Rumpus Vol. 8: Carnival of the Animals

‘Is my tail wonky?’ I find myself staring at the behind of a man dressed as a tiger wearing the tail of a fox. I make a slight adjustment, give him a pat, and send the tiger-fox on his way. I need to get back to the important matter of considering my own tail.

We’re in the Tall Tails corner of a warehouse in London’s Islington where you can buy yourself a tail to match your outfit. But zebra or dragon? These are the sort of obscure questions you find yourself asking at Rumpus, probably one of the best roving parties in London right now.

I call it a roving party, because it doesn’t fall under the bracket of club night. “We think a good party is about more than cramming people onto a dance floor and playing music at them,” and that they definitely do. With six rooms of different shenanigans they have music covering genres as diverse as gypsy folk to electro, and performances from contortionists to miracle-makers all orchestrated at the breakneck pace of pandemonium. It is a rumpus; a fanciful commotion, a ballyhoo and a bluster. Literally a zoo this time, as the theme for the night is ‘Carnival of the Animals’.

Walking in, a sign announces: ‘FUN TIMES. INSTANT ENJOYMENT.’ An aerial trapeze artist with feathers in her hair swings above our heads, and someone in Beetlejuice trousers is handing out candy floss. The crowds are dancing to the most hip-twitching rockabilly. It’s like walking in on the Animals of Raving Wood.
If you haven’t come dressed up you get charged an extra £2 on the door. It’s a Fun Tax; you’re penalised for not letting loose. Costumes range from the miraculous to the makeshift, but some pretty zebras will paint your face if you don’t feel the part. In the outside world you might worry about looking silly, but here the only thing to worry about is not looking silly enough.

It’s all about rediscovering an inner playfulness. It’s the same impulse that has led to the popularity of music festivals like Cambridgeshire’s Secret Garden Party and Isle of Wight’s Bestival. People want the opportunity to dress up and play. And it’s not just a few people; Rumpus alone attracts over 1000 – in October they expand to a 2000-capacity venue.

Here, it’s perfectly acceptable to launch yourself into a giant ball pit and throw multi-coloured balls at complete strangers; which is exactly what I find myself doing.