A sea of people crowd the dancefloor, their arms and legs moving wildly in time with the music. Sparkly outfits shimmer in the flashing club lights, hair whips around, heads lean in together straining to hear each other against the DJ.
A woman carries a round of drinks from the bar to her group of friends and they cheer at her arrival. It’s a classic club night in the West End. Except it’s not, because it’s 3pm.
“I had an idea about going out in the afternoons, sort of like traditional clubbing, as I call it,” said one of the founders of Day Fever, film-maker Jonny Owen. He recruited the Line of Duty actor Vicky McClure and Jon McClure, frontman of Reverend and The Makers, and some other friends, to put the night on at Sheffield City Hall. “We thought we’d give it a go and see how it goes. We had no idea what the reaction would be. We put the tickets out and they went in 48 hours. So we were like, ‘Ah, this is interesting’. But we genuinely thought it could have been a fluke because it was Christmas.”
So they had another go and the tickets sold out “immediately”. Buoyed up by their success in Sheffield, the team brought the event, called Day Fever, to London yesterday on Saturday for the first time. It is not the first club event to have an early finish – it comes after DJ Annie Mac launched a club night, Before Midnight, finishing at midnight – but the 8pm kicking-out time has had overwhelming appeal.
Part of the appeal is that tickets are “right cheap”, as Owen puts it – priced at £15 in London (“We were told, if we ask for a tenner here, people are going to think there’s something wrong with it,” Vicky McClure said) and £10 in other cities.
“We know it’s hard work at the moment. It’s only a tenner to come here, have a dance and have a good time. And that’s really important to us,” said Owen.
And the team has achieved it. The event has the feel of a particularly good wedding, with people of different ages and where everyone is on top form. Almost nobody has their phone out. People are enjoying the music.
At Outernet on Charing Cross Road in London, the trio all had a DJ set and were joined by musician Tony McGuiness, the brother of comedian and presenter Paddy – who was calling him during the event from his daytime BBC radio show.
Punters were queueing outside and as soon as they got in, they hit the dancefloor without hesitation. London has been the best one yet, the organisers said, which has been a surprise – they thought Londoners would be too cool to let go and enjoy the concept. The plan is to make it a monthly thing in the capital and across towns and cities in the UK.
Vicky McClure said: “One minute it will be Whitney, the next minute it will be the Stone Roses. It’s suiting everybody and it reignites memories. All of a sudden you forget where you are. You just embrace it and enjoy it.”
Pete and Kerri Watmough and their friends Sheridan Saunders and Wayne Farndell came all the way from Buxton, Derbyshire, for the event, having heard about it on the radio and decided to take a chance.
“We just liked the sound of it,” said Pete. “We’ve made it a special occasion, for Kerri’s birthday, and we’re staying over tonight. We’ll probably go out after.” Helen Gill said she found out about it online. “I just thought it was a bit retro. You can go for lunch first. We don’t really go on nights out any more so this is a bit different.”
For others, it was a hark back to a past they saw no reason to let go of. “I’ve always missed going clubbing,” said Flip Webster. “I wondered why clubs weren’t doing stuff for older people because there’s no reason why we would stop wanting to go out. Places are making a mistake not targeting the grey pound.”
Farah Ikram, who came with her friend Wendy Betts and their husbands, said her children were now grown up and she wanted to make the most of her free time. She was surprised this was the first time she’d come across the day club concept.
“We’ve been talking about this for such a long time,” she said. “The choices and options are great – you can meet for lunch, come here and then come home, go let the dog out, watch the 10 o’clock news. You’ve got your Sunday free. I’m in my 50s, we’re the generation who invented rave in Ibiza. We were London ravers, too cool for school. It makes sense to us.”
She added: “Our generation were there … not that we can remember it.”