Aug 31st 2015

Festival Party Tips

Festival Party Tips

If you are looking for Festival Party Tips – then Glastonbury Festival should need no introduction. Even if you have never been, you will have seen the images, listened to the music, and heard the tales that have now made the five day event a modern-day legend. There is no doubt, that this event holds a unique charm that keeps revellers coming back year after year, despite often being caked in mud by the end of it all.

As tens of thousands descend on Worthy Farm, there is always a part of me that wishes I were there. At the same time, if I’m honest, there is a bigger part of me that enjoys the BBC coverage from the comfort of my sofa, knowing I’m not far from a refreshing shower, a clean lavatory and a cosy bed!

That said, for a party-lover, as I am, a couch-potato festival doesn’t quite cut it either. If, like me, you long for something in between, these Festival Party Tips will help you enjoy the best bits of festival partying, without the need for wellies and a tent.  So, here’s some advice on reliving that festival feeling with a party of your own:

Create the right space

Ok, so you don’t have a 900-acre farm to entertain your guests, but how many of us do? I’m also guessing that you’re not planning on inviting 135,000 plus people either, so we’re going to scale it down. To replicate a festival feel you need to split your space into different areas, for example, music, food, chill-out and bar area. Preferably it also needs to be an outdoor space, or to be decorated so as to give that feel.

Festival Party Tips

Make it feel like summer on the farm

With the décor available these days you can create the feel of a farm, even in an event space. Hay or straw bales can be hired and when covered with blankets or cushions make great sofas and tables. It wouldn’t be a festival without lying on the grass, so don’t be put off if all you have is a patio area because you can always have it laid with artificial grass for the occasion. Whatever venue you choose, keep the décor bright and vibrant with summer palate colours like yellow, orange, turquoise and pink.

Cue the band

This week Glastonbury will play host to more than 2,000 acts across dozens of stages. You obviously can’t replicate that, but if you are hosting a big party I’d recommend hiring a good live band for the event. Afterwards you can always revert to a DJ or iPlayer playlist. The BBC website has some inspiration from this year’s Glastonbury bands to get you started.

Festival Party Tips

Festival food

Food stalls are a huge part of the festival experience and one of the easiest things to recreate. Depending on how much space you have, I think retro food vans serving stone baked pizzas look fantastic. For smaller spaces, picnic hampers or BBQs are equally tasty options. To give a bespoke touch to your drinks menu, contact microbreweries in your area and ask them to provide some local ales or cider.

Festival Planning Tips

Festival stalls

When taking a break from partying, most festival-goers spend some time wandering around the stalls. Depending on the size of your event you might like to invite small craft business to set up a stall. For a smaller private party you could set up a free to enter tombola, a cup-cake stand, or ask friends to set up a designer clothes swap table with charity donations.

Festival Planning Tips

Keep it in the family

Festivals are fun for all the family so especially if you’re partying throughout the day, don’t forget to include activities for the children such as a bouncy castle, a table of craft activity or face painting. Outdoor games such as giant   , Connect 4 and swing ball, work well, and often bring out the child in the adults too.

Festival Planning Tips

Party all night

One of the joys of festivals is being able to dance until the sun comes up again with no worry about getting up for work the following day. However, there are very few places as remote as Worthy Farm where you can do this without creating a disturbance to those around you. Silent disco, where music is transmitted through wireless headphones rather than a speaker system, is increasingly popular and helps to avoid noise complaints.

Festival Planning Tips

Whatever the weather, I hope our Festival Party Tips can help you to create a party that captures the festival spirit.  Take a look at this for more ideas

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 Aug 28th 2015

10 ideas for a stylish picnic party

There was a time when you wouldn’t dream of putting the word stylish before picnic party. The two just didn’t fit together. Now, while the casual element is still key, all kinds of events – from weddings to corporate networking meetings – are taking on a picnic theme. Here are some ideas to get you started:

1.         Set the scene

A wonderful thing about a picnic event is, once you have chosen a location you love, nature does most of the decorating for you. Trees provide the perfect stand on which to hang paper lanterns, small pea lights and vintage bunting, all of which can help create a party atmosphere. Simple floral arrangements add another splash of colour, whilst checked table cloths, picnic blankets and brightly coloured cushions can be purchased in any colour to fit in with your chosen theme.  For that vintage feel – opt for ‘proper’ floral patterned crockery – mismatched for a reason!

2.         Think comfort

Lying on the grass seems like one of the best things ever when you’re 20, but if you’re organising a mixed age party you need to give a bit more thought to the seating. The great thing about a picnic party is that you can comfortably host more people than you could for a sit-down meal. Many people will be happy to sit on a picnic blanket, especially if you add plenty of large cushions to lounge around on. But other people will need more substantial seating like painted wooden chairs (cushion on the seat) next to rustic wooden picnic benches. And if you really want to bring the comfort of your picnic, hire sofas to be used outdoors.

