Halloween –courageous, contagious and a little bit outrageous!
Despite being the most dramatic and theatrical of all events, Halloween Parties are still a bit of a corporate taboo because of their inherent (and compulsory) outrageousness. But outrageousness doesn't have to be mistaken for inappropriateness. There are loads of great Halloween themed venues out there which lend themselves perfectly to memorable and exciting corporate parties. From stimulating departmental dinners to memorable client receptions, the Halloween Party has become increasingly professional and theatrically produced in recent years. This is mainly due to what was originally a medieval British phenomenon being taken over and re-vamped (excuse the pun!) by America and subsequently regurgitated (pun intended this time!) by us again. As a result, Halloween is a thing. And a sophisticated thing at that. So why not embrace it and do something different for your clients to enjoy and become fully immersed in, with some of the suggested Halloween packages below…Oh, and have a read of my original (and suitably outrageous!) Halloween article to get you in the spirit of things (somebody stop me with the puns…!)
Bunga Bunga's Halloween Party
Cirque le Soir's Ganton Hotel... coming soon!
At the dangerous age of eighteen (I say dangerous because that's when I chose to go all 'Darth Vader' and cast Luke aside (mainly because I couldn't be Han)), I experienced my first proper Halloween Party. I was the lead singer of my band (quite ‘Halloween’ in itself I hear you chuckle) and we were travelling across America in a van. By October 31st 1993, we'd reached Florida and things were about to get interesting. In the UK, Halloween (even though we probably invented it) was a non-event. Sure, we carved the odd pumpkin and half-heartedly knocked on doors trick or treating with a wig on, but that was about as far as it went.
Will Broome at 18, Lead Singer! (yes that's his real hair!)
Anyway, we were staying with our American chaperone's family (we were too young and far too irresponsible to drive that van ourselves) and, after bungee jumping earlier that day, we all bundled into the ‘tour bus’ and hit downtown Orlando. Or was it Jacksonville? Well, all that's important in this context is that it was America. I remember being dumbstruck by the fact that their fridge was full of condiments from McDonalds, wherever it was.
I also remember being amazed that we literally had to wrap our beer bottles in brown paper bags because underage drinking was apparently properly illegal there, until you're twenty-one. Blimey, my (on reflection, highly inappropriate) grandfather had me drinking at six!
Halloween 1993 turned out to be what would now be called 'Epic'. In 1993, it was otherwise known as 'a fucking disaster'. But, a fun and highly eventful one nevertheless. We drove to a derelict looking Psycho-style house, which was actually (I think) at Universal Studios. It was a late night Halloween special and what I was about to experience blew my mind. No, it really, actually nearly blew my brains out.
One by one we were ushered into this spooky building and, being a bit under the influence, I began my journey down a long, dark corridor, completely oblivious as to what was about to happen. And then it happened. A nurse started chasing me. And not in a good way. She was screamy and scary and had blood oozing from her eyes. Worst of all she was quickening her step behind me until we were both running flat out. Upon reaching the end of the corridor, I turned right and ran straight into Freddie Kruger, knives and all. This was properly like being in a horror movie and absolutely awe-inspiringly (if not a little terrifyingly) brilliant!
After this purposefully (and very cleverly engineered) initial solo experience, our little group of (mostly native) friends ended up in a large hazy room with chains hanging down from the ceiling, all around us. In my drunken state, me and the most outrageous of my American friends (who happened to be the guitarist in my band) went nuts. We started swinging on the chains and then, amidst all the fun, I decided I needed a wee. Right there. Cue hooded monks (security men) with flashlights (torches) swooping in from all sides (black-ops style) and swiftly removing us from the house through strategically hidden fire exits. Then it got really ‘Halloween’. Within two minutes of ill-advised back-chat (I didn't realise that you don't do that to armed US police officers) we were pinned up against the wall with guns to our heads and suddenly the bleedy-eyed psycho nurse seemed like Mary Poppins. We then spent the next three hours locked in the back of an Orlando PD squad car, in a tropical monsoon. We were released without charge but this was mainly due to the fact that one of our friends, unbeknown to us, was the son of the chief of police in the OPD. My own little Halloween shaped slice of OJ justice!
