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Interview with James Fantazia from 1993

Meet a 24 year old whose life - and work is just one long party:

Today is James 24th birthday.  He is organising a party, but it won't be your regular birthday bash.  He will be celebrating with 3000 other partygoers at Fantazia, an all-night rave at the Sanctuary warehouse in Milton Keynes. 

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The difference between James and the other 24 year olds there, is that he is a director of the company that has not only organised the party, but also runs Fantazia Management Crew, the Fantazia party video and the Fantazia leisurewear he will be sporting.

"I've done a lot of partying my life," says James, who, a few days before the Milton Keynes do, looks somewhat drained.  "Yeah, I look pretty rough."  His pasty complexion is somewhat at odds with the image of a brilliant entrepreneur,  but then James has been at the business of party giving longer than his tender age would suggest. 

"It all started when I was 15 and at school in Cheltenham.  i decided to have a party in a club and got away with it by dressing in my dad's suit and telling the manager it was for my 18th.   I called it 'Abortion', to shock people.  It stood for A Brilliantly Organised Raving Time In One Night."  Abortion was a minor sensation: 500 people came, James charged them a pound each and came away 120 richer.   A party organiser was born.

Since founding Fantazia two years ago, he has transformed vast dance parties from haphazard "gatherings" in muddy fields into carefully managed, legal events at which clothes and videos are marketed as sharply as the tickets.  Last year, he held the largest ever all night rave, for 25,000 people at Castle Donnington, Leicestershire.  Turnover for his company, was 4.2m;  he hopes to double that this year.

During his education at Gloucester College of Art and Technology, James continued to produce parties that were nothing if not ambitious.  A Christmas function in May, complete with Santa Claus, a 20ft Christmas tree and crackers?  No problems.  A black-tie number that "turned into an orgy" at a 30 bedroom Gloucestershire mansion and involved an on-site cartoonist and live cinema?  James was your man.  Everyone in Cheltenham knew him;  everyone came to his parties.  James had agents flogging tickets in all the local pubs; sell 10, you're in free.

It's a long way from black-tie  balls to mounting the world's largest all-night party. Growing up in Cheltenham didn't help.  "I'm gutted I was born there,"  he says.  "All it gave me was an idea about good taste.  If I'd grown up in the Midlands, I'd have cleaned up by now." James struggled on, albeit geographically challenged, and in 1990 held his most ambitious event, the Cheltenham Summer Festival.

"I used all the money I had saved.  Well, I borrowed it from the bank." James decided that hiring top bands would bring in the 2000 people he needed to break even.  "I got the phone book and rang up my favourite bands, Madness, UB40, Elton John, and asked if they might be around."   Needless to say, many weren't to keen, but James came up with a ill including Echo and the Bunnymen and the Levellers.  "It was a disaster.  All my mates were away, the local media panned it and the costing went haywire.  I lost 27,000."

But the festival was a turning point.  One of the guests was, a commodity broker who realised there was money to be made in large-scale dance parties.  "I had been to a free rave the week before, " he says.  "It was a shambles.  It was in a field with one strobe and a grotty PA.  There were no loos and no bar. And people were throwing tenners into a bucket to cover the costs!"

Combining financial backing with a sense of modern party needs is proving successful; Fantazia parties have conquered Devon, the Midlands and the South coast, entertaining thousand at a time.  A video of high lights from past parties went straight into the music video charts and the company now produces CDs, records and dancewear.  Well before each event,  James meets the local council to apply for an all night license; he had never been turned down.  As the events are legally licensed before a police committee, James must provide security staff to search for drugs.  "It's only dealers we want to throw out," he says.  "Any any one using hard stuff."  To meet the requirements of an all-night licence , no alcohol is allowed on the premises.  But James thinks the joy of raving at dawn is worth going without a few beers.

Each rave makes a 50 percent profit:  with a staff of 15, James seem set to do rather well.  "I don't earn that much," protests James.  "Everything gets ploughed back into the company.  What car do I drive?  Well a BMW Alpina B10.  And a Jaguar and a Kawasaki bike.

Tonight, 3000 people will pay 16.5 each to  cavort until 7am to sounds produced by nine DJs;  there will be a 10ft high cake,  a fashion show and performance art involving a radio controlled dance with 50 vacuum cleaners.  James knows it will be fantastic

Rossie

 

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