BAFTA Awards: The Party Guide
LONDON - It may not be a movie town for 12 months of the year, but for one weekend in February London dusts off the red carpet, welcomes a veritable flood of A-listers and sets about proving that it is every bit as much the home of glamour as New York or LA.
"It's a huge year for London and for British film talent this year, and all eyes and on London this year anyway because of The King's Speech and the Royal Wedding," says Loren Craig, events manager of London luxury goods emporium Asprey, which hosts the official nominees party.
"That's part of why there are so many events this year," she adds.
The pinnacle of the weekend is, of course, the Orange British Academy Film Awards on Sunday (Feb 13), held at London's supremely elegant Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. The 1900-seater venue "is filled to capacity," says BAFTA chief executive Amanda Berry. "In fact, I've still got a long reserve list."
After the ceremony, which shuts down the traffic in a fair chunk of central London, guests will be transported to the Grosvenor House hotel on Park Lane for an opulent four-course dinner. This year Dorset Blue Vinny cheese and leek tart, loin of venison and Rabot Estate chocolate ganache with salted caramel ice cream are on the menu.
For the nominees and the cream of the film industry, however, the party calendar starts to fill up from the week before.
"Oscar week in Los Angeles is almost a whole week of parties, starting from the Tuesday. At the BAFTAs we don't really get going till the Friday night, but from then on it's pretty intense," says Nick Jones, founder of The Soho House, who co-hosts the Vogue/Working Title Friday night dinner at Cecconi's.
Now in its sixth year, the dinner kicks off festivities in style.
"It's a simple sit-down dinner for a hundred people - it's nominees, their guests and people from fashion - just a very fun event," says Jones.
Soho House, which will host its second Oscar party this year as well as events in Cannes and Toronto, also co-hosts the BAFTA awards afterparty alongside Grey Goose Vodka.
Famed for five-feet-high tiers of white and dark chocolate-coated strawberries and BAFTA-themed cocktails, the afterparty also boasts British band Squeeze have been drafted in to get things moving on the dance floor.
The Weinstein Company and Momentum Pictures are also co-hosting and after-party at London's new W Hotel and Fox and Pathe are holding a separate event.
Momentum Pictures kicks off Saturday with a lunch at the soon-to-open Corinthia Hotel to celebrate their cohort of 22 nominations for The King's Speech, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, The Fighter, and Another Year, with Colin Firth, Tom Hooper, Amy Adams, Noomi Rapace and Gemma Arterton expected to be in attendance.
Later on the Saturday evening comes the official nominees party at Asprey, the Bond Street jewellers, which given over its three-storey department store to host around 500 people for cocktails.
With themed rooms - including a mouth-watering chocolate-tasting room from Hotel Chocolat that offers guests hundreds of different chocolates to taste from - the party promises a chance for the nominees to relax before the stress and anticipation of awards day.
"We wanted to celebrate all the nominees, not just the winners," says Loren Craig.
Asprey also host one of the nominees' style suites at the Savoy Hotel, alongside Lancome and hairstylists Charles Worthington. Nominees can be styled and helped with jewellery and accessories chosen from Asprey's bespoke collection.
"This year the red carpet trend is to be more discreet with the jewellery. We are not seeing very heavy massive jewellery but there are a lot of
bracelets and very simple elegant pieces," says Craig.
The culmination of the pre-BAFTA events is the Charles Finch/Chanel party at Mark's Club, which draws an eclectic crowd from film, fashion, business and whichever friends of the longtime agent, producer, entrepreneur and film industry institution happen to be in town. Finch, who recently opened super-luxe travel attire shop Chucs Dive and Mountain Shop on Dover Street, is this year organizing year the a seated dinner for 110 followed by dancing and a Cuban band that will go on past midnight.
The trouble with even a mini-marathon is that by the time they reach the final straight, the participants risk running out of steam.
"I'm sure any actor caught up in the middle of it can find the whole thing an exhausting experience," says Soho House's Nick Jones. "But I think you'd rather be in that position than not. In the end, I think people get very excited when they are up for what could be one of the
biggest awards of their careers."