I love the idea of the 40s; men were men, women were ladies, the pub was Facebook, and, if for some reason you did feel the need to communicate random bursts of bull**** to the world throughout the day, you didn’t use twitter, you used the bedroom window.
And if, like me, you’ve held on to this romanticised view of the 1940s amidst consistent reminders from your nan of how hard things were back then, I think London may just have the party for you.
…you Sir, are wrong.
The Blitz Party is held roughly once a month in Shoreditch, where guests are asked to dress to the 1940s and embrace the Blitz spirit, all in return for an evening of swing, drink and dance. Now, of course, many people would hear this description and retort, “that simply isn’t my kinda’ gig, old chap”, and that’s fair enough, each to their own and all that. But let me take a brief moment to take you through my evening and explain why, you Sir, are wrong.
I arrived at the location, fashionably late, to be greeted by some rather suave looking gentlemen who relieved me of my ticket and let me in. I can only assume that these men were the security and that this brief exchange of pleasantries was actually the friendliest greeting to an event that I’ve ever witnessed – it was a sign of things to come. After I had made my way past the crowd of fashionable 40s smokers, I entered the venue, hitting the wall of heat before being cushioned by waves of swing music – I had entered the Blitz.
…the man selling scotch eggs and ham sandwiches (no, seriously).
The space itself was impressive; archways and towering brickwork walls were illuminated with deep red lights, creating a nostalgic ambience. Then there were the little touches that began to unravel as you ventured a little deeper: the wireless radios on the bar, the sandbag-cordoned seating area, the bottles of Spitfire ale, the make-shift salon with girls getting their hair tended to, and the man selling scotch eggs and ham sandwiches (no, seriously). Slowly you start to succumb to these little cues, and then, as you look across the dance floor, and take in glimpses of naval officers and G.I.s dancing with their sweethearts, you can’t help but be transformed to that bygone era.
Then there were the people that filled the venue; as a single gentleman, I must say the ladies looked both elegant and gorgeous with their floral dresses and loud red lipstick, and as a liberal gentleman, I must say the men looked awfully handsome with their uniforms and finely-Brylcreemed barnets. Of course, there were exceptions to these rules, I saw some lovely ladies rocking the uniform look, and I was one of many men who had opted for the farmer’s-son-who-crashed-the-dance-chic look. But, surely the best thing was that whatever way you turned, there wasn’t a fake tanned Barbie doll or a tight t-shirt wearing, diamond-studded tosser in sight.
…it was the organic culmination of everyone in this one room…
Everyone here exuded a certain classiness, and, more importantly, everyone had embodied the all-important Blitz spirit. The order of the night was dancing, and people did. I mean, who could deny themselves a cheeky jive when treated to such brilliant swing music from a phenomenal live band? And there were also plenty of conversations between total strangers, with the fanciful dress creating the perfect icebreaker. As much as this event was manufactured, the atmosphere was very real; it was the organic culmination of everyone in this one room realising that they were experiencing something special – music, fashion, glamour in their purest forms, as they will never be again.
You have to doff your cap to the organisers of this shindig, for they have created something truly unique: a period-themed fancy dress event which lacks as much in cheesiness as it boasts in unadulterated entertainment.
My Nan was right, things were much tougher back then, but this does not mean that the carnival I experienced that Saturday night was a false dream. I was reminded by someone the following day that yes, times were harder, which just made the nights they could go out dancing more special. Perhaps this is what is replicated most brilliantly by The Blitz Party; for our elders these nights were a break from the ration-filled struggle of everyday life, and for us, they’re a break from the monotony of the binge-fuelled club scene – in both cases, the joy is authentic.
The next Blitz Party is scheduled for 5 November.
Images courtesy of Blitz Party