One Saturday of every month, a choice selection of London’s young things don their finest glad rags and flock to the Bloomsbury Ballroom. Where are they headed? The infamous Prohibition Party hosted by Bourne & Hollingsworth, the bar group behind not one, but two gorgeous speakeasies in the West End, it’s safe to say guests are in good hands, with various cocktail menus on offer around the venue – all up to usual standards with impeccably-executed Gingerbread Old Fashioneds and French 75s on offer.
The grand ballroom is enormous, allowing for a main dance space, stage for a live band, and roulette wheels stationed around the place, along with other hidden pockets of entertainment. Coming down the steps is like entering another time, with girls in flapper dresses milling about with cocktails in hand. You spend most of the evening half-expecting Gatsby himself to wander onto stage, toasting the revellers, and ordering another round of champagne for everyone.
Jolie Papillon, a fantastically talented burlesque dancer, provides a feeling of illicit naughtiness, as well as a large helping of vintage glamour, with performances throughout the night. On the main stage, she shimmies along to jazztime tunes in a whirl of sequins, and does terribly saucy things with an over-sized powder puff to whoops and cheers. The whole effect is tongue-in-cheek and wantonly exuberant.
As the live band swings into action, the first tunes are accompanied by a 1920s dance circle, with Charleston dancers taking to the floor and showing how it’s done. Luckily for those with two left feet, there’s a dance class held before the party teaching the steps to the Charleston. A stroke of genius, making the atmosphere only more authentic as couples Lindy Hop and cross step around the ballroom.
The highlight of the night, however, has to be stumbling across the speakeasy within a speakeasy – a hidden bar burrowed in the depths of the event space. Intimate, and decorated with fairy lights and wooden seating, it plays host to another impromptu performance by Jolie Papillon, (this time to “You Can Leave Your Hat On”, with Ms Papillon taking the lyrics entirely literally) as well as another, smaller, live band.
If it’s a night of vintage joie de vivre you want, Prohibition Party delivers it in spades. In the spacious ballroom and hidden nooks and crannies, the modern-day above seems a world away. With Gatsby-esque surrounds, freshly shaken cocktails and more than a little hedonistic flair, there’s no easier way to make-believe you’re Daisy Buchanan.