You don’t need to just stay put in your local boozer – London has
a broad pallette of alternative nightlife to explore
Andria Stirling had done her time behind the scenes in London’s nightclubs and grown tired of the same-old, same-old approach. It was at that point she branched out and began working as an event planner for Bourne & Hollingsworth Events, which puts on some of London’s most lushly imaginative themed parties.
“That’s how the idea came about – we had all worked in the London nightclub industry but were so bored of the lack of creativity and imagination with it all,” she says. “We knew there were all these Londoners who worked hard all week and wanted to let loose at the weekend and wanted some glamour. So we started these parties that hopefully really capture people’s imaginations and let them step into a whole new world.”
Stirling is now involved in organising three regular events – Blitz, Prohibition and Belle Epoque – all with their own fantastic theme, where revellers get dressed up and indulge themselves.
“Blitz is a 1940s theme, recreating London during the Blitz – not so much the war but the community spirit that rose out of it, especially in London,” Stirling explains. “So we have a lot of men showing up in their service uniforms looking exceedingly handsome and the women in their stockings and pencil skirts.
“Prohibition is taken from the 1920s in America, the era of Prohibition, when alcohol was banned and you had these speakeasy bars crop up as a result. We serve our cocktails in tea cups in a silent cinema chill-out room. And there’s usually a police raid as well.”
“And Belle Epoque has become a fantasy party without a specific era. While it’s based on a Montmartre music hall and the Moulin Rouge, with its tortured artists and dancing girls, it’s become something that’s completely fantastical – like Alice In Wonderland – allowing people to really challenge themselves with their outfits.”
Each event requires meticulous planning and for organisers to ensure the decor and the details are spot-on. They are, after all, in the business of building seamless worlds for partygoers to explore. “We spend a lot of energy making sure they don’t get tired and keeping an eye on the details,” Stirling says. “We inject new life into them all the time and come up with new ideas. For Belle Epoque, we really try to make it look like a Montmartre music hall and we have to dress these spaces ourselves. That can be quite intense for a few days and we also work very hard to get the music right and the entertainment right.”
And, of course, it's all about the clothes. The party organisers aren’t the only ones wrapped up in months of planning – some of the guests also go to town when it comes to their outfits.
“We had a guy come to one of the parties as Edward Scissorhands, having made his own scissorhands,” Stirling says. “And our Halloween party last year was great – we had some zombie courtesans who looked like ghosts but had these gorgeous hooped petticoats and corsets. We also had a guy on stilts – some kind of ghostly ringmaster.
“It’s also important to get our guests to really dress up because they’re the ones who keep the illusion alive. It ruins it if you’ve got all these people in costumes, and then one guy standing there in jeans and a T-shirt.”
– Tom Sturrock