London partygoers reliving spirit of the Blitz

LONDON Tue Jun 8, 2010 9:53am EDT

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - London's party people are donning grandmother's floral dresses, World War Two uniforms and heading to the air raid shelters again for evenings of swing music, champagne cocktails and other Blitz nostalgia.

Held every four to five weeks at different venues around England's capital, Blitz Party is billed as a 1940s evening with community spirit, where people have the chance to escape the drab safety of the modern world for a time when Londoners defied Hitler's Luftwaffe bombers from behind the blackout curtains.

"This seems to have hit the ticket," said Blitz Party founder and organizer Mark Holdstock, who launched the club night last year. "We get people that know how to have a party and have probably been going to parties and clubs for quite a while -- older than your new, younger clubbers.

"They are looking for something a little bit more interesting and inclusive."

Blitz Party's venues are specifically picked to give an authentic wartime bunker feel, and then kitted out with old fashioned memorabilia and artifacts - such as sand bags, oil lamps, ration books and military bunk beds.

Swing bands, performers and DJs then bring the night alive with sounds from a bygone era.

"In stages we started hiring larger venues, and as the word spread and we got more of a following," said Holdstock. "There are natural places where the Blitz Party fits -- refurbished railway arches and things indicative of the period."

"We've scoured different second hand and antique shops, to salvage bits and bobs as props," he added. "We tend to set the whole environment up as a war time bunker."

Clubbers can buy cocktails from the period at the provision store styled bar, and snacks that include homemade Scotch eggs and "doorstep" cheese and pickle sandwiches.

But the punters don't have it all their own way - entry into the event is restricted to those who make an effort and wear vintage clothes from the Forties.

That means red lipstick, headscarves, floral dresses or penciled-on-tights for the dames, and allied military uniforms, fedora hats or slacks with suspenders for the gents.

"We would be very discouraging to someone who didn't come dressed up because it spoils the theme," said Holdstock. "Everybody seems to make an effort."

"In the film Back to the Future, Michael J Fox goes back in time and stands out ridiculously because he's wearing modern clothes -- it just doesn't work for someone who doesn't dress up and make the effort," he added.

This approach hasn't stopped patrons from running for the shelter with rollers, tin hats and other wartime glamour at the ready.

The first Blitz Party was held in a small bar for 80 people but the more recent June event held to tie in with D-Day landings sold out its 1,000 capacity weeks in advance.

"We've been very true and good value," he added. "People have seen that we make an effort and it's been paid back to us ten times over."

For more details on the next Blitz Party, click on:

www.theblitzparty.com/

(Reporting by Michael Taylor; editing by Paul Casciato)

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