3.         Menu board

When it comes to drawing up a menu for your picnic you can’t beat a good old-fashioned chalk board. Not only does it look great, but it has a practical purpose too. It lets guests know exactly what to expect and gets taste buds watering before they’ve even seen the buffet.

4.         Fill ’em up

Food is central to a picnic and you don’t want to stray too far from the classic, simple staples – smoked salmon and cucumber sandwiches, handmade Scotch eggs, individual quiches and herby sausage rolls. All can be served with a modern twist such as in individual picnic baskets. Sandwiches are best served in crusty bread, which is less likely to go soggy! Packaging portions separately also helps to keep food fresh and makes it easier for guests to eat neatly out of their hands.

5.         Dessert heaven

Individual portion deserts can make eating pudding so much more appealing. Single portion fruit salads served in lidded glass jars and stored in an ice bucket are always popular. For sweet-tooth snacking, large cookies, or chocolate brownie squares are easy to handle and filling large korken jars full of bite-sized treats looks fantastic as part of the display.

6.         For kids of all ages

Whatever your age, there are not many who can resist a bag of pick n mix. Whether you set up a small sweet stand or hire one in, you can be sure the youngsters won’t be the only ones queuing up to take their pick.

7.         Keep ’em cool

Nothing beats an ice-cream on a warm day. If you don’t think it’s stylish, think again – even the Queen serves ice-cream tubs at her garden party. Depending on the theme and size of your event, you might want to think about hiring an ice-cream van or a vintage barrow.

8.         Stay hydrated

Making sure the bar doesn’t run dry is a concern for all event hosts. But I’ve been to several events recently where it wasn’t the beer that was in short supply but the water. Don’t underestimate how many bottles of water you might need to keep your guests hydrated, and make sure that there is also plenty of ice to keep drinks cool.  Served jugs of chilled Pimms – or frozen Pimms lollies – and simple, cool can’t beat it on a warm day.

9.         Entertainment

The essence of a picnic is to relax and enjoy being outdoors. Lawn games are popular, but for a more formal occasion you might like to lift the entertainment a level by hiring a band. Live music is always a wonderful addition to a party, but make sure that you adhere to any local regulations when thinking about using amplified sound.

10.        Bad weather back-up plan

Unfortunately in the UK, weather is the one thing you can’t be sure of for any event. Hopefully you will choose a warm sunny day to hold your picnic party, but just in case you don’t get the blue skies you hoped for, make sure you have a back-up plan. If partying in your garden you can move indoors; hotels or other formal venues will usually have a room you can move into; or you might want to think about hiring a marquee or some other kind of shelter. Whatever you choose, the great thing about a picnic party is that it is relaxed and casual, so plans can be changed and guests moved without too much fuss.

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 Aug 25th 2015

Perfect Bank Holiday BBQ Tips

Perfect Bank Holiday BBQ Tips

For Brits, bank holiday weekends always comes with mixed emotions. We realise we are coming to the end of another holiday week, yet are keen to embrace every last second of outdoor enjoyment. If the sun is shining, a barbecue comes top of the list for outdoor entertaining. With National BBQ Week approaching (28 May-3 June), now is the time to plan a BBQ party! Our Perfect Bank Holiday BBQ Tips will help you make it a memorable one.  

Perfect Bank Holiday BBQ Tips

1. Decide on a ‘theme’ or style.

There was a time when the barbecue itself was enough of a theme. That may still be the case if you simply want to invite a couple of friends round to eat outdoors when the sun is shining. But to inject a party feel to the occasion, you need to give some thought to a theme. Think about foods you like. Holiday destinations, occasions, or interests and get creative. Popular themes to get you started include Hawaiian, beach, nautical and fancy dress.  Just make it something that everyone can get involved with…and is fun.

2. Keep it simple.

It’s not called the great outdoors for nothing. Don’t feel that you’ve got to put overwhelming effort and money into decorations. Let nature provide the ambience and think about adding small touches, such as table décor and lighting. This will enhance what is naturally there and to build on your chosen theme. Tiki torches, paper lanterns, trees dressed with twinkling pea lights, storm jars with candles or votive candles all come in a variety of colours. They also work well to add atmosphere, as well as light, when the sun goes down.

3. Gas or charcoal?

Our Perfect Bank Holiday BBQ Tips wouldn’t be complete without addressing the biggest BBQ dilemma! What you cook on is up to you though. Many traditionalists prefer charcoal for slow cooking and flavour. But if you’re cooking this way make sure that you allow yourself enough preparation time to heat your barbecue to temperature before the guests arrive. In comparison, a gas grill may not provide the charcoal flavour but it does give an instant flame and as such is easier to control and much better for spontaneous last minute gatherings.

