It is 6.30am on a Wednesday morning and Phoeve Logothetidi, 26, and Sara Alhulaio, 27, are raving, covered in glitter and face paints and clad in rainbow-hued clothes.
They are lost in dance, but not drunk or under the influence of anything other than pure, organic excitement and joy. In just three hours’ time the pair will be at their desks writing essays at Queen Mary University, where they are both studying for undergraduate degrees in global health.
You cannot say their start to the day is conventional, but they are part of a growing number of morning ravers enjoying the conscious clubbing movement, pioneered by Morning Gloryville in East London.
The organisation’s Rave Your Way Into The Day event sees hundreds of people, young and old, descend on Tower Hamlet’s Oval Space multi-purpose events venue at The Oval in Bethnal Green for four hours every last Wednesday of the month. They come to dance, sing, practice yoga, drink superfood smoothies, coffee and cacao – but not alcohol – or enjoy a free massage, while immersing themselves in the loud music, which includes everything from club anthems, electro-swing, house, funk and hip hop. The dress code is only limited by imagination and people go all out with glitter, face paints and fancy dress – picture unicorns, rainbows, disco divas and fairies. Other charming features are the free hugs on offer and the Love Stop Café menu, where you can chose from a list of free offerings that include eye contact, compliments and a shoulder massage.
“It’s amazing here,” says Alhulaio. “I’m Muslim and I have gone out clubbing before but I’ve only gone in a group of people that don’t drink alcohol and I’ve always said to them, ‘why is it that we can’t just dance for the sake of dancing?’ The fact that I got to dance with a baby and a 65-year-old yogi has just made my whole month. It’s just about the purity of dancing and being happy without all these other ulterior motives. I love it.
“The first time I came, I walked in and someone just came up and gave me a hug. We’re not from here, I’m from Kuwait and she’s [Logothetidi] from Greece, so we’re kind of like strangers in London, and it’s too easy to lose touch with people, but the fact that people just give you a hug, it makes you realise that you’ve missed that. The nature of this town is that you have to make an effort to connect with people; otherwise everyone on the tube just hates each other. We are all lonely together, we are all alone together, but then you realise we are all thinking and going through the same stuff. Just look at each other and smile at everyone.”
The Morning Gloryville concept is the brainchild of co-founders, events producer Samantha Moyo, 29, and massage therapist Nico Thoemmes, 28, who were yearning for a more wholesome way to party. The idea came to them in the spring of 2013 while they were sitting on the bank of the River Thames after a massive bender and decided to start what they called a ‘rave-olution’. They loved raving but it wasn’t exactly sustainable and they hated that feeling of recovering for weeks after.
“It was seeking, actually looking for conscious clubbing,” British-Zimbabwean Moyo, who now runs Morning Gloryville as the sole director, explained. “I was partying loads, literally partying loads and couldn’t find any sober, clean fun that you could also express yourself in such a wild and wonderful way. It was about not finding but creating a space that we couldn’t find anywhere else.”
With that came the launch of Morning Gloryville. It started at the Village Underground arts facility in Shoreditch in May 2013 and moved to the bigger 6,000-square feet Oval Space as its popularity grew. As well as rave parties in West and South London, the concept has transformed into a global social movement, with Morning Gloryville Glory Agents around the world putting on events in everywhere from Amsterdam to Bangalore and Paris to Tokyo. However, it is hoped the growth won’t stop there.
“We want Morning Gloryville to be accessible to people from all walks of life, we want to be in as many cities as possible so everyone can have access to the safe space to create and connect in an authentic way,” says Tegan Hecht, a Morning Gloryville Peace Pioneer. “At the moment we have just reached 21 cities around the world and we’ve constantly got expansion on the horizon.”
What’s more, the project has evolved considerably in the two years since its launch and, as well as the monthly morning raves, a number of offshoot events are now taking place, including an annual sleepover, a boat party and a travelling festival edition. It now welcomes everyone from the initial core group of yogis and the already converted free spirit burner types, to a mixed range, from corporate bankers to doctors to UCL lecturers, students, festival goers, freelance media types, parents and their teens and toddlers and a growing demographic of golden elders.
Geraldine Brennan, 56 and an actress, has been coming to Morning Gloryville since the very start and the “inspiring” event keeps drawing her back time and again. “I came to very first one in Shoreditch,” she said. “I don’t like going to clubs because people are off their heads and you’re worried about getting home, which sort of spoils the evening. Nobody is drinking or getting into fights here. We all get high on the atmosphere and it’s a really good workout. It’s really inspiring.”
Liz Saunton, 45, and her four-year-old daughter Eve are also becoming regulars. “She’s been coming every month since August. We bought the [ear] defenders, she chose the colour, and we’ve been coming ever since. It’s really friendly. Sometimes she does drawing, sometimes she just dances, it’s something we just do together. She goes to school this year so we are counting down how many Morning Gloryvilles she’s going to be able to go to before. I’m still coming, just without her.”
Aside from the sheer fun of dancing in crazy clothes, Morning Gloryville has wider aspirations for positive social change. It hopes to spark a renaissance for that sense of community that all but died with the advent of modern technology and social media. “It’s about bringing people into their hearts and souls, spreading love, bringing flower power back to the community,” Hecht explained. “We want to get adults playing with each other, being less judgemental of each other and allowing the self to be. We are challenging social norms and inspiring social transformation.”
So what does the future hold for Morning Gloryville? Moyo has a particularly clear vision. “I’ve got a dream for myself, which is to self love because I know that when I’m in a place of self love then I’m so good at loving the rest of the world,” she said. “And when I’m good at loving the rest of the world, they are good at loving other people. The Morning Gloryville dream is to really break down the barriers in all the different communities all over the world so everyone can just realise we are all the same.”
It is hard not to float into the day after leaving Morning Gloryville riding a cloud of peaceful happiness, particularly as the wild dancing is finished with a grounding meditation and a massive group hug – don’t knock it until you have tried it. Moyo even admits herself that the aspirations of the organisation are “a bit Bob Marley, one love”, but is that not just what this world needs right now?