Eat, drink and be merry
- Mark Edmundson
- 16 October 2006
We all know how to organise a party. But what if you want to do something a little different, a little more ambitious than a piss up in your front room? We’ve put together a guide to the best party ideas, from great venues to amazing costumes. And to kick off our special feature, we asked Mark Edmundson to go out and organise the party of a lifetime.
For millennia the more morose among us have been planning for the end of the world. Y2K came and went but with the seas rising and growing global unrest I’m not taking any chances - I’m throwing my End of the World Party now. I’ve decided it’s time to gather together those long abandoned school pals, ex-girlfriends, close family and friends and party. It’s just like 1999 all over again.
Now, I’ve always been the party type and I’m damned if I’m not going to give them all a night to remember, but where the Dickens do you begin? Time to get on the phone to grab some advice from the professionals.
‘Venue, alcohol and entertainment are your three main ingredients,’ explains Diane Hutchison of Glasgow’s Oyster Arts, party planners to the hoi polloi and riffraff alike. ‘In all aspects you have to consider what you would like. You do want to impress people, but you want to achieve that through your guests enjoying themselves. We like happy bags and badges, just things that you relate to parties. I’m a big fan of balloons, I have to say.’
Okay, so let’s say I invite even a choice selection from my social past and present, we’re still talking at least 150 people. My flat will hold around ten comfortably, and the garden another four. Time to book myself a venue. Encore handle the hire of many a Scots museum and quote me a mere £600 for an evening at in the People’s Palace and Winter Gardens on Glasgow Green.
Next item on the checklist is a little something to grease the social wheels: the demon drink. For a smaller party I might have considered a cocktail waiter from Butlers In The Buff (see below), but apart from cornering the attention of all my lady friends I wouldn’t want him to feel upstaged by my own Herculean figure, so as we’re rolling out the barrel I’ve booked the services of several bar staff, flair cocktail mixers and a fully stocked bar for seven hours of inebriation care of Cocktail Stars (see below). That’s another two grand from the kitty.
Given that I’m going to need food and dancing to keep everyone on an even keel. Canapés Catering Company (see below) will put on a spread for two thousand pounds and Edinburgh’s Premier Disco (see below) have agreed to supply a DJ, rigging lights and amps for the bash. It might be a lengthy function but it still comes in at £400.
Any further entertainment might be decided by theme, but I’ve always been a fervent supporter of fancy dress. Hell bent on welcoming my guests as a vengeful Lord Almighty, a cape proves surprisingly easy to track down in Armstrong’s (see below) nameless heaps of fusty finery, and thanks to a crown from Aha Ha Ha (see below) I just need to get a little creative with a cotton wool beard and I’m away. For me the benefits of fancy dress are three-fold; firstly, each guest is on an equal footing with an instant common bond, namely that they all look like idiots; thus they provide their own, or, more often, each other’s entertainment, each ready-equipped with a talking point that starts with the arrival of the first guest and should prevail long into party folklore; thirdly, it should guarantee that almost every guest is as giddy as a schoolgirl by the time they arrive, if not excited by their own fabulous creations, at least curious about other people’s. Furthermore, as this party shall mark the end of the world, there’s a good chance the buxom Tanya will plump up as the great whore of Babylon astride a chimera.
Finally, for the End of Days we’d best have something visual to dazzle and excite. Fantastic Fireworks (see below) offers light-it-yourself, three minute party displays, but as we’re limbering up for Armageddon, we’re going to need something a little more substantial. Impact is apparently relative to spend per minute, and aiming to impress I plump for ten minutes at a cool £1000 per minute. It may sound extravagant but I aim to impress on my guests shock, awe and timely foreboding. It’s worth considering that some venues may hold restrictions or objections to firework displays, of course if you can convince them that the end is nigh you may find they are a little more lenient.
So, the invitations went out with plenty of notice; the bar, catering, DJ and fireworks are coordinated, poised and ready for action; perhaps there’s time for one last pep talk from the professional. ‘Parties generally tend to gather their own momentum,’ says Hutchison. ‘If you’ve provided the right ingredients then the party-goers should be able to use them and advocate their own fun. Should things go wrong you have to rise to the challenge, for example if an act (or indeed the end of the world) is postponed. I do definitely feel that people can be cheered up with a balloon, I don’t care what you say.’
Neil Ogilvie is director of Fisher Productions, a lighting production company taking on corporate and private events from film premiers to weddings and birthday parties.
‘Most of the events we get involved with are of a celebratory nature. We can provide technical hardware and back-up support, and co-ordinate between caterers, florists, entertainment and client requirements.
‘When people start organising their own events they quickly realise that there’s an awful lot that needs covered off and they have to deal with a multitude of different suppliers, and most of the time what they want to do is have a good time at their own party. So we come in, and basically facilitate everything to make that happen, so that they can welcome guests and involve themselves in the finesse of it, leaving all the hard running to people like ourselves.
‘Planning is crucial to all these things, and good planning will save you an awful lot more time later on when you actually come in to install it and make it all happen. If you haven’t planned in advance you will end up with a problem because something won’t fit, something will be late and it will have a knock-on effect to something else. It is also key to make sure that everybody else knows what’s going on. Keep everybody up to speed with schedules and who’s delivering what, when.’
