Over the years, Johnny Roxburgh has planned more than 9,000 parties in a glittering career that has seen him mastermind some of the most extravagant events for the world’s elite. His career has also seen him hold the Royal Warrant for organising many royal events at Buckingham Palace, Holyrood, Highgrove and Windsor – including the parties The Queen hosted at Christmas for her staff, not to mention a certain prince’s 21st…
Talk us through organising Prince William’s 21st. Do you sit down with him personally and find out what he fancies?
I absolutely loved organising the fancy dress 21st birthday party of Prince William. The Prince was charming beyond belief: handsome, fun and wonderful to work with. We created an African Jungle at Windsor Castle with full-size elephants made from palm husk, table centres that would shame a Lion King headdress, a giant ice vodka luge in the shape of an elephant’s head and then of course there was the strange intruder. The man was dressed as an Indian and rushed up to The Prince during dinner, then came out to the bar and asked for a bottle of Champagne. Nobody does that in a palace. Security was all over him in a minute and the party continued till dawn. I realised then that our future king is a very cool young man.
What’s the most glamorous party you’ve organised?
There have been many but one that really epitomised glamour was when I arranged a party where I built a very simple white tent in a quiet garden. Drinks were held in this white box and then as dinner was announced, guests walked through a perfect replica of a West End theatre door to find a multi-tiered auditorium with a 40-piece orchestra, a huge stage and a performance of Priscilla Queen of The Desert. It was complete with flying divas, the famous moving bus covered in lights and a cast of 80 including dancers from the Moulin Rouge in Paris. A huge firework display, a delicious dinner and a pumping night club - all very fun.
Where’s your favourite London venue for hosting a party?
It has to be Spencer House, London’s most magnificent eighteenth-century aristocratic palace. The rooms are fabulous and the possibility of putting a tent in the gardens overlooking Green Park is magical.
The host with the most: Roxburgh highlights
What’s the most money a client has spent on one of your events? And why did it cost so much?
I never discuss costs for individual events but I have arranged many parties costing many millions each. I have also made parties costing just a few thousands.
What’s the strangest request you’ve had that you’ve managed to fulfil?
I was asked once to create a spa and luxury retreat on top of a Swiss mountain. It was certainly a challenge and along with making it happen, the best bit was the fact that guests thought they were going abseiling but were secretly rather relieved to find armies of beautiful masseuses instead.
Have you ever refused to accommodate a request – and what was it?
I was once called at lunch time and asked to turf a client’s huge London drawing room for a 6pm drinks party. Truly impossible and impractical.
Security was all over him in a minute and the party continued till dawn. I realised then that our future king is a very cool young man.
What’s the most common theme people ask for – and what do you do to accommodate it?
I think people love shabby chic - this is a look that works so well in the summer with jam jars filled with country flowers arranged on rough wooden tables. Beautiful glass and fine linen create a great contrast to this simple but beautiful look.
What makes a bad party bad?
Dreadful guests. You can create the most amazing space and experiences at a party but you need great guests to make it truly wonderful.
Where’s the strangest place you’ve held an event – and how did it go?
It has to be in an underground glass-roofed room at the bottom of a reservoir. A dinner for 20 with fish swimming around us. The water was murky and it was all very surreal.
What fictional party would you have loved to have attended?
Without doubt, Truman Capote’s Black and White Ball.
For more on Johnny's services, check out johnnyroxburgh.com