Retro is back! We've rounded up the best themed venues, entertainment and props for retro parties from the 1880s to the 1980s. Get back to where it's at this Christmas.
There was a time when pulling up your pop socks, easing on your hot pants and topping it all off with a gigantic Afro wig was a standard night out. And for the girls, there were even less rules! But then, somehow, it all became a bit cliché. It seems that, as we all started to take ourselves a little more (too) seriously, corporate fun became illegal and we were consigned to a decade of Christmas party austerity so that we could all save up and bank some fun currency. Well, I'm delighted to report that, after five long years, the humour deficit has been paid back (with interest) and it's now silly season again, just as it should be. In other words, Christmas is back!
This year there are more glorious retro packages on offer than ever before.
After all, the office Christmas party is all about letting your hair down and whilst, like anything in life, this should be in moderation (a free bar all night is always going to lead to some sort of trouble) it is the one real opportunity to let down your guard and have some social fun with your work colleagues. The fact is that you spend significantly more time with these guys than you do with your friends (even your husband or wife) and the home/work balance is more blurred than ever.
In fact, I firmly believe that the more like the weekend your week is, the more productive your output will be. And why shouldn't work be fun? There's a great quote from Kate Moss which goes something like this "My mum always told me that you can't have fun all the time and I would say, Why? Why the fuck can't I have fun all the time!?" she's got a point. Yes, the grass is always greener but if you dread getting up every morning because you don't like the culture of your company, then change company, because the simple fact is that you need to love where you work, because you're there five days a week. And mentally, you're there a lot more than that. That all means you have to love the people you work with.
Admittedly, the Christmas party is only a tiny part of all this, but it's a very good indication of the culture of the company you're working for. I bet Virgin Christmas parties have always been awesome. And now they can take as much holiday as they want! I totally agree with this as your team should be empowered and self regulated. If you've got everything done and you've used up all your official holiday why not take a few more days? It's always going to be cool with me! (Presuming nobody from my office bothers to read my blog, of course!)
So, there are lots of reasons why retro is back including, ironically, our renewed hunger for documenting things. And this is because of facebook. Who doesn't love a wacky new profile pic or cover photo? Taking things a step further, there are some people (me) who have contracted the notion of 'why do anything remotely interesting unless it’s going on facebook'. And that rings true for events too - if it's interesting, fun and visually worthy, your event will end up all over facebook (and so, of course, will your brand). There are upsides and downsides to this but my advice would be to take a calculated risk - the happiness and enjoyment of your team far outweighs your accountant's 'bum on the photocopier' gone viral (although that's possibly not the most savoury analogy!)
If you think about it, Retro ticks all the boxes - D,D,D. Drinking, Dining and Dancing! In fact, there's a fourth dimension, Dressing Up!
Just as you'd dress in Black Tie (or even White Tie if it's a really posh do), when you dress up there's a sense of occasion which elevates the entire event. The more communal effort that goes into it, the more your target audience (aka your guests!) will get with the programme and share in the spirit of your event. This is a very powerful collective emotion and well worth considering, especially if your venue and theme demand it!
To that end, here are our top 11 places and ways to achieve sweet Retro-bution this Christmas:
This has to be the ultimate 80’s experience. Maggies is a mecca to everything big, bright and brilliant – from giant Rubik’s Cube tables to iconic 80’s images daubed all over the walls (Robocop, Madonna etc etc), even the bartenders are dressed as Tom Cruise in his Cocktail heyday! Fans of Maggie Thatcher will enjoy the loos (as her most famous speeches are on a loop) and classic movie lines are scrawled in UV pen across the bar – so you’ll never forget that “nobody puts baby in the corner..!”
2. Modern Romance
When it comes to retro 80’s events there’s one ingredient that seals the deal. Classic 80’s music! What’s more this is the real deal. An actual number one chart-topping 80’s band! Remember “Best years of our lives”!? (presumably, the 80’s!) Ooh, oh, oh oh! Of course you do. And so will your guests after dancing the decade away with Modern Romance…a truly rare authentic retro treat!
A retro event needs a suitably bananas venue to set the scene and, I don’t know about you, but this place seems to have ‘bananas’ written all over it! This wonderfully wackily exotic (and mildly erotic) place is Brazilian themed which is great for two reasons. Firstly, everyone loves a Brazilian and secondly, do we really need another excuse to play Barry Manilow’s ‘Copa Cabana’ on repeat? I don’t think so!