And so, Halloween suddenly had a lot to live up to. This was long before we ever had such immersive, experiential entertainment in the UK and I should know - I grew up in the UK's largest theme park! No, that Orlando experience was awesome and I was hugely disappointed to have been arrested so early on in the evening. My friends tell me they went on to have the night of their lives and the English ones simply couldn't believe the lengths the Americans had gone to, to create such a gratuitously horrifically sensationally gruesome real-life immersive experience. We simply didn't know this genre of interactive entertainment was possible. It was almost impossibly brilliant and borderline offensive to mentalists everywhere. Which leads me on nicely to Halloween 2013 in the UK, where supermarkets are now banned from selling certain outfits because they're offensive. Ridiculous. I wonder if Long John Silver outfits will be banned next because they’re offensive to people with wooden legs and prosthetic limbs? Surely that's what Halloween is all about - being utterly ridiculous and, if there's one day in the year where political correctness can take a hike, it's October 31st, surely?
Yes, Halloween has taken off (gratuitous witchey pun!) and it's an intriguing mix of gore, fantasy, exoticism, eroticism and glorious silliness that makes it so great. It's gone so mainstream, it's (I predict) about to go corporate too (well, at least ‘executive’) as we continue to push the boundaries of acceptability to create a buzz.
Home House lock-in
Take Home House, the world famous and high-brow private members club in Portman Square. With over four thousand members spanning an eclectic spectrum of London lotharios – from lawyers and bankers (unlike Soho House who are famous for ‘excluding’ non media types) to musicians and TV personalities, Home House is a naturally elitist yet surprisingly inclusive Club, who’s staff and (diverse array of) members alike know how to party. In style. Indeed Home House was actually originally constructed, not as a palatial residence, but as a ‘fun house’, a salubrious yet decadent pleasure palace at the heart of the thriving London social scene and it remains that way to this day. Appropriately, their mythical leader is, in fact, a genuine party animal – Cedric the Crocodile (look at the Home House logo and you’ll spot him with his cheeky top hat and cane). Every now and again he extends an invitation (known as ‘Love from Cedric’) to the entire membership and, when he does, you don’t ever want to miss it.
The Home House Halloween Party is the big one, and one in four members get a ticket. It’s always sold out, it’s always brilliant and it’s becoming legendary. It’s also the one time that Senior Partners and Directors of huge City Institutions can cast aside their inhibitions and revel in a fantastical environment, a world where political correctness has not yet been invented (just don’t buy your costume from a supermarket). In the age of increasingly crazy and macabre themes and outfits, a bloody lobotomy would perhaps be an appropriate get-up for a young (or not so young) professional. It’s visual, spectacular, exciting, interesting, fun and, above all, so intriguing that your guests would never want to miss it. Halloween is becoming increasingly acceptable and inclusive too. It’s a chance for otherwise serious adults with important jobs to go, frankly, nuts. After all, vampires are hundreds of years old so even the craggiest old Board Director is well within the recommended age bracket and would fit in perfectly (especially now the mental institute costumes are banned!)
Welcome to Home House...
In reality though, Halloween has become one of the most stylish nights of the year, with a huge variety of sensationally ‘off-piste’ outfits and, relatively speaking, classic blood and guts only make up a tiny proportion of costumes. It’s more about decadence, sex and glamour and there’s nothing more exciting than that potent combination. What’s more, it’s getting more theatrical every year. It’s the best excuse to take heavy eye make-up, double it and smear it. It’s an awesome look! Take the opportunity to browse around all five floors of world’s greatest costumiers, Angels, and you’ll be inspired. From sexy steam-punks (whatever they are) to dolls, mythical temptresses and even an elaborate half-granny, half wolf, red riding-hood costume, the possibilities are endless and at a party where the idea is to go crazy and out-do your fellow revelers, it makes for a stunning spectacle which you can’t help but fully immerse yourself in. It’s time to let your inhibitions go – official permission to be courageous and just a little bit outrageous!
