgage guarantee is targeted squarely at the middle class.

The Government plans to maintain the Help to Buy equity loan scheme, which is restricted to new builds, and the Help to Buy ISA, which rewards savers at a time of low interest rates. As for Help to Buy mortgage guarantee, the scheme may be dead, but so long as high street banks are offering 95 per cent mortgages, its effects are still with us.