4. Sternberg Clarke
With an astonishing array of stupendous retro-acts at their fingertips, Sternberg Clarke are the Ghostbusters of the events industry. Who ya gonna call?! Our favourites include The Victorian Strong Men, where a trio of mustachioed chaps in old school wrestling gear put on a jolly good show; Bellakinetica, a thrilling collective of roller-girls who put on a spectacular series of shows, from thriller zombies to all-American cheerleaders; The Gramophone Guy, who is a modern day DJ with a major retro twist (and a Gramophone!) and the legendary Lovetrain who are, of course, the undisputed kings of disco…!
5. Stamp Members Club
Ironically, Stamp is the West End’s newest (and most immaculate) night-club and, what’s even more exciting is that virtually nobody has ever been there! Stamp have a brilliant retro Christmas concept too. It’s glitzy disco stylee but with a twist (excuse the pun!). Hold your Christmas party at Stamp and you’ll not only get an awesome 70’s disco themed event but you’ll also get professional disco dancing instruction. That’s right – your guests will be taught (officially) how to look like John Travolta and Olivia Neutron Bomb on the dance floor! There’s also a zip wire that runs the length of the venue. Designed to transport bottles of Champagne from the chilled walk-in Champagne cellar, you’ll find that it is also designed (from a load-bearing perspective) to fly a dwarf or perhaps a Christmas elf (which is, of course, a dwarf in fancy dress as there’s no such thing as an actual ‘elf’) with your Champagne flute refills!
6. All Star Lanes
A Big Lebowski Christmas sounds like a fun idea, right? With a spectacular modern take on a classic retro concept, All Star Lanes offers the best of both worlds – an inspiring venue and an equally engaging concept. The holy grail of events is to combine enticement (you want them to come), excitement (you want them to love it) whilst absolutely avoiding an indictment (it was the only word that rhymed!) and, joking aside, this venue knocks them all out of the park! It’s fun, it’s all encompassing (nobody gets left in the corner, not even Baby!) and it involves everyone in some good old semi-competitive corporate fun which, in turn, curtails the drinking (in a positive, un-boring way!) That covers the all important indictment part perfectly.
An awesome and potent mix of everything cool – the 70’s, Manhattan and Pan Am, Disco encapsulates the spirit of disco dancing decadence and, what’s more, it does it with flair (pun intended)! Throw in some classic choreographed routines from professional dancers to really get the show on the road and your Christmas party will become the most happening event in Soho in no time! Think ‘Studio 54’ with a dash of nostalgia and a nod to the past whilst encapsulating the current retro resurgence with resonance…
Now this really is a unique ‘hands-on’ experience. As a three-times World Champion Pool player, Rico Diks (that’s not a typo) is both a Showman and a super-skilled trick shot expert! What’s more, he will teach you and your guests how to do it. All you need is a venue with a pool table. Alternatively, he can bring his own so all you need is space…Get ready to look awesome! And take a new skill away with you.
9. Boisdale Entertainment
Boisdale is a classic brand with iconic status emanating from their world-famous restaurants and their world-renowned evening Jazz performances. What this means is that Boisdale Entertainment are hugely experienced at selecting and booking the perfect artists to match any particular event or audience. From classic retro acts including the world’s best Elvis impersonator to real-time superstars like Beyoncé, these guys have access to them all (although the latter may be a little more expensive than the former!).
…and if you want to go further back in time (as in Centuries, rather than decades…!) then…
10. Blenheim Palace
Possibly the UK’s finest Stately Home as well as being the most sophisticated in terms of their world-class events and hospitality programme. For a retro Renaissance experience with unrivalled style and panache, why not have Winston Churchill deliver one of his famous speeches at your private dinner in the Duke’s dining room?
Or, of course, you can always create something entirely bespoke…
11. Bodo's Schloss
A magically authentic pinewood ski cabin in the heart of Kensington, Bodo's Schloss is a classic retro Alpine experience where guests are encouraged to turn up in their retro ski gear! So, what are you waiting for, squeeze on those pastel salopettes and go on the piste this Christmas…!
Will Broome CEO