Public parties are a rite of passage for teenagers and their anxious parents, says Imogen Agnew.
The organised parties of the teenage social scene can feel overwhelming, particularly for parents who don’t yet know the ropes approaching it for the first time. But it’s a rite of passage that both parent and teen will almost inevitably go through as these parties provide the first important opportunity for teenagers to mix and mingle outside of school rules, yet still in a relatively controlled environment.
Social Calendar Highlights
The Feathers | The Ministry of Sound, London | Monday 17th December 2018
Over 60 years old, and still going strong, is the Feathers Ball – ‘a milestone for all Year Nines’. It is now held at the Ministry of Sound in London just before Christmas and remains a highlight of the year for 13 to 15-year-olds. Tickets are applied for by group and, in the fashion of the coming out parties which parents will remember, small groups join together for dinner parties beforehand.
Unsurprisingly, the Feathers is closely chaperoned and organisers are eagle-like when they hand sweaty teens back to their parents at the end of the night – absolutely nobody is allowed to jump in a black cab
to try their luck at a nearby nightclub.
In the interest of teen-parent good relations, however, parents should restrain themselves when picking up their children. One girl remembers the toe-curling embarrassment she felt when her mother arrived to collect a group of them, shrieking her name from her vantage point of the roof of their Land Rover Defender.
When to go is key. One ex-St Mary’s Ascot pupil found the experience of going while still in her final year at Cheam Prep school ‘scarring’. Smart parents will wait until their child is desperate for the experience. Conversely, a few fathers might wish their daughter would never go.
The Teen Bystander Ball | London | Christmas holidays
The social mores of managing these evenings aside, there are some safety issues which parents will appreciate. A previous organiser of The Teen Bystander Ball, run by Tatler, remembers the importance placed on the process of purchasing tickets: ‘They could only be bought by a parent or guardian, meaning the procedure was completely transparent, something reassuring for worried parents.’
Furthermore, the entire evening had a strict no alcohol policy, and ‘anyone who turned up and had clearly had one too many was simply not allowed in – there was no bargaining’. This reduces the likelihood
of alcohol-related accidents. Visibly intoxicated teens were ‘made to wait under supervision until they were collected by a parent or guardian – we did not just send them away and onto the streets of London!’
The Electric Ball | Under The Bridge, Fulham Road, London | Monday 22nd October 2018
The Electric Ball is another London-based charity ball and the brainchild of energetic local mothers who wanted to raise funds for NSPCC’s Childline.
The charity is an invaluable service for vulnerable children, which is desperately in need of more resources to meet an ever increasing demand. Held at Under The Bridge, Fulham, for Years Nine to 11, the Electric Ball follows a similar format to the Bystander Ball with mocktails, nibbles and a DJ.
Dress Code Dilemmas
When it comes to dress code, many events can be interpreted according to personal style but there is often a theme. Previous Bystander and Electric dress codes have included Punk Black Tie, Piste & Love and Black Tie on the Beach.
Teens are keen to choose their own clothes and should do so. Nobody wants their offspring to be the odd ones out, dressed more garden party and less ‘Adolescent Fluorescent’. Save the first ‘proper’ party dress shopping trip for the Feathers, which is still resolutely black tie.
At the far end of the spectrum and mainly reserved for reeling balls is white tie. Adhering to tradition is key; girls’ dresses are checked on arrival and petticoats are issued for those which do not reach their ankles – faded yellow lace is not a cool look.
But never underestimate the creativity of the young. The story of the 14-year-old who managed to sneak half a litre of vodka past security at the Capital VIP Grandslam Ball is not apocryphal: she took the beach dress code seriously and wore armbands… full of vodka.
The Mistletoe Ball | The Hilton, Park Lane, London | Saturday 1st December 2018
Capital VIP is no stranger to teen inventiveness. They have monopolised the London teen party scene for over 20 years with The Mistletoe Ball and The Valentines Ball. Their mantra that their events enable ‘under 18s to enjoy a proper nightclubbing experience in a controlled and safe environment’ is always reassuring to parents.
They hold no less than nine events throughout the year, rolling their parties out into the shires and beyond – perhaps the most well known is the annual congregation of public school children swarming to the coastal town of Hunstanton in North Norfolk, for a week of tennis matches (where prizes have previously been presented by Amanda Holden), underage consumption of brightly coloured alcopops and the infamous Foam Parties, which attract party goers from as far away as Scotland.
The Grandslam | Burnham Market, Norfolk | Summer holidays
The tennis tournament has been taking place every August since 1920, but in 2000 Capital VIP launched their teen party, The Grandslam, for 14 to 16-year-olds, just down the road in Burnham Market.
The Racquet Ball | Burnham Market, Norfolk | Summer holidays
In 2008, they extended their age range to include an event for 11 to 13-year-olds called The Racquet Ball. Teens now talk excitedly of the year that they can ‘move up to the next party’ and it has become something of a rite of passage, almost eclipsing the tennis tournament.
Down in the South West, Savernake Teenagers was created by a team of Marlborough-based country mothers to fill a gap in the Wiltshire market for less London orientated teens, as a way of bringing childhood friends together, particularly those who have gone their separate ways at senior school.
The committee, which has been organising events around Marlborough since 1982, holds a disco that takes place directly after the Feathers, just before Christmas, and is described by a committee member as ‘a reassuring return to a small event where they will know a lot of people’ after the thronging crowd of a thousand teens at the Feathers.
Savernake Teenagers’ Charity Tennis Tournament | Marlborough College | Summer holidays
During the summer months, they hold the Savernake Teenagers’ Charity Tennis Tournament at Marlborough College, who have ‘always been incredibly supportive’ – all funds raised from both this and the disco supports local charities that benefit children in the community.
The committee are keen to showcase the talents of local teens and encourage aspiring DJs to volunteer to play; in 2017 for the first time the disco was opened with an acoustic set from a local 15-year-old singer-songwriter.
Other teen parties supporting local charities in the area include A Touch of Neon, held at the sprawling Englefield House in Berkshire, for Years 7 and 8 and the Glitter Party at the Cameo nightclub in Andover, for Years 9 and 10.
Then On To Bigger Things
The maze of the teenage social scene in London and beyond can be complicated. It also seems that just as you have got to grips with it, they have grown tired of you taking charge; a 17-year-old Harrovian pityingly explained that ‘after the first or second year of senior school it’s more house parties and festivals’.
This comment aside, the trials and tribulations of organised parties enable teenagers to forge bonds and friendships with one another that last well into adulthood, providing a circle of friends outside school. Fellow mothers get to clock each other which is even more relevant when their children start asking to go to each others’ houses for parties. But that’s another story.