It's time to party, party, party for the liggerati

Companies in search of a cool image are splashing out on big bashes every night of the week, reports a tired Andrew Tuck
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The Independent Online
Tonight , 1,000 of the most fashionable people in London will be heading for the Naval and Military Club in Piccadilly, not as guests of any admiral or general but of Prada, the Italian clothes firm that dresses the world's models and beautiful rich, and is celebrating the appearance of its Miu Miu label at London Fashion Week.

Many of the beautiful people will look rather run down, however, because London is experiencing an explosion of high- profile parties, with an "unmissable" event demanding their attendance almost every day. Last week, for example, there was also the all-day Channel 5 bash at the Oxo Tower on London's South Bank, and the first night of the Met Bar at the new designer hotel The Metropolitan. But two men will be more tired than all the rest because their three-month-old business has been behind all three events.

Nigel Peters, 31, and John Beach, 28, of Peters & Beach, are the latest event organisers to launch into a booming and lucrative London party market where even a small event for 300 intimates will cost pounds 60,000, and a wild night for 1,000 can top pounds 200,000.

"Everyone with a brand to push wants to put their stamp on a city that's suddenly the envy of the world," explains Mr Peters. "They also want to sample their product to the right crowd and have an event that explains what their brand stands for. For example, when Donna Karan did a party for its store opening last year it did amazing things for the brand. People really started talking about her clothes."

But don't fret if you're not part of the London scene, because some of last year's best parties were up north: the opening of Harvey Nichols in Leeds and the Oliver Peyton restaurant Mash & Air in Manchester were two of the hottest tickets for any member of the so-called liggerati (the party people who would turn up for the opening of a bottle).

With so many events taking place, there's pressure to outdo everyone who has gone before, and this involves serious money. "The standard can only go up and the budgets can only go up because, whatever happens, you cannot stage a dud and you have to do something that will make everyone want to attend," says Mr Beach.

Client Danielle Nay, head of press at Channel 5, is a firm believer in the power of a good party, having paid for two huge events in recent months. "We had our first party on 5 November. It was to show opinion- formers in the industry that we are younger, cooler, more modern and more style-orientated than ITV. It was also to make our talent feel part of something special. Most television parties are about white wine and peanuts but our party defined our brand and brought it to life, and suddenly people who had been elusive were sitting down doing deals with us."

The pounds 140,000 lavished on fireworks, a bar shaped like the White House, waitresses on roller-skates, Arab chefs and a warehouse venue with five rooms styled on the theme of "No Smoke Without Fire" suddenly seemed a bargain.

Ms Nay believes the key to staging an event that will be remembered and talked about is a "virgin venue", somewhere never used for parties before. On 5 November Channel 5 took over a warehouse in Islington, and last week Peters & Beach secured it the empty floor of the Oxo Tower. "The owners let us paint it in the Channel 5 colours," says Ms Nay.

Mr Peters, who used to work for the PR firm Freud Communications (which is also helping with the Prada night) as a party organiser, agrees that you have to pick the venue with care. "When Freud did the Judge Dredd party, it was a huge success because it was at the old GLC building on the Thames, and people wanted to see the space and get out on to its balcony in the summer sun."

Sean Bolger set up his party company, Lunar Productions, in August, after working in-house organising events for MTV Europe. He believes that the boom is due to companies realising that a night of fun lets them communicate with a carefully targeted audience. "Unlike advertising or lots of PR, you are using a laser, not a floodlight, to pick out the people you want to reach," Mr Bolger says. "If you spend enough money, at the end of the night you have 2,000 people going home with a really sexy feeling about your company and its product."

Lucy Smails, managing director of the six-year-old, cutting-edge party organisers Westway Events, has also seen business flourish in the past year: "People are spending more money, especially the film and music industry, and there are suddenly a lot more companies trying to get their business."

Her company now organises about 20 major events every year (including the Brit Awards and parties for Michael Jackson complete with fairground rides), plus numerous smaller events. "We can spend up to pounds 250,000 and more without much problem," she admits.

Just in case you have been left off the guestlist for tonight's Prada bash, the word is it's going to be very relaxed, with pianists, a cocktail bar, chill-out areas, and low-key branding, "sort of Sunday night at Prada's house", according to Mr Beach.