On July 13th, 2002, something historic happened on Brighton beach. The Big Beach Boutique II, a DJ set by Norman Cook, AKA Fatboy Slim, made waves in music history and is now being remembered and celebrated in the documentary, Right Here, Right Now (Sky Documentaries). This was no ordinary DJ set: it was an era-defining event that brought together 250,000 people, and it almost ended in catastrophe.
The documentary takes us through the journey of Norman Cook’s career, from his time as a bass player in the 80s band The Housemartins to his solo career as Fatboy Slim. In 1996, Fatboy Slim released his debut album under the moniker and created a genre of music known as big beat. After scoring top-five hits with Praise You and The Rockefeller Skank, Channel 4 asked him to DJ an open-air screening of an England cricket match in Brighton in 2001. The turnout was so huge that it was decided to stage a sequel the following year.
The event was planned to be a free set for as many people as the beach could take. However, the turnout was far greater than anticipated, estimated to be around 250,000. This posed a huge challenge for the local councillors and senior police officers, who had to prepare for the event. The phrase “multi-agency meeting” was uttered several times as those involved recalled their growing concern.
Despite the huge turnout, the event was a success. Fatboy Slim was able to perform and the crowd was ecstatic. The documentary speaks to some of those who attended, from ravers old and young, to famous faces like John Simm, Simon Pegg, and Nick Frost. In the end, only six arrests were made and the two fatalities were tragic anomalies. The crushes, violence, and drownings that could have occurred did not, due to the peaceful nature of the crowd.
Big Beach Boutique II has become a case study for students of event management, a textbook example of how not to do it. But in the film’s fantastic array of still photos of the day, we see people exhilarated and free. It was a wild night out with a quarter of a million mates that will never be repeated, and it is all the more glorious for it.
Right Here, Right Now (Sky Documentaries) is a thrilling document of the event itself, and a reminder of the euphoria of irresponsible adventure and the sweet sadness of distant youth. It is a must-watch for anyone who wants to learn more about this unforgettable event in music history.