The helping hands
Diane Hutchison is director and founder member of Oyster Arts, a Glasgow-based events management company that has helped turn awards ceremonies, birthdays and tailor made events into rip-roaring successes.
‘In the context of a party, we’re there to organise it so that a client can attend it too. That means they’re not worrying about what’s going to happen in the next 25 minutes or where the fireworks are going to go off, where are the balloons, and that sort of thing. Then we enhance it by dressing ?" adding the gimmicks and the nice bits. And then we just try and keep it all nice and calm, and hopefully it’ll be fine.
‘Try not to panic and don’t home in on one particular area, don’t worry about music more than where to put the coats, everything should have its own checklist. You shouldn’t get too bogged down by one detail, always keep an overview. From the moment people arrive they’ve got to feel that this is an experience that will be fun.
‘Do go with a very open mind and a calm approach because disasters can happen, things can go wrong and you have to be able to adapt. Keep a cool head and reward yourself with a well-deserved glass of champagne at the end of the night.
‘Oh yes, keep an eye on the alcohol as well.’
WHERE TO DO IT
Planning a celebration large or small can be a daunting task indeed. Here we’ve compiled a few ideas, from the modest to the outright gratuitous, that may help you get that party started.
No setting can compete with the grandeur of a Castle, even if it means a choice between re-mortgaging your own palace or holding up the Clydesdale. Choose from The Beatles’ one-time holiday home - yours, if only briefly, for a mere £5750; General Eisenhower’s vacation residence at £375 per night; or castle activities like a medieval banquet for £200 a head. or murder mystery nights and treasure hunts for around £1950.
Beattock, near Moffat, Dumfriesshire, 01683 300407, www.auchen-castle-hotel.co.uk.
Maybole, Ayrshire, 0165 5884 455, www.culzeanexperience.org
South Queensferry, Edinburgh. 0131 319 2039, www.dundascastle.co.uk
Petty Parish, Inverness, 01463 790 745, www.castlestuart.com
Scotland’s museums and art galleries offer class and elegance in cultural environs. Venues like Kelvingrove Art Gallery in Glasgow are perfect for a fancy dress party where you can bask in the extensive art collection for one night only, for a starting price of £2000.
People’s Palace and Winter Gardens
Glasgow Green, Glasgow, 0141 271 2962, www.glasgowmuseums.com
Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum
Argyle Street, Glasgow, 0141 276 9599, www.glasgowmuseums.com
National Galleries of Scotland
Five venues throughout Edinburgh, including two set in a park on Belford Road, 0131 624 6239, www.natgalscot.ac.uk
National Museums of Scotland
Several venues: main one on Chambers Street, Edinburgh, 0131 247 4113, www.nms.ac.uk
Market Street, Edinburgh, 0131 225 2383
Clubs and concert halls
For a great night in Glasgow, The Arches in Glasgow offers exotic theme dinners from a Baroque Dinner Party to a World War Two Bunker. You can hire any of the rooms for a minimum price of £600 for a night of music, comedy, dance or fine dining. ?'ran Mór is a similarly flexible venue where you can host any kind of party. Choose from the Auditorium, the Gallery or the Private Dining Room. In Edinburgh, The Queens Hall is a fantastic venue for private celebrations.
253, Argyle Street, Glasgow, 0870 240 7528 / 0141 565 1005, www.thearches.co.uk
The Jam House
5 Queen Street, Edinburgh, 0131 226 4380, www.jamhouse.com
Top of Byres Road, Glasgow, 0141 357 6200, www.oran-mor.co.uk
Clerk Street, Edinburgh, 0131 668 3456, www.thequeenshall.net
Pubs and bars
If you are desperate for some action on a budget, don’t lose hope; there are a host of bars across the central belt with spaces available for hire, and if you can guarantee a good spend on the bar there is no reason for them to charge.
232, Canongate, Edinburgh, 0131 556 4481, www.laughinghorse.co.uk
7 Bernard St, Leith, 0131 467 8904
11-13 North Bank St, Edinburgh, 0131 220 0054
The Glasshouse, 20 Glassford St, Glasgow, 0141 553 4888, email@example.com, www.tigertiger-glasgow.co.uk
Cinemas and theatres
You can hire a cinema screening for a minimum of £200 and host a great night with a carousel projector, drinks and music, in Edinburgh or Glasgow. Or if you’re less a fan of the seventh art and would prefer a theatre, you can rent one of the five sumptuous rooms of the Festival Theatre for a three-figure sum. Alternatively, Edinburgh University’s Bedlam Theatre is a more economic budget, with an estimate price of £100 to rent the venue for a private party. And you will still be able to enjoy a party at a theatre in the heart of Edinburgh.
