Absolutely Mama attends a party thrown by Gabriella and Octavia and picks up some top tips on kids’ party planning
Words Pendle Harte
Kids’ party planning
Who knows what a Martian walking into the room would conclude about this human ritual. It’s very dark, save for a throbbing green light, and there’s a lot of screaming over a fast bassline. Once their eyes adjusted, the Martian would be able to make out a lot of small shadowy forms hanging onto a rope and pulling with an intensity that borders on the violent, but would notice also that the screams are actually laughter. This is a disco party for a ten year-old child. It’s not a situation that many adults would find appealing but it is a necessary rite of passage in many London circles.
At the centre of what is in fact a game of tug-of-war is Gabriella Rankin, managing the situation with the skill of a major league referee and the assurance of a headmistress as well as the boundless charm of a CBeebies presenter. This is a woman who has come a long way since donning a Snow White costume and walking around Portobello handing out business cards. When not on stage (her one-woman show Dumped was a smash hit at this year’s Edinburgh Festival), the actor-turned-standup comedian runs a successful business in children’s parties. And you can see why she’s good at it. Gabby speaks in a fast, breathless way, energy and enthusiasm radiating from her smile. ‘People love parties,’ she says, and clearly so does she. Though her standup act is definitely not suitable for children, her general manner is very much in tune with the way their minds work.
So, she and her team offer a variety of parties designed for London’s well-heeled tots. ‘A lot of our business started out among the Wetherby mums,’ she explains, but these days their services are on demand all over London, from Hampstead to Wimbledon and the home counties. Options include the disco party, which – in addition to a high-energy tug-of-war and an equally shouty game involving wrapping children, mummy-style, in loo paper – encourages guests to develop their own routines and show them off to each other (yes, even the boys) and compete for an award. Gabriella and her assistant Freddy provide lights, music, sweets, make-up and glow-sticks, and two hours of non-stop fun leave even the least excitable guests pink-faced and starving. But it’s not all about the disco – the company’s party options include the theatrical party (staging an actual production), the treasure hunt (roaming around finding clues), the adventure party and for preschoolers the storybook party and the soft play one. Plus of course they can provide decorations, entertainment, catering, party bags, cake and everything a party needs. With clients ranging from Trotters to Facebook via Candy Crush and Tiffany, these are the only people you need to call next time your offspring are approaching a milestone.