4. Is the meat cooked?

If it your job is to prepare the meat it can be tempting to keep prodding and flipping until it’s cooked (this is often the domain of a man that break’s out his BBQ apron especially for the event!). But if you want to preserve a caramelised barbecue crust, you need to resist this urge. If you prepare well and start with a clean, oiled grill that is up to temperature you should only need to turn your meat once or twice. And whatever you do, don’t squash everything down with a slice. You might think that you’re creating that barbecue grilled pattern, but you’re really only forcing the natural juices to run out and leaving your guests with dry meat. Once cooked, for full flavour, leave the meat for a few minutes on a warm plate tented with foil before serving.  I also advise having snacks, canapes or some other nibbles available for guests whilst the meat is cooking. If you have lots of guests it can take time, so keep them fed with other small snacks until the main event!

Perfect Bank Holiday BBQ Tips

RELATED TOPIC: How to Keep Cool at a Summer Party

5. Keep it safe. 

Food hygiene applies outdoors as well as in. It’s amazing how many people forget the basics once a barbecue party is underway. Whatever you do, remember to keep cooked and raw meat separate. Unless you’re cooking steak, to avoid food poisoning you need to make sure your meat is cooked all the way through by piercing in the middle and check for pink bits. Always place cooked food on a clean plate or chopping board. Never add marinade that was used for raw meat.

Perfect Bank Holiday BBQ Tips

6. Keep bugs at bay.

There is no easy way to keep flies and wasps away from the buffet table. Keeping dishes covered with plastic or food nets until you are ready to eat is one option, but once the buffet opens these have to be removed. Depending on where you are entertaining a few carefully placed citronella candles can do the trick. But if you are serious about keeping your sauces bug-free, sealed single-servings in miniature sauce boats for each guest are a lovely answer that look great too.

7. Cut down on the clear up.

When you’re having fun the last thing you want to think about is the next day’s clear up. But when the time comes you will be thankful for any help you can get. It’s not easy to rope someone into to helping after the event, so make some things easier for yourself by having your labelled recycling stations. One way to do this is to buy colourful enamelled buckets, in keeping with your theme, and stick on labels indicating glass, plastic, cans, paper or other rubbish. If it is clear enough where guests can leave their empties, hopefully this will save you spending time picking up empty beer bottles at the end of the night.  Our Perfect Bank Holiday BBQ Tips had to include the idea of renting glassware for cocktails (so easy these days). Or being brave – and choosing an alternative cocktail ‘glass’ such as tin cans?!?

Perfect Bank Holiday BBQ Tips

If you have enjoyed reading our Perfect Bank Holiday BBQ Tips, take a look at this:


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 Aug 18th 2015

Antony Cotton’s 40th in Hello Magazine!

Loved it, loved it, loved it! So enjoyed working on Antony’s 40th….can’t wait until he’s 50!!

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 Aug 18th 2015

Taylor Talks meets Laytons Divorce Lawyer – Christine Barker

Take a look at this month’s The Cheshire Magazine when I meet up with Christine Barker – an amazing divorce lawyer at Laytons.  Dynamic, forthright and with an incredible sense of fun.

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 Aug 13th 2015

5 ideas for summer children’s party entertainment that won’t break the bank

My memories of parties as a kid are eating jelly and ice-cream, playing pass the parcel and blowing the candles out on my cake. But, as any parent will tell you, the stakes for children’s parties are getting higher every year. I’ve known parents to fly in their child’s favourite pop star as the party entertainment, or have a temporary ice rink built for their child to whiz around on for an hour or so with school friends. Of course, this is not your average children’s party, but even the average party these days is not a simple affair, costing at least £135 according to a survey by parenting website, Netmums, with one-in-six parents admitting to splashing out a whopping £300. A summer birthday throws up so many opportunities to cut back on the expense while maximising on the fun. Nature makes a fantastic backdrop for any party, but for children it has the added advantage of giving them the freedom to run and play without adult hands stretching out at every turn to protect them from bumping into doors, furniture or worse. The great outdoors is also unbeatable when it comes to enjoying all those messy games and activities children love. Here are a few of my favourites:

1. Wet and wild In warm weather children can have hours of fun on inflatable water slides. Team this with other water games. Water balloons are always popular and can be used for many different games in the sun. An easy one is to get children in pairs and ask them to throw the water balloon to each other, the pair whose balloon bursts last wins. Intermittent garden sprinklers can give a similar effect to dodging city fountains and are a safe way for children to get splash happy. Just make sure that you ask parents to bring a change of clothes and that you have plenty of fresh towels for the children to dry off before going home.

2. Bubbles of fun Young children love bubbles, especially outdoors when they can chase them or watch them float higher and higher out of sight. Human-sized bubbles are a great novelty for little ones. You can buy machines that will create a balloon around your child while they stand in the middle of it. For a do-it-yourself version, a small round paddling pool filled with bubble mixture and a hula-hoop will create the same effect.

