The sound of an alarm clock blaring rudely into your eardrum at 5:45am on a cold Wednesday winter morning is not something that anyone would find particularly enjoyable, especially when the sun hasn’t even awoke yet. But, once a month, 100’s of people across London are doing this. Not because they need to get up for work. Not because they have to, necessarily, but- for fun. “Why on earth would anyone get up at that unholy hour for fun?” I hear you cry. Well, if you make your way to Oval Space in Bethnal Green along with the myriad other early birds you’ll see why.
Walking into Oval Space pre-7am feels like you’ve stumbled into another world. People from all demographics- from grannies to toddlers- are all there, adorned in all their festival finery, glittery faces glistening under fluorescent lighting, dancing around merrily, and chatting away as a DJ blasts out some bass-laden beats. The excitement in the room is palpable. Why are they here? They’re here for another instalment of Morning Gloryville. The ever-popular, pre-work, sober rave. What some may have thought would have been a fad, is still going strong and continues to grow.
Morning Gloryville was dreamt up by Samantha Moyo, fondly know as the Founding Mother. Becoming increasingly fed up with partying, and with drug and alcohol fuelled raves, Samantha and a friend wanted to find an alternative way of raving. Samantha chuckles knowingly as she tells us how Morning Gloryville came into being. “We had a vision for conscious clubbing….the way we were all doing it back then was really hedonistic,” she explains. “I always wanted to stop drinking and actually there wasn’t really any opportunity because anywhere I went [alcohol] was there and I just didn’t have the will-power.” Since its inception three years ago at East London’s Village Underground, Morning Gloryville has continued to expand and evolve. By their second year they’d launched to 23 cities worldwide as franchises. Zimbabwean born Moyo was unable to travel out to these cities, so had to resort to teaching those running the events via Skype. “I wasn’t able to travel for eight years…..[as] I tore a page out of my passport when I was off my face to give someone my number”, she reminisces with a soft, lilted, giggle.
After exploding so suddenly and in such a huge way it could perhaps be expected that there would be some kind of burn out. “We were actually spending a lot of time training and talking [with the franchises] and it was like counselling,” Samantha tells us. “It just got to a point last year, my Dad died actually and it really helped me realise what I had time for.” Samantha and her team made the tough, but somewhat sensible, decision to strip back on the events. They’re now fully focused on no less than 10 cities worldwide including; London, Melbourne, Bangalore, and San Francisco. It was the San Fran franchise that led to the morning rave making an appearance at the infamous Burning Man festival, deep in the Black Rock Dessert of Nevada and a collaboration with the legendary Carl Cox who played for four hours whilst sporting a rather fetching purple tutu. “He had the time of his life,” Moyo beams with her wide, infectious grin. “He was like “Oh, can I DJ for you guys next year?” I feel like he just genuinely loves it.”
Carl Cox isn’t the only big name selector that’s been booked by the early-bird ravers. They count Fatboy Slim, Roger Sanchez, Rudimental, and Basement Jaxx amongst the plethora of talented spinners. What is it that draws them to Morning Gloryville? Do they approach them, or is it the other way around? “We’re constantly trying to find anyone who we’ve been listening to for the last decade and in the 90s,” the Founding Mother continues. “Also, people get in touch with us because they [think what we’re doing] is amazing and [they want] to collaborate in some way. And sometimes their agents want to give their acts a different experience.” This is something that makes perfect sense. If you’re a world renowned DJ and you’ve played at countless parties across the globe for goodness knows how many decades, you’ve pretty much seen it and done it all. Couple that with the fact that at many of these modern day raves most of the audience can be, shall we say, on another planet then playing to a room full of sober ravers can be an exhilarating experience for a DJ. “Fatboy Slim said we were one of his best audiences…..You know they just feel, I don’t know, I can’t even explain it….connected.”
As we chat, Samantha tells us earnestly that it’s not only big name DJs that want to be a part of this magnificent movement. They also have big name brands after a piece of the action. Unilever, agencies such as Google and LinkedIn, as well a well known beer brand, are all hankering after their early morning fix. The 19th November will see Morning Gloryville take their rave up The Shard. Although, looking at social media posts surrounding this event, there seems to have been some opposition, with many MG fans decrying the movement for selling out to the corporate world. “It’s actually a really interesting way to bring our community and The City [together]”, Moyo tells us. “I don’t want to walk around looking up at The Shard, you can see it from everywhere, and you don’t really want to keep looking up at it with hate.” Their idea is to bring their morning love-ins to everyone, from all walks of life. From conscious clubber to corporate city worker. “We were really grateful for the opposing views.” It’s not something that’s being done purely for money, contrary to popular belief. The Shard won’t be making “loads of money” from us Moyo insists. “We’ve had big brands offer us loads of money and we’ve said no, even though we’re so poor.”
The general consensus from Sam when it comes to working with large corporations is one of educating rather than alienating. “How is the world going to evolve……if you’re saying the man that’s running The Shard is an evil person? It’s by finding [a] middle ground and then educating each other,” Moyo implores. “We also we work with charities every month. We just don’t make noise about it. We usually have a portion of our sales [going to charities], or we have someone who comes and raises awareness.” The most recent figurehead being the Nobel Peace Prize nominee Scilla Elworthy.
But it isn’t just about taking their ethos to the big guys over at Morning Gloryville HQ. Samantha and co recently launched The Gloryville Effect- a project aimed at bringing the “transformational experiences to orphanages, refugee camps, and poverty stricken communities around the world”. They’ll be partnering with organisations such as Peace Direct and Love Support Unite– the makers of Love Specs. The campaign has already reached a staggering £2,500 in a mere matter of days. Check out the campaign over on Indiegogo.
Alongside this, they’re hoping to turn Morning Gloryville into an agency. They’ve also created a course whereby they’ll be teaching other organisations, people and brands about “how to build communities in authentic ways”. Moyo has even been asked to speak at the Harvard Divinty School on this subject, as well as advising the government in Singapore on conjestion in their city. Clearly a woman in demand.
We’re curious to know, what would be Sam’s dream morning line-up, should money be no object? “Oooh,” she pauses with a deep, intake of breathe. “We’d always have Basement Jaxx…..Chemical Brothers. So, maybe starting off with Grace Jones, then going into a DJ set by Chemical Brothers and then closing it with Michael Jackson singing Heal The World whilst we’re all in the cuddle puddle.” That infectious laugh rings out again.
It’s clear to see that Morning Gloryville has a positive effect on not only those attending the events, but also those working there, which can be seen in the warmth radiating from Samantha. What does she have to say to those who are still a tad dubious about crawling out from under their duvets so early? Those who really aren’t ‘morning people’? “It’s not like we’re morning people. Our whole team don’t like waking up in the mornings,” she assures us, fervently shaking her head. “We do this because when you get there something happens and you end up having the time of your life……just give it a shot…..because those people who are like “oh, I couldn’t possibly” [they’re the ones who] end up having the best time ever.”
If you want to stay up-to-date with all things Morning Gloryville head to their website this way.
You can also stay informed with the early morning goings at Oval Space on their Facebook page.
Written by Jennifer Wallis
Photography courtesy of Morning Gloryville HQ