Sharky and George are the children’s entertainers for the luxury generation
Words Pendle Harte
A chat with Sharky and George
What did you do for your eighth birthday? Musical chairs and homemade cake? Or, if you were lucky, a magician and a bought cake? Not if your uncle is George Whitefield, in which case yours would have been a blueprint for some of the most fabulous kiddie parties of the generation. Because in London’s prime postcodes and among the well-heeled of the provinces, there is only one person to call when your little darling’s special day approaches. Or make that two people. Sharky (Charlie Astor) and George (Whitefield) are the children’s party entertainers du jour, so much so that their names now refer to an empire that includes literally hundreds of Sharky and Georges, with outposts in the Caribbean, requests from all over the world and high profile clients including the Camerons, Paul McCartney and Holly Willoughby.
I’ve come to Fulham to meet them on their own turf, which is in fact an actual treehouse. Of course it is. Climb up the ladder, sit on a toadstool and a pulley system will deliver your drink. The boys (you can’t help calling them that) are charming ex-Etonians: Sharky is the quiet, serious one (he went out with Pippa Middleton, apparently) while George is a madcap Peter Pan/Willy Wonka hybrid character with a shock of curly hair and a big elfin grin. On the face of it you’d imagine George as the natural entertainer and Sharky as the business face. Though maybe that’s too obvious. Perhaps it’s the other way round. They’re busy people, especially at this time of year, they say. What are they working on? Let’s take this coming weekend. ‘I’m a bit worried about the weather,’ says Sharky. ‘We’re entertaining 600 adults at the Tower of London.’ There’s also a children’s party. ‘This should be a good fun one. We’ve made four worlds – a Peter Pan one, a Harry Potter one, a Narnia one and a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory one. 80 children will go round the world in teams and have cool experiences,’ says Sharky, matter-of-factly. Eighty children? It sounds more like a theme park than a party. I bet none of those kids could be swayed by musical chairs. ‘Oh, it’s a joint party for three sisters. We’ve devised a big Quiddich game.’
Clearly we have come a long way from pass the parcel. Sharky and George have revolutionized the (already quite high-octane, in these parts of town) children’s party since they launched in London eight years ago, before which they’d already gained a reputation through turning up at George’s nieces and nephews’ parties as the fun uncles. ‘We did our first party when we were at school, then carried on through university. The basic party is more or less the same today; it’s all about really getting the children involved.’
Can any Sharky and George party really be described as basic? ‘The majority of what we do are £300-£400 parties in someone’s garden,’ says George. These will involve a lot of high energy running around with a large dose of spontaneity and fun. But these ‘basic’ bashes aren’t always enough in the highly competitive world of children’s party planning, and with many London children attending multiple parties in an average month, the bar gets raised at an alarming pace. ‘The bigger parties have grown over the years,’ admits George, though he won’t get drawn into any discussion about competitive parent behavior. Surely there must be some demanding clients? What’s the most outlandish thing they’ve been asked for? ‘A tiger,’ replies George in a flash. ‘Yesterday we were asked whether we could organise a tiger for this weekend. So we did. But today they phoned back and said actually can we have some talking parrots instead? So we had to cancel the tiger. And it turns out that talking parrots are quite difficult to find.’ Harder than tigers? ‘It’s amazing what you find yourself researching. Lots of people do have parrots that can talk but when they’re in front of lots of people they get quite shy, apparently.’ Tigers and shy parrots. All in a day’s work at Sharky and George HQ. ‘Finding a fireman’s pole for a Fireman Sam party in a chalet in Switzerland was quite hard too,’ muses Sharky. ‘And anything with boats is tricky.’
The pair’s latest foray is into the world of adult parties, which are a natural progression from the uber-elaborate teenage parties they’ve been working on lately. ‘We’re getting more of a reputation for being able to pull off these amazing experiences involving boat chases around London with actors and helicopters and spy equipment and things.’ These are the parties for the people who have everything and have done it all before. Those who are sick of cocktails and conversation can find themselves embroiled in a complex treasure hunt centred around an insurance scam, a fake work of art and a list of possible suspects.
The Sharky and George empire is expanding to take on kids clubs in hotels (the Four Seasons in Hampshire and Jumbly Bay in Antigua, to start) as well as the expanded adults offering, so expect to see more of them. Plainly there is no limit to what we will do to protect our little darlings from boredom and obscurity.
Can anything shock them? ‘Not yet.’
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