House party and non-mainstream party culture from Tottenham to Enfield

Words by: Tice Cin

There’s nothing like a house party, and part of that is the community element to them. 

Informal set-ups feel different to a club. A house party often represents a local area better than a club would. That’s important, especially for the people that are detached from the mainstream music scene, as for a lot of those people, music from the underground is supreme.  This comes to life in a number of ways. From a Garage rave in an Edmonton new-build with no mic and a kick drum catching each quarter note in 4/4 time to N‘n’G vs Kallaghan’s ‘Right Before My Eyes’ to the great DJ Gladdy Wax pulling up with his beloved sound system in Tottenham. Community centre christenings in Broadwater Farm. The warehouses on Lawrence Road that would come to life after 1am every week (these, my eldest brother went to religiously, not me). A shubz on Bruce Grove road next to Regency Banqueting Suite in a closed restaurant – Bashment the whole night before ending on Donell Jones.

Culture shines in these scenarios. I spoke with Najwa Umran – Radio Presenter, founder of the Black Listening Party and girls-only night Glory Nights – about the day party that she hosts catered towards Muslim women (but open to all women) who don’t feel comfortable in mainstream nightclubs. All-women staff, women DJs and performers, complete with mocktails. Najwa threw her first girls-only party for Galentines last February and it was a safe space for women. She tells me about how it felt for her to throw the party:

“There was a twerk competition that went crazy, we had modest fashion influencers taking part, women with hundreds and thousands of followers, who were able to let loose. I feel like a lot of women generally feel like they’re being watched and that their every move is criticised. ‘Glory Nights’ was a beautiful night for women to come together and enjoy themselves.” 

There’s freedom within the boundaries that you can demarcate in a house party, a massive part of that is the safety that comes with a host’s rules. Najwa expands on this, and how a house party can be the biggest way to ensure safe spaces are respected:

“I personally prefer house parties because it’s people that you know, and their friends and family, rather than a club with strangers. Harassment happens more at clubs because there are men and liquor, people get handsy and touchy. Clubs can be quite uncomfortable for women. I think that’s why parties like ‘Glory’ are really needed. I think for us Muslim girls, house parties are really the only way forward, because we have control of the spaces and the people that are in those spaces, like having a no videoing rule. That was really important so girls could let their hair down and not feel like people would see them after.”

Family are a big element of what makes a house party special too. Aunties and uncles make parties. A lot of things that you couldn’t have in a club, as Najwa says:

“I grew up on house parties. Cousins over during Eid. Aunties and uncles always involved. It was always a vibe, and a tradition we carried on. I think house parties are a vital role in Muslim girls lives. Muslim girls will tell you that they went to their cousin’s and had the littest parties ever, but they’ll also tell you they’ve never been to a club in their life.” 

Jesse Bernard, a writer, music archivist, poet and DJ from Tottenham talks to me about the feeling of inheriting house parties:

“I’ve been going to house parties ever since I was born. My first birthday party was a house party that my mum and dad threw. I remember growing up through the years and them having parties in the house for family and friends. Our house was the centre of our community’s universe if you will. As I got older it made sense for me to carry that torch, my mum and dad don’t really throw parties like that anymore but for me I’ve picked up that torch and carried it on.” 

There’s a generational aspect to house parties and shubz too. Jesse emphasises how one of the best parts of house parties for him growing up was being able to have everyone intermingling:

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“I threw a party last year for the first time in a couple of years, and it really captured that spirit and essence of what made those parties when I was young, so great in the first place. It was intergenerational as well which for me is one of the beautiful aspects of house parties and shubz. In a club you don’t get that intergenerational aspect so much but in a shubz, people of all ages come together and I think that’s what’s beautiful about it.” 

This is a time when inner-city communities in London are rapidly shifting too and the locality of everyone you love is changing. Party culture in Tottenham won’t long be the same as gentrification ramps up and people move. Local characters like MR. T REMIX – DJ, Grime documenter and photographer – have fond memories about some of the most special nights in the area and how raving is becoming increasingly thundered down on by regulations. He shares with me how anything informal would get locked off by police, but how pushing the limits before that was part of the buzz:

“On home turf we bang out bare Grime. On someone’s laptop blasting speakers, everything. There was one rave in Tottenham (one of the first I’d ever DJ’d at) in this warehouse. The police deaded that off. A lot of raves I went to DJ for back in the day would get shut down, you know them ones.

I prefer house parties because drinks are cheaper and back in the day you could get six big Red Stripes for a fiver. It’s more inclusive, everyone’s talking, there’s no kerfuffle, you don’t have to get searched. I have been to a lot of mad house parties in my days to be fair. We would go every week. I remember this girl Jazz who’d throw the maddest ones. House parties, block parties – they’re usually the craziest parties because there’s no bouncers looking after you. There’s more free will. Anything goes.

House parties and the like can be a subversion of how people see you too – a kaleidoscope of your different selves. You’re the quiet girl at school, but you’re also the girl dancing with her cousins at a hall party: a party with side rows stacked with food. You’re at a party to cut loose, but you also become a videographer because you can’t help but get your camera out to document someone MCing. You’re a responsible mum but you’re also the one carrying the settee out into the garden to clear floor space to dance. The house party is the centre of a community’s universe – a safe space to be yourself and each one totally different to the other. 

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