• How Party Planning Is Like Internet Piracy

    by  •  • Featured, Life Skills

    It may have come up “once or twice” in a few private discussions and emails but this is the year I turn 30.

    Anyway, I haven’t really done anything for any of my birthdays on a large scale since… well since this birthday.

    Knowing myself the way I do, the best way to prevent myself from freaking out and exploding into a third-life crisis was to give myself a project: ie it’s less likely I will go all Bridezilla and ruin my own 30th if I’m too busy planning and orchestrating it.

    So… It had to be high impact, it had to be “on brand”, it had to be something I hadn’t done before and it had to be historically significant. (For that last one to make sense you need to think “history -> old -> birthday -> Gordon.” Get it? Such fun.)

    Paris was out because that is so turning 29. In fact it really should be domestic to keep in “on brand”. And also to ensure the maximum amount of guests actually bothered to show up.

    It was settled then. A castle it must be!

    And that’s when shit got real.

    1. The Perils of Demand

    A recently released report into the causes of film piracy lays the blame squarely with the studios themselves.

    You see, the typical summer blockbuster release has a marketing budget of around USD $100 -$150 million dollars.

    And here’s the thing about huge marketing budgets: they drive up demand. So if you whip up a feverish storm of demand for your product and then heavily restrict access to it which is what the entire theatrical release model does then something is going to break along the way. The solution recommended is to simultaneously release the film online (paid), via DVD/BluRay and in cinemas. It’s a more effective use of the total marketing spend because you can convert that demand into sales in the way the customer most wishes to consume the film.

    Unfortunately you can’t do this with castles. You can’t change supply to meet crazy demand.

    Think about my actual birthdate for a second. June 25. Saturday June 25. Can’t you just see it on a wedding invitation?

    Well, so can every single goddamn ticking biological clock in the fucking realm, apparently.

    Trying to get a free (and affordable) castle within two hours of London in the last weekend of June? Pshah. Good fucking luck.

    The other way demand was weighing on my strategy was just how much I had underestimated the appeal of a weekend in a castle among my friends. I had 22 confirmed from the first tentative mail-out.

    Castles closer to London tend to accommodate smaller numbers. You have to go further afield to get larger castles -which would lead to a drop off in attendees making castles closer to London viable again… which would lead to a rise in attendees. It was a frustrating maths problem.

    Whatever. I was up for the challenge. The whole point of running this as a project was to stop me from going crazy.

    2. Don’t trust anyone on the internet

    Which brings me to point number 2.

    Those of you keeping up with my frankly amazing Gordonmas emails will know that the venue has shifted from the west country, to the midlands, to the north west to Scotland and then all the way back.

    I was hoping for somewhere a bit less formal

    I have called and emailed at least thirty different venues and organisations. I heard back from two. One of them turned out to be an entirely unreliable “castle expert” who was completely useless; casting into disrepute the noble profession of party castle find… wait a minute.

    Castles that listed for the night were only available by the week, castles listed as castles were actually follies (what do I, live in a caravan? Fuck off!), some castles I presume don’t even exist or at least exist in a magical otherworld that only appear in physical form on three nights of the year and definitely not Saturday June 25th.

    3. Everything is about sex

    You know that castle orgy from Eyes Wide Shut? Well, it turns out they actually happen.

    Or at least, they happen in a terrifying, late-middle-age-accountant-and-his-wife kinda way.

    Honestly, I could almost feel the narrowed, suspicious eyes on me when the few venues who got back to me asked “what… kind of party are you hoping to hold?”

    4. Finding quality is about research and luck

    *Cough* You know, I’ve heard from some internet pirates that finding quality content is part research and part luck. Torrent files can be mislabeled, bootlegs can be dodgy camera-in-cinema jobs rather than dodgy-yet-helpful screener DVD rips.

    So it was that I had resolved to finally pull the plug on the whole damn thing because the only castle I could find was in Scotland, too expensive and still contained its laird who looked really odd in the photos.

    I was going to pen and send them email on my lunchbreak. Wasn’t looking forward to it, either, as family and two VIGs (Very Important Gays) were flying in from all over the world on the promise of a castle. I really, really wanted to avoid just doing a lunch somewhere in London because -even though I had picked the place where both Oscar Wilde and Charles de Gaulle had their birthdays- I didn’t want it to be just like all the other birthdays.

    It needed to have impact and narrative and all that good stuff worth flying in for. It was going to really ruin it for me if it was “just” a lunch because the party is the one gift that I actually wanted and, to be honest, all this fucking disappointment was in danger of ruining it for me. I would have cancelled the whole thing and just gone to New York with James if it wasn’t for the number of people already flying in.

    Sitting down at my desk and checking my ever-diminishing list of un-paywalled news sites I stumbled on a review of an inn in Frome.

    This place was mentioned in the Domesday Book so it was historical. Check. Frome itself is in the ancient kingdom of Wessex which predates England. Check again. It’s within two hours of London so guests could daytrip it if I had a lunch instead of a dinner. Check. You can stay at the inn or across the road from it if you so wished. Check. It’s recently refurbished and they serve local food from my beloved west country. Check.  The area is high impact enough to serve as lunch and international tourist destination. Check.

    It’s available the weekend of June 25? Check!

    And then I saw the name.


    Yes. This will do nicely.

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