Focus: Battle of the bashes

Hosts are testing the loyalty of friends by ensuring their summer soirees clash with rival dos. Party-going was never so fraught

It was a simply marvellous party. There were canapes, naturally: delicate prunes wrapped in crispy bacon, teeny profiteroles filled with cheese sauce. Maurice Saatchi arrived in some spectacularly large glasses. Our new Poet Laureate, Andrew Motion, was there. Candles flickered in the garden. Wine flowed. Tom Stoppard chatted in a marquee. Men with large beards and open-toed sandals mingled with solicitous PRs while young girls in pashminas shivered in the dusk. Splendid.

Ah, the summer party season is upon us; once again discreet garden squares echo with the trill of the chattering classes. Except that this year the party scene is anything but discreet. More than ever, it's a downright scrum, according to those on the front-line. "There are so many and the best ones are often on the same evening," moans one literary ligger. "Tonight I'm going to at least two, but you may as well go to as many as you can in one evening. Decisions, decisions."

But with the flood of crisp white invitations comes a new set of rules. Some party-throwers are trying to test allegiances.

The New Statesman has decided to hold its annual bash at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London's Mall on 1 July, the same date as the Spectator's which will be in its Doughty Street garden - as always. Cristina Odone, deputy editor of the New Statesman, says: "It was deliberate. We wanted to underline that we were going to get some throbbing, thrusting new Labourites while the Spectator will get some old Tories." And those "throbbing, thrusting" guests will include? Gordon Brown, Melvyn Bragg, Alastair Campbell, Barbara and Ken Follett, Sir Robin Day and, er, Paul Johnson. So what about those cobwebs on the Spectator's list? None at all, says Kimberly Fortier, its publisher, who says they're inviting "established" rather than "establishment" figures. Apparently there is a difference.

"The Spectator's summer party is the most famous so I think the New Statesman is in a bit of a panic. What may happen is people will come to both," says Fortier. Expected guests at the Spectator will include Melvyn Bragg, Paul Johnson, Tom Stoppard, Lord Jenkins, a smattering of Lawsons and, according to Fortier, "all the beautiful Frasers". Tara Palmer-Tomkinson may drop in - she's fond of the Spectator since it gave her a journalistic break in the form of a piece entitled "Why I'm not a bimbo".

So what will woo guests to one and not the other, apart from the company? Whisky drinkers will head for the Spectator - apparently they're serving loads of it. But there will be champagne at both. "People may end up coming to both," says Fortier. Isn't she nervous they may start at hers and then leave for the opposition? "Oh no," she laughs confidently. "The problem isn't anyone not turning up; it's shaking them out of the garden at midnight."

Social dilemmas like these will be common throughout July, if June is anything to go by. Camilla Cecil, Harpers & Queen social editor, says: "Clashes often happen around this time. For instance, three weeks ago the Versace party at Sion House clashed with the Grosvenor House antiques fair." There was no competition, really. The Versace guest list would have put the Oscars in the shade: Catherine Zeta Jones, Prince Charles, Hugh Grant and Liz Hurley, and Kate Moss were among the attendant glitterati.

There is a strategy, advises Cecil, for those who suffer from a surfeit of invitations. "People usually wait until the very last minute to decide," she says, although this summer it has been more of a dilemma than usual. "People were ringing me last year and asking what dates I would be free next summer."

Last week proved a strategic nightmare for the most stalwart of schmoozers. Sotheby's threw two parties, one on Tuesday and another on Thursday. The first attracted, among others, Mick Jagger; the second a smattering of dukes and viscounts. Then there was the highlight of the publishing calendar, also held on Thursday: Faber's famed garden party in Bloomsbury's Queen Square. Guests hovering around the well-pruned rosebeds included Julian Barnes, Andrew Motion and Tom Stoppard.

Last week there were three parties, two publishing and one business, held in the grandiose function rooms at the House of St Barnabas-in-Soho, also a refuge for homeless women. As one journalist says: "There have been so many summer parties held there, the homeless women must be sitting on a mattress in the attic under a bare bulb." Meanwhile the champagne corks popped below (the proceeds are donated to the refuge).

This summer slick of conviviality could be for any number of reasons. The promise of good weather, low interest rates, increased corporate competition and millennial abandon could all play a part. Gerri Gallagher, special projects editor at Tatler, says it's because we're more relaxed about socialising. "There are more parties in the summer, perhaps because we're not quite so manic about formality any more. We're not quite so exacting about our standards." Does this mean a return of warm Chardonnay and salted peanuts to the garden squares of WC1? Oh no, she says, rather, "It's just that sense of one-upmanship has gone. Parties no longer have to be picture-perfect."

The party planners tell a different story. There's a frantic fight for the most unusual London space, preferably al fresco. Gothic balconies, overgrown squares, Nash garden terraces - anything as long as it's virgin territory for the canapes crowd. "There's real competition to find interesting ones", says Mark Sanderson, Literary Life column editor for the Sunday Telegraph. "Thames & Hudson recently had a party in the National Gallery and the champagne did not stop. There was another impressive one in a Robert Adam house in Portman Square."

The autumn season has come forward and it's busy all the year round. Few are busier than party organiser Johnny Roxburgh, responsible for the modest Versace bash. He is constantly ferreting for well-appointed summer locations. "I'm a big believer in London garden squares because so few of them are available."

Roxburgh is a big believer in novelty, too. "We're doing table tops made of mirrors," he enthuses. "I'm about to line a whole room in mirror. You have to be constantly different, endlessly inventive. For instance, we can serve canapes with waterfalls running over them, or with neon lights and plasma discs."

So pity the poor summer party guest this year, juggling invitations, appeasing possessive party-throwers and eating food off flashing lights. Partying has never been so tiring. Perhaps it's time to pass the Pringles and stay at home instead.

News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Radamel Falcao
footballManchester United agree loan deal for Monaco striker Falcao
Sport
Louis van Gaal, Radamel Falcao, Arturo Vidal, Mats Hummels and Javier Hernandez
footballFalcao, Hernandez, Welbeck and every deal live as it happens
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
News
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
Voices
A man shoots at targets depicting a portrait of Russian President Vladimir Putin, in a shooting range in the center of the western Ukrainian city of Lviv
voicesIt's cowardice to pretend this is anything other than an invasion
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
Arts and Entertainment
booksNovelist takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush
music
News
i100
Life and Style
tech

Apple agrees deal with Visa on contactless payments

Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Technical Software Consultant (Excel, VBA, SQL, JAVA, Oracle)

    £40000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: You will not be expected to hav...

    Technical Sales Manager

    £45000 - £53000 Per Annum plus bonus plus package: The Green Recruitment Compa...

    Humanities Teacher

    £110 - £135 per day + Competitive Rates: Randstad Education Maidstone: Outstan...

    SQL DBA/Developer

    £500 per day: Harrington Starr: SQL DBA/Developer SQL, C#, VBA, Data Warehousi...

    Day In a Page

    Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

    The big names to look for this fashion week

    This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
    Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
    Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

    Neil Lawson Baker interview

    ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
    The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

    The model for a gadget launch

    Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
    Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
    Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

    Get well soon, Joan Rivers

    She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
    Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

    A fresh take on an old foe

    Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
    Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

    Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

    As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
    Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

    Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

    ... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
    Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

    Europe's biggest steampunk convention

    Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
    Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

    Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

    Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
    Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

    Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

    The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor