Ross and The Darkness star at £600,000 office party

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The Independent Online

But when employees of a Gloucester computer company and their families arrived for their festive bash, the fire-jugglers and fireworks that greeted them on a red carpet should have given a hint that they were in for more than a mobile disco and a platter of cocktail sausages.

By the end of the party on Saturday night in a marquee at the city's football ground, the guests had been entertained by the television host Jonathan Ross, veteran disco kings Boney M and post-ironic glam-rockers, The Darkness. All of which was accompanied by a complimentary bar offering Cristal champagne, vintage wines and fine spirits for the 200 revellers.

The event, which cost £600,000, was paid for by Andrew Michael, the owner of Fasthosts, a website hosting service that is one of Britain's fastest growing technology companies.

Mr Michael, 25, who co-founded his enterprise at the age of 17 in his bedroom as part of an A-level project, has made a habit of throwing what are probably the most lavish office Christmas parties in the land. The company lists "astounding Christmas parties" in a rundown of "culture and benefits" on the recruitment page of its website. Last year, staff were entertained by Rachel Stevens, Girls Aloud and the Sugababes. In 2003, they had Mis-Teeq, the Cheeky Girls and Louise Redknapp.

Mr Michael, who has watched his company's sales grow from £240,000 in 1999 to £20m this year, explained that paying six-figures for live A-list(ish) acts rather than the traditional Slade CD was a way of rewarding his employees. "We are a growing company with a relatively small staff but they are all incredibly important to our success so the parties are a way of showing my appreciation of their work," he said. They have grown year on year and the Slade CD was never going to be an alternative."

Despite three weeks of planning, the party at Gloucester City Football Club nearly did not happen. The event was cancelled last week after a Sunday newspaper caught wind of its line-up and the publicity led to fears it would be stampeded by fans of The Darkness. Police also threatened to ban the event on safety grounds but eventually relented after Mr Michael announced it had been cancelled, forcing a frantic operation to re-book the bands and resurrect the marquee.

Plans to offer an afternoon party for underprivileged children from the area had to be cancelled. A charity auction, with lots including one of Ross's suits and a guitar belonging to The Darkness frontman Justin Hawkins, was held instead, raising £9,000.

Mr Michael insisted that the difficulties would not encourage him to give his staff gift vouchers rather than stage another star-studded event next year. "I sometimes feel like I may have made a rod for my own back but there will be another party next year. But I think we'll have keep it a bit more of a secret."