If you’re looking for a classically ‘authentic’ Halloween experience in London, though, there’s a gruesome smorgasbord of options. Perhaps the most sinister and unnerving venue I’ve ever visited is the Old Operating Theatre Museum found at the top of a rickety spiral staircase in the roof of St.Thomas’ Church, very near the Shard. It’s creepy because it’s completely authentic in it’s ham-fisted and brutal Victorian starkness. It really is an old operating theatre, complete with nineteenth Century operating table (you can see where the amputation saws nicked the wooden edges) and the surgical implements (still there) look more like medieval torture instruments. It’s unnerving how relatively recently people were lying on that slab, being operating on. Before the invention of anesthesia! Ouch! There are even anatomical specimens pickled in jars to greet you upon arrival – it really is that awful! This venue lends itself so well to events for two reasons though. Firstly, it’s 100% authentic and therefore a fascinating and historical insight into London’s rich and not always pretty past and secondly, it really is a ‘theatre’. That is to say there is tiered bench seating around the central ‘operating stage’ as medical students learnt from ‘live’ demonstrations (screaming, conscious patients having limbs cut off!). I’m convinced I could still see bloodstains on the table the last time I visited this place a few years ago! It’s like a secret (and creepy) Aladdin’s cave, so if you want to do something unique, memorable or just downright strange, then check this place out – Halloween is the perfect excuse and they have all sorts of interesting lectures and activities to correspond with this most appropriate time of year.
The Old Operating Theatre
Then of course there are the classics. Themed environments such as The London Dungeon, Thorpe Park and the Harry Potter Studio Tour all do a magnificent job of bringing the lighter side to life in a magical, interactive way, via professionally acted immersive theatrical productions – exciting experiential evenings, conceived of the Universal Studios ‘experience’ I had way back in 1993 (albeit without the bit where I got arrested at gunpoint!).
Beware though. In the same way that smoking a spliff inevitably leads to crack cocaine (I’m being facetious), one level of Halloween revelry can lead to another once you have the bug. Whereas this year you might find yourself at the London Dungeon or even Home House (if you’re lucky!), you might realize that it was just the warm up for something far more decadent and ‘eyes wide shut’. Emma Sayle’s legendary ‘Killing Kittens’ (if you don’t know them, check them out) is the ultimate new age Halloween night out – as long as you’re beautiful, daring, rich and have the ability to cast aside your inhibitions and live life (if just for one night) as you imagine you’d like to live it. It’s the perfect environment for that and, frankly, life’s too short to shield yourself from these experiences, isn’t it? Killing Kittens (if you’re wondering why this unashamedly exclusive club is called that, have a look on their website) is effectively offering a glamourous high-end Halloween evening with benefits (if you dare to stay on after hours). If you think about it, there’s nothing more Halloween (in the modern sense of the word) than that. It’s got it all – fun, mysteriousness, glamour, intrigue and, if you desire it, sex. In the guise of a fantasy world though, it’s like theatrical role-play for couples (and single girls). Single guys, dream on!
For the best of both (weird and wonderful) worlds, there’s a company out there who somehow manage to blur the lines between fun, outrage, intrigue and sexuality. They’re called Cirque Le Soir and their bespoke corporate club nights are simply electric. In fact, shockingly so. Their Halloween Parties run for an entire week and are like nothing you’ve ever experienced before – truly world class. Providing the perfect mix of exoticism and eroticism (tailored to any level you’re comfortable with) and all firmly tongue in cheek, Cirque Le Soir are increasingly enhancing corporate events all over the country. You might be surprised at the kind of seemingly straight-laced companies entertainingclients at their intriguing dream of a venue, just off Carnaby Street. And if it’s a memorable Autumn event you’re seeking then look no further this Halloween – it’s the perfect excuse! Check out their video for a taster of what could be…
However far you want to take it, Halloween is the most spectacular night of the year and a chance to let your hair down in a way that simply wouldn’t be acceptable at any other time of year. So, let’s embrace it and get into the spirit of it all (again, excuse the pun!). It may not be a classic occasion for Corporate events but some are doing it (primarily media agencies) to great effect and it’s an excellent, unique way to be seen to do something different, memorable and, perhaps above all, ‘tweetable’. And, don’t forget, bars, restaurants, nightclubs, private members’ clubs, Stately Homes, visitor attractions (remember the Universal Studios story) can, and absolutely should, all use Halloween as a commercial highlight in their calendars – it’s a massive opportunity and we’re all up for it!