I arrive early, just before opening time at the Islington Metal Works in the hope of slipping in unnoticed to the sell-out Rumpus party that has recently been the subject of dirty whispers from those in the know. Tonight is the ‘Carnival of the Creatures’ and I’ve managed to wing it as my lady friend is running a stall selling animal tails to the furry masses queuing in the cold outside.
What strikes me upon entrance is the commotion: the hustling and bustling of artists jostling into positions before the final curtain call, the air thick with the type of excitement and verve that you always imagine in the backstage depths of a large production preamble. The venue is dark and labyrinthine. I feel lucky to have slipped in the back door and avoided the queues. After a quick recce of the sprawling six room venue – which includes four rooms of music and entertainment as well as a cinema – I return to “The Pit of Curiosity”, a high-ceilinged, industrial room that has been turned into a bizarre bazaar with people peddling everything from lizard tails to knitwear.
In the centre of the room is a carriage from a London underground train that has been converted into a bar, and in front of that a string orchestra. Santi, one of the main organisers, slides in and gives everyone the five minute warning, and before I know it the doors are open and in herd, flock and swarm a truly eclectic rabble of creatures of all sizes, ready to embrace their ferity as the orchestra drown them in the score from Peter And The Wolf. Later on, the orchestra will be replaced by a group Kazoo session going fucking mental to Zorba The Greek.
I’m a few hours into the party when I first realise that the initial feeling of being backstage hasn’t subsided (and later I will find out the ‘back door’ that I clandestinely glanced through into the recesses of the production was actually the front door). This is when I realise that the whole party, no matter which room you are in or who you are partying next to, feels like it’s the much more debauched, much more fun backstage party of the actual, far more boring, non-existent main production. This is where the cool kids are and I’m one of them. This is what makes Rumpus great. The event is so saturated with artists and performers that you half expect to find a string quartet playing over the top of your cubicle when you’re taking a shit (something Santi the organiser says he has done at a previous party).
Upstairs more rooms seem to unfurl, dishing up pool tables, massive filthy breakbeat bangarounds and wonky ball pits, and with the crowd a healthy mix of ravers, trannies, weirdos, freaks, geeks and (weirdly) goths, there’s somebody for everybody here.
Rumpus have nailed the concept of turning a party into a one-night festival, and in these cold, cold winter months with festival season not even nearly on the horizon, this is exactly what we need. These guys truly are apt in name and so I suggest when the whisper “Rumpus?” graces your ear, you should whisper back, “Indeed”.