38 Home Street, Edinburgh, 0131 228 2800, www. picturehouses .co.uk
Ashton Lane, Hillhead, Glasgow , 0141 341 1234, www.grosvenor cinema .co.uk
13/29 Nicolson Street, Edinburgh, 0131 662 1112, www.eft.co.uk
11b Bristo Place, Edinburgh, 0131 225 9873, www.bedlamtheatre.co.uk
A private comedy show at Jongleurs costs a minimum of £5,000 for staffing, security, sound engineers, DJ and a show comprising two headline acts and a compère ?" you might want to reconsider that castle in the Highlands. Probably cheaper, and certainly more imaginatively, The Stand will hire out either of its venues in Glasgow or Edinburgh if you book far enough in advance. What’s more, The Stand represents a roster of comedians who will perform at a venue of your choice. Depending on the nature of your party, you can expect to spend a couple of thousand pounds on a comedian with a TV or radio presence. Otherwise you can still attend a show with your friends for £10 per person.
Stand Comedy Club
5 York Place, Edinburgh and 333 Woodlands Road, Glasgow, 0131 558 7272/0870 600 6055, www.thestand.co.uk
UGC, Renfrew Street, Glasgow, and Omni Leisure Development, Greenside place, Edinburgh, 08700 111 960, www.jongleurs.com
Getting the right food can be the making of a party. Depending on the size and duration of your soirée you may want to hire a personal chef for as little as £10 a head, or, for larger gatherings, try a catering company with set menus. Better yet, roast a pig whole to feed everyone for an average price of £500.
Canapés Catering Company
0141 418 2233, www.hungrys.com
01875 811387, www.chocolatefalls-scotland.co.uk
0131 624 5240, www.circuscafedirect.co.uk
0131 558 1651, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Elephant House
Catering: 07980 060 615 (24 hrs)
0131 652 3880, www.embodeli.com
01494 670107, Faysky@mac.com, www.personalchef.uk.com
The Mana House
22-24 Easter Rd, Edinburgh, 0131 652 2349
Pig on a Spit
01489 782019, www.botley.com/lewry
0800 587 5899, www.spittingpig.co.uk
Drink and glasses
Consider hiring glassware from £50, and you can dial a keg of Stella Artois for £195, various bottles of wine for £5, or bring in a fully staffed bar.
01835 864471, email@example.com
Dial a Keg
0131 467 8900, www.ikmgroup.co.uk
0800 956 1932, www.cocktailstars.com
22-26 Main Street, Glasgow, 01236 731521
To keep your guests amused you can bring in magicians and illusionists, or a top comedian for less than £250. Why not hire a Beatles tribute band for £1000? Or get a full karaoke kit for £100 and do it yourself.
01753 518266, www.corporatemagicians.com
Jane Hamilton: 07967 742 491
The Magic Agency
0141 577 6604, www.themagicagency.co.uk
0800 043 8257 / 07966 141 598, www.okkaraoke.com
Music is all important to atmosphere and there a number of companies that offer full equipment, rigging and even dance floor hire.
0131 620 0456, www.dmaudio.co.uk
0800 074 8365, www.equinoxdiscos.co.uk
Premier Disco Company
0845 073 1656, www.premierdisco.co.uk
Games and fireworks
Further amusement can be yours by way of a whole casino with five different tables for £400, or just a roulette for under £100. For inflatables and giant board games, prices are varied and you can get a sumo wrestling kit for as little as £20. A firework display can provide the perfect climax starting at £50.
Games For Hire
01228 546691, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.gamesforhire.co.uk
The Ice Agency
0871 200 3045
0800 093 7866, www.big-bounce-entertainment.co.uk
0800 108 5500, www.alivenetwork.com
01582 485 555 www.fantasticfireworks.co.uk
01324 627077 www.saltirefireworks.com
The party spirit starts with a theme . . .
Art Deco Murders
01235 525 301, www.artdecoproductions.co.uk
. . . whether the dress be formal or fancy.
Aha Ha Ha
Edinburgh, 0131 220 5252/0131 225 3388
Glasgow, 0141 581 3307
Chic and Unique
Edinburgh, 0131 332 9889
MacGregor & MacDuff
Glasgow, 0141 332 0299, www.macgregorandmacduff.co.uk
Edinburgh, 0131 556 7976
Edinburgh , 0131 228 6636
Glasgow, 0141 332 3392, www.partyshopglasgow.co.uk
Edinburgh, 0131 220 5557
Travel in style in a limo with party packages starting at £100 and fire engine rides with hats and overalls included. £50 for two hours of fun.
01475 721 281
0870 013 5466 www.theplatinumlimocompany.co.uk
0870 300 3828 www.crazyfirecompany.com
0845 838 5400, www.partybus.co.uk
Hire a Coach
0141 616 6666/0800 163340, www.croftminicoaches.co.uk
For thrills and spills, up sticks to Perth for a short break quad biking, bungee jumping, white-water rafting or dry slope skiing and get that adrenaline pumping for £40 per person. Or, for a less exerting excursion you can organise spa trips or drinks tours.
01855 821 593 www.verticaldescents.com
01383 825 800 www.luxuryscotland.co.uk
Black Isle Brewery
01463 811871 www.blackislebrewery.com
If this all still sounds like too much hard work, just get someone to do it all for you. The professionals will organise the dinner, hire the chef and dress the table. And they may even clear up afterwards.
Oyster Arts Management
0141 334 3444
0208 995 0707
0131 661 8880
0141 552 6027