Kristin reviews this years Christmas party and goes above and beyond the call of duty to record the set-list for posterity.
This year’s Serpentine Christmas Party was once again held in the glamorous (or according to their website “palatial” and “iconic”) De Vere Grand Connaught Rooms in Covent Garden.
Upon my arrival, the doorman (greeter?) pointed out the cloakroom location and advised where the lift was located. Being there for a running club party, it felt silly to take the lift to the second floor so, despite my towering heels (secondhand but previously unworn Prada, if you must know, dahlings), I took the stairs. I quickly realised that the lift was recommended because the stairs looked like a shoddy back entrance, but was pleased to see the actual rooms that we’d be celebrating in lived up to those from previous years. That said, it was my first year attending since the venue was downsized to one of the smaller spaces, and I found the more intimate surroundings preferable.
After finding my name card, I discovered that the included entry drink did indeed avoid having to queue and soon happily had a drink in hand (although some complained that the fizz was damaged by orange juice, I like anything “free”, especially when it has alcohol in it).
Of course, I arrived fashionably late, as one does (fine, if you must know, the Tube was ridiculously slow thanks to Winter Wonderland revellers and I wasn’t very fast in said heels). The room was already brimming with gentlemen in black tie and ladies dressed to the nines, so, needless to say, my heels and I felt right at home. The strange snack mix on the tables could’ve done with an upgrade, but I was hungry and pleased to have something to crunch on prior to dinner.
Expert tip: If you want a good seat at the Christmas party, or to sit with a large group of friends, be sure to get your name card on a table early (in other words, avoid the cheap snacks and find a seat, then head back out for banter). I was lucky, despite ignoring my own advice, to find a seat near the dance floor (priorities) and even luckier that my tablemates were fabulous.
Prior to dinner being served, awards were presented by Honorary Chairman Fraser Johnson. They included Lars Menken winning the John Stonham Cup for his impressive return from illness; Phil Bradburn winning the David Simpson Memorial Trophy, for achievement in hill and off-road running; and Nicola Barberis Negra winning the Innovation Cup, awarded for devising and organising the Virtual Icosathlon.
Next up was the hotly-anticipated announcement for London Marathon club places. With six Serpie superstars having maximum volunteer points, Fraser called up “glamorous assistant” Rob Whitmarsh, who was celebrating his birthday, to help draw four lucky names for the spots (or unlucky, depending on how you feel about marathon running). Club place winners were Andy Williams, Jamie Giles, Natalia Delfino, and Tom Bartlett. Eddie Brocklesby was then celebrated for extending her record as oldest female British Ironman finisher, Tash Sheel presented the departing-for-Denmark Lisa Pettit with a thank you for her services as cross-country manager, and Sid Wills presented Josie Wildridge with a thank you for her fantastic party organising skills.
Food reviews were mixed, but I found dinner pretty tasty, especially for large-scale catered fare (caveat: I ate vegetarian). Starters were hot smoked salmon terrine, with a goat cheese and tarragon parfait as the vegetarian option. The main was a streaky smoked bacon-wrapped turkey, with roast winter vegetable strudel for the veggies. Dessert was less inspired – a gelatinous “Christmas Carol” opera cake, followed by mince pies, which were sorely lacking, having been spoiled in the past by both my father’s and Charlie Frith’s far-superior versions.
With dinner over, it was time for the moment everyone (or at least I) had been waiting for… dancing. Everyone interviewed agreed, DJ Wayne Smooth was the best we’ve had in years, starting the night off with Stevie Wonder’s Superstition. The dance floor filled up from the first note and, based on my view from the centre of it, numbers didn’t dwindle. A dance floor highlight was certainly Faye Barrett, who didn’t let a little thing like running-related knee surgery stop her. Tinsel-wrapped and on crutches, Faye cut a rug with the best of them!
For those of you who couldn’t attend or if you just want to relive the dancing from the night, you can link to my Spotify playlist of Wayne’s setlist here.
Expert tip: A professional reporter would not find it sensible to take notes of the playlist in biro directly on her person. Whilst an excellent conversation starter, the songs are really hard to read and removing so much ink is a chore. It is recommended instead to be friendly to the DJ so that he will send you the full playlist via email.
The night ended (for those who didn’t after party) with Mariah Carey’s All I Want for Christmas, a rather uninspiring, but seasonally-appropriate choice.
The round-up: I would have thought that the Connaught Rooms were getting a little tired, but with an appropriate room size and a great DJ, the venue was a lot of fun. Of course, when the crowd is a room full of Serpies, who all clean up amazingly well and love a good party, the venue is probably irrelevant anyway. Bring on the parties of 2018!
Final expert tip: If planning to write a thorough article about a Christmas party, it is advised to spend less time drinking and dancing and more time interviewing and fact-checking. Who knows the exciting gossip or exactly what people were wearing? Because if I ever did, I certainly didn’t remember the next day!
Kristin Duffy is a slow runner, but a fast talker. Despite the dichotomy, she loves to do both.