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Hannah Duke for Untapped Cities - The Blitz party - themed parties - London - Bourne & Hollingsworth

There’s nothing like a good costume party – being able to throw off your everyday garb and step into the shoes of another character (literally). People who would never normally interact have hour-long conversations, strangers approach strangers. There’s something magically unifying about a group of people pretending to be something they’re not.

But of course, there’s a difference between your old home-grown themed party held in a shoebox apartment and the kind that the grownups run. New York is bursting with themed events from underground dinners to prohibition-inspired poetry readings and a watertower speakeasy. Paris has the over-the-top group, We Are the Oracle. But if you happen to find yourself in London, we have a secret to share.

Hannah Duke for Untapped Cities - The Blitz party - themed parties - London - Bourne & Hollingsworth

The Bourne & Hollingsworth Group holds old events all over London, from every time period to venue. The Blitz Party is one of their most popular: a roaming themed party held in an abandoned or empty space somewhere in east London, taken over and transformed into a WW2-era bunker. Designed to emulate the Blitz parties held during the bombing of London to boost morale and keep spirits light, there’s a ragtime band, champagne cocktails, and officers and red lipstick as far as the eye can see. Sandbags line the wall with ammunition tins – there are even vintage 1940s Corn Flake boxes scattered about.

Hannah Duke for Untapped Cities - Belle Epoque party - themed parties - London - Bourne & Hollingsworth

Hannah Duke for Untapped Cities - The Blitz party - themed parties - London - Bourne & Hollingsworth

The group began as a vintage speakeasy-style bar in Bloomsbury, before they decided to hold their first Blitz Party for 70 people. Today they entertain over 500 at each event, and this is growing.

Authenticity is very important: the ammunition tins and Corn Flakes boxes are all either genuine or reproduced exactly to be faithful to the original item. Events like this sell-out fast – many attendees will tell you they’ve been waiting months to attend.

Hannah Duke for Untapped Cities - The Blitz party - themed parties - London - Bourne & Hollingsworth

Bourne & Hollingsworth also run ‘Belle Epoque’: a Moulin Rouge-meets-dark 19th century circus party, with flying acrobatics, absinthe cocktails and a lot of feathers. Next there’s B&H’s Prohibiton 1920s party, celebrating jazz-age decadence. And did we mention they also run an event called SS Atlantica on a large, fancy boat on the Thames (which reminded us of the fantastical Titanic dinner in New York)? The list goes on.

Hannah Duke for Untapped Cities - Belle Epoque party - themed parties - London - Bourne & Hollingsworth 3

More then the party itself, what makes these events unique is that they’re held in some of the most fantastic and whimsical spaces in the city. From cavernous warehouses to quaint ballrooms, the fact of being inside simply makes you feel like you’re in on a secret.

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