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Tired of the traditional Christmas party? This year why not plan something different. There are a number of party organisers that can brighten up your firm's celebrations and the huge range of events on offer, from James Bond evenings to a night at the circus, can transform a run-of-the-mill dinner into a night to remember.
"Firms need to focus in on what they want, not what has gone before," says Guy Rodgers, managing director of The Ultimate Experience which is this year running four theme Christmas events - a masked ball, a White Russian Christmas complete with "snow" and Cossack dancers (and presumably vodka), a night of dancing, and music at the Ministry of Sound and the ever-popular James Bond adventure.
"We have casino tables, the original Aston Martin from Dr No, the tallest man in Britain as Jaws, a Pierce Brosnan look-a-like and a number of Bond girls," explains Rodgers. Ultimate Experience decorates the room with sets and props from Bond films and guests are welcomed by the firm's managing director as Blofeld, Bond's arch-rival.
Money is a constraining factor of course, but Sandra Simpson, managing director of Cygnet Associates, says this may not be a bad thing. "Knowing the budget is a good starting point when selecting the type of event you want," she says. "You can then determine your priorities - food, location and venues." This year, Cygnet is running a Christmas party in the basement of the Amadeus Centre, constructed with its own ice rink and which will be decorated in green, red and white to create a disco on ice. "Firms should be contacting us now," says Simpson. "Already, many venues have been booked up."
One popular venue for a glamorous evening is the Kensington Roof Gardens, which has three styled gardens spread over one-and-a-half acres of London's roof tops. Built in 1938, and currently the playground for Richard Branson's Virgin Empire, the gardens are home to two pink flamingos and a number of exotic ducks and fancy fish. It can be set up for theme parties catering for 180 seated guests or 420 for informal drinks.
Another novel venue is Spitalfields Market, which is transformed every year by Planit Events. This year, the theme of the market will be a Venetian Masquerade and will include period sets and scenery. Depending on whether guests want simply to experience the atmosphere of classic Venice or sit down and taste it, Planit can create events to accommodate 250 to 1,500 people. It also organises events at other locations based around themes, like Arabian Nights, pantomime and circus.
And if life on the high-wire takes your fancy, there may be no better place to have your party than at London's Circus Space, a genuine circus school and registered charity which recently opened its doors for corporate events.
"Rather than have your event at a restaurant, you can have a full circus cabaret with a four-course meal," says Circus Space development officer Andrew Hill. Diners sit at their tables and enjoy the silver service while the best in circus entertainment - acrobats, jugglers, clowns, comedians, and the thrills of Air of Insanity, a high-wire trapeze act - performs around them and on stage. "It is a unique experience," comments Hill. But Circus Space is only available from 16 to 23 December and spaces are limited so it is advisable to book early.
Other options for the Christmas party are a winter skiing theme at the Cadogan Hall of the Duke of York's Barracks, which is organised by William Barth-olomew, a limited incarceration at the London Dungeons, and Bentley's theme parties, which in the past have included a science fiction evening with spaceships and props from Judge Dredd.
But while these off-the-wall events are a proven formula for a good night out, Rodgers of the Ultimate Experience warns: "Don't repeat what you did last year. It never works as well the second time around."