3. Join the bug trail Treasure hunts, like Easter Egg hunts, are always popular with little ones. For a twist on this try a bug hunt – don’t worry, it’s with plastic bugs. Hide the bugs around the garden and give each child a little plastic jar to catch them in. You can have fun afterwards guessing what kind of insects they are, and as an added incentive you can say that any bugs they find are theirs to keep.

4. Get crafty One bonus of being outside is that children can make as much mess as they like and it doesn’t matter. You can hire a long table and fill it with craft materials, or set up a large canvas for each child to paint. Children love these activities because not only do they get to be creative and have fun, they also have something to take home to show their parents. 

5. Fun of the fair Fairground games such as a coconut shy are always popular and are easier than you think to set up. You can buy coconut shy balls and poles and can use a background covering, such as a tarpaulin sheet, to absorb the impact of the balls. If you want to go with a funfair theme, there are companies now that will hire small scale traditional fairground games, such as hook a duck, that can be played for simply for fun or for prizes.  If the budget and you garden space allows, you can hire full size fairground rides – dodgems or a traditional carousel are always popular!

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 Aug 4th 2015

7 strawberry summer drinks

7 strawberry summer drinks

**UPDATED JUL 2019**  When I first started out in events management 30 years ago, British strawberries were a once a year treat, enjoyed for a very short season of only six weeks. Now, thanks to climate-controlled greenhouses, strawberries are available between March and December with a boom in the summer months. Consequently, strawberry production in the UK has grown by more than one third in the past few years. A spell of warm British sunshine has made this the ideal time to browse our updated collection of our favourite 7 strawberry summer drinks!

It seems a shame not to make the most of this fabulous summer fruit grown on our doorstep. Yet when it comes to party drinks strawberries are often overlooked. Whether you want a sophisticated cocktail or long summer thirst quencher, there are so many delicious ways to give traditional favourites a berry twist. Here are 7 strawberry summer drinks to get you started.

Frozen strawberry daiquiri

The daiquiri, made with a base of rum, is perhaps the most well-known of all the cocktails which has a variation putting strawberries centre stage. Served in a chilled flute glass, it is a delicious and refreshing choice and it looks fabulous too. The BBC food page has a simple recipe that can be shaken up in no time. (Cuban or literary themed parties)

7 strawberry summer drinks

Strawberry Prosecco cocktail

There are no prizes for guessing what is in this cocktail. It’s a simple recipe that includes just what it says on the tin, with a sprig of mint. The Prosecco Club has a no fuss recipe that can be made with either a base of Prosecco or for a big celebration, Champagne.

Union Square

The Union Square is one of the cocktails from New Amsterdam Gin. It celebrates the spirit’s namesake by honouring landmarks of modern-day New York City. It’s a perfect summertime cocktail that lets you enjoy an impressive and affordable gin.

A very garden-fresh recipe, the drink pairs fresh strawberries with basil and agave nectar for a very lively taste. It’s a unique blend of flavours for a gin cocktail and it’s very fun and interesting. Serve it at a summer barbecue or enjoy it after a long day of working in the garden—if the berries and basil come out of that garden, it’s even better!

Strawberry Martini

As the favourite drink of James Bond, a martini bar is always popular at parties. It is also one of Jamie Oliver’s summer favourites and his recipe is so delicious that it comes with a warning about how easy it is with this cocktail to over-indulge. Serve in a cocktail glass with a split strawberry on the side and a twist of lemon.

7 strawberry summer drinks

Strawberry lemonade

Lemonade is an ever-popular non-alcoholic choice for parties. This summer variety turns a run of the mill option into a seemingly extravagant choice. Food Blogger, Jenna Webber has a recipe that cuts down on the sugar without losing any of the taste. I also like her idea for serving in mason jars with lids. This not only looks great, but it also has a practical purpose of keeping out unwanted flies and wasps attracted to the sweetness of the strawberries.

Strawberry and basil soda

I chose to source the recipe for this tall drink from Ashmita Sengupta’s blog, The Heavenly Hearth, because as a summer choice it is simply divine. Its zing and fizz, coupled with the brightness of the pink strawberry colour, liven up any drinks tray. And being non-alcoholic means that you can indulge in the taste as much as you like without worrying about who is going to drive home.

Strawberry Pomegranate Mojitos

This refreshing cocktail takes the classic mojito as a jumping-off point and adds a sweet fruitiness that makes these mojitos dangerously drinkable. A Mojito is a cocktail that consists of mint, lime juice, rum, soda water, and a stack of ice. A STRAWBERRY POM MOJITO includes all of those ingredients plus strawberries and pomegranate juice. It’s AMAZING.

Enjoyed reading our list of 7 strawberry summer drinks? Try this list of our favourite  Summer Cocktails

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