Help! I'm a Brits virgin

Ian Burrell enjoyed a great party. Shame about the awards ceremony

Monday 24 February 2003 01:00

The gluttony at the Brits after-show party last Thursday night would have embarrassed the most hardened banqueters at Hampton Court in Henry VIII's heyday. A night intended to celebrate all that was best in British music resounded less to the sound of the underground than to the slurping of 5,000 oysters and the quaffing of 4,000 bottles of champagne.

A darkened hall within the Earl's Court exhibition centre had been transformed into something resembling a feast scene from Peter Greenaway's film The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover, as legions of serving staff carved roast fowl, sliced 400kg of smoked salmon and dispensed 1,500 punnets of strawberries and 25,000 bottles of beer.

A 60ft-long solid bar of ice had been "imported from Canada" to display the profusion of seafood. On every wall was a giant screen showing a rerun of the awards ceremony that all the party-goers had just sat through. No one was paying it the slightest attention.

It was my first time at the Brits, and I was struggling to see what any of this had to do with rock'n'roll. The brazen hedonism at the banquet was a deliberate attempt by the Brits' organisers to show that the music business still knew how to rock a party and rebut criticisms that the industry's top event had become lame. But, as an attempt to restore the awards' rapidly diminishing bad-boy rep, the party excess was a case of: too much, too late.

I entered the Brits' spectacular feast in the company of the Daily Mirror's 3am Girls, and soon we were mixing with the stars. There was Victoria Beckham chatting with Ray Winstone! Except, actually, it was Cheryl and Barry from Billericay, all Burberry-ed up and brandishing their VIP passes, courtesy of Barry's mate in the music biz. Styled to the last detail by the pages of Heat magazine, the Atomic Kitten and Johnny Vaughan lookalikes found themselves stuck in the company of people from offices just like theirs.

The earlier discernible smugness of guests arriving in black cabs and stretch limousines appeared to have given way to a feeling that they were there on a false promise.

An event that had been sold for its "unforgettable acceptance speeches" and "traditional Brits surprises" instead had the presenter, Davina McCall, almost pleading with the sober, late-afternoon audience to come and make a spectacle of themselves: "I would like to invite any streakers out there, anyone who wants to flash..."

But it never happened. Deprived of anything resembling a John-Prescott-dousing Chumbawamba moment, the tabloid showbiz reporters were distraught. "This is like an accountants' convention," one said.

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