Birthday in lockdown? Don’t despair!
You might be physically cut off from many of your family and friends. But there’s a lot of online entertainment out there to help make your day extra special.
Fancy a Zoom wine or whisky tasting party? Spending time “down on the farm” with goats or alpacas? Or attending a drive-in movie with food provided by celebrity chef Tom Kerridge? You can have “Elvis” serenade your friends and family. Or invite professional actors into your living room to give your child a birthday they’ll never forget. All this is possible in our wonderful digital world.
Thanks to the likes of Zoom, House Party and Skype, these party options for all the family will have you travelling “virtually” throughout the UK. And to show The Chiswick Calendar’s dedication to bringing you only the best, we’ve even tried some of them out!
Virtual wine tasting parties
Virtual wine tasting with your friends, from the comfort of your (various) homes.
In London, you can join Benedict Butterworth for wine tasting events on Zoom at 7.30pm every Friday, with a maximum of 18 households per session. Benedict’s aim is to educate people about wines in a fun, lighthearted way. And a friend who tried it confirms it was great fun!
He’ll send you four bottles of wine, plus tasting notes. Payment is per household – so if you want your friends from other areas of the country to join you, it will cost more. Shipping is free to most London postcodes, including Chiswick, but there’s a supplemental charge for sending wine outside London.
Each group online event is themed by wine region. The next month features the wines of Portugal, Chile, Oregon and Greece. Benedict also offers private tasting events. See benedictbutterworth.com for details, or phone 07984 424860.
If you’re interested specifically in Italian wines, there’s also Bacco, based in Edinburgh. Founded by Tuscan sommelier and wine importer, Valerio Lo Coco, it offers virtual wine tasting events several times a week, sending you and your guests six samples of Italian wine. This month’s tastings feature the wines of Piedmont and Tuscany. But note there’s a supplemental charge for deliveries outside Edinburgh.
Details on their website at bacco-wine.co.uk
Virtual whisky tasting parties
Glugging whisky alone on your birthday isn’t very enticing. But The Little Whisky Shop in Stockbridge, Hampshire, has come up with some virtual tasting events that might be more appealing.
It’s a similar system to the wine tasting. They send out small sample bottles of the same whiskies to your group of friends. Then you either all join a hosted session to try them out, or try them as a private group at home.
Prices are around £22 – £35 a head, depending on the whiskies (or gins) used.
Check out their website: Thelittlewhiskyshop.co.uk or call them on 01264 810304.
Bring the magic of theatre into your home
Fancy being Sherlock Holmes for the night? Or getting Elsa from Frozen to pop in to your child’s online birthday party? Look no further than London-based Magical Quests, which provides online parties for all ages.
Their professional actors offer Murder Mystery evenings for adults and teenagers, and a whole host of interactive parties for children. They have a huge number of themed events and your child’s party could be visited by Alice in Wonderland, Mary Poppins, pirates, Jedi Knights or superheroes.
They’ve had a lot of publicity recently (not least from their work on actress Amanda Holden’s Narnia-themed wedding). So they currently recommend booking three to six weeks in advance. But they can also fit in some last-minute parties.
Prices start at around £100 for one actor doing a 50 minute interactive slot at a kids’ party to £200 for a Murder Mystery party involving two actors. They can deliver party bags on request.
Live music, cookery, quizzes, belly-dancing and more …
Based in the North East, online events website poptop.uk.com offers a whole series of options for party animals. Their online “talent” includes magicians, bagpipers, artists, singers and a belly-dancer. You can book for your group to be taught a dance routine, or have a cookery masterclass.
We opted to try out Elvis impersonator Kidd Galahad, who joined our Zoom party for half an hour, entertaining us and taking requests. A very amenable chap. Just let him know in advance if his arrival at the online party is meant to be a surprise!
Missing belting out songs in one of Lucky Voice’s private party booths in Soho?
You can bring the party home. For £6.99 a month you can have access to their 9000+ songs on your computer and host regular karaoke parties by sharing your screen on Zoom (or the online platform of your choice). You can try a free 14 day trial first to make sure it suits your needs.
We gave it a shot – and it was quite successful.
Upsides: A great way to have a party without worrying about the catering. And, if you want to be unkind, the handy Zoom “mute” button means you can block out anyone who is particularly tone-deaf.
Downsides: If you all sing at once, you might find there’s a second or two delay (see above on mute button!) And sadly, unlike the real Lucky Voice in Soho, the home experience doesn’t include a buzzer to press for instant alcohol top-ups….
For Animal Lovers
Meet goats or alpacas down on the farm.
For a quick animal fix, Cronkshaw Fold Farm in Rossendale, Lancashire offers you the chance to have a goat join your video call for ten minutes for only a fiver. We tried it, and it’s fun! The money raised will go towards installing renewable technology at this environmentally-friendly farm. Or take a “virtual” twenty minute farm tour for £18, meeting goats, watching the sheepdogs have a training session and the eggs being collected.
You can choose which goat you want to “Zoom-bomb” your party on their amusing website. And choose from a variety of online video platforms – the goats are apparently equally savvy in all of them.
For a slighly longer animal “fix”, check out online events with the alpacas of Bowbridge Farm in Scotland. This family-run operation harvests alpaca wool for hats and other products. It also does charitable work, taking the alpacas around hospitals and care homes.
We took a half hour tour with Alison, meeting some of her 40 odd flock (the numbers keep increasing as the female alpacas are currently giving birth). We learned about their characteristics, habits and individual quirks. They seem a happy relaxed bunch, although a bit less furry than they look in the photos as they’ve just been shorn for summer!
Alison says she and her family have been amazed by the global popularity of the online tours, which have taken them Zooming off to Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Japan, as well as many countries in Western Europe. If and when things get back to “normal” and you manage to get up to Scotland, they offer two hour Alpaca Experiences on the farm itself.
Alpaca party packages range from £30 to around £100. See website for details.
Bowbridge Farm, Peat Inn, Fife, KY15 5LL
For movie lovers
Drive in movies could be THE thing of the summer. Already three different firms we know of are offering drive-ins in London. They each have their own gimmicks (eg. roller skating waitresses delivering snacks).
The unique selling point of the drive-in closest to Chiswick, Drive and Dine Theatre at Syon Park, is food by celebrity chef Tom Kerridge. He’s providing the American-inspired menu for the events, which run from 28 July to 2 August.
Syon Park is just one of a number of venues hosting Kerridge’s drive-ins. It’s already proving popular. When tickets went on sale across the country on Wednesday, 20,000 were snapped up within two hours.
On offer are action movies, 1980s classics and family films. The drive-in will also host Mark Watson’s Carpool Comedy Club, featuring a collection of popular stand-up comics.
You can have up to seven tickets per booking, but you must all be from one household, in one car. So good for a party involving family members, or flat-sharers.
The organisers say the serving staff will be fully kitted out with PPE and place your meals by your car, ensuring a contactless delivery. As for the loos – flash your lights to indicate need and you’ll be escorted to one.
For more details see driveanddinetheatre.com
For more ideas on events during lockdown, see the Chiswick Calendar’s section on entertainment in Lockdown things to do
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See also: London virtual tours