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Photograph: Time Out
Photograph: Time Out

Ten classic London themes for your next Zoom party

Recreate these extremely specific aesthetics or risk losing precious memories forever

Rose Johnstone
Written by
Rose Johnstone

It’s lockdown three and you miss going out a lot. You miss sticky pub floors, rubbing sweaty shoulders, talking shit while you shiver in the smoking area, taking control of the aux cord, furiously applauding, awkwardly flirting. All is not lost however. You and your mates can organise a Zoom party and attempt to recreate some iconic facets of the ‘eclectic’ and ‘vibrant’ nightlife that we used to bang on about all the time via, er, cushions, your central heating, mini sausage rolls and the power of your imagination, woooo. Forget quizzes: it’s time to get nostalgic. Your city demands it.

The ‘hen do at ‘Magic Mike Live!’’ theme

Channing Tatum’s woke, female-gazey spectacular ‘Magic Mike Live!’ was the holy grail of hen do activities. Basically a prosecco-fuelled, sex positive strip show, ‘MML!’ wholeheartedly embraced singing, screaming and in-seat dancing. You were even allowed, encouraged, to touch the men. That would certainly be frowned upon IRL now, but there are ways to recreate the experience at home. Obviously, watch the film. Nay, watch the 2015 sequel, ‘Magic Mike XXL’. It involves even more stripping. Before you press play, don your tightest dresses and neck a bottle of prosecco each (ideally, through a penis straw). Then, decide who’s maid of honour. Think carefully before you assign the role. She must be prepared to a) throw pink dollar bills into the sky; b) yell ‘you are enough, just as you are!’ at the hens and c) decide when the time is right to blast Ginuwine’s ‘Pony’. Once the last drop of prosecco has been drunk (or spilled on laps), it’s time to order kebabs.

The ‘The performance art party’ theme

Tell your Zoom buddies to don their boilersuits, mesh tops and asymmetrical haircuts, it’s time to get subversive. You’ll want to order some tasty Turkish food (to create a 2015 Dalston, atmosphere) then turn the heater up to max now that you’re theoretically down in the basement of VFD, queuing for drinks at The Glory or hitting the dancefloor at Knickerbocker. A few warm lagers later (we recommend sitting them in a hot bath for authenticity) and it’s time for the main event: ART. Instruct each attendee to leave the call for ten minutes to create a brief, visceral satire of consumer culture using props they find in the house. Extra points for spectacular reveals, partial nudity, thinly veiled jabs at prominent Torys and Lucy McCormick-style food-throwing. Want to inject a bit of extra drama? Send the Zoom link to the recent ex of at least two of your friends (yes, just one person) and fret all night that they might pop in for a bit. God, you knew you shouldn’t date someone with the same taste in queer feminist live art as you! We never said this would be easy, only realistic.

Photograph: Time Out
Photograph: Time Out

The Printworks smoking area’ theme

First up, forget about recreating the inside of Printworks – it’s never gonna happen. (Unless you have a set of professional standard lasers in your flatshare that is.) Go for something simpler: the vast, grey smoking area outside the building. Specifically the smoking area at 5am. In this cursed lockdown version though, you’re logging on in early evening, stone cold sober. Ready? Step one: get everyone to put on some techno in another room. Close that door but ensure there’s sound bleed. Step two: turn off the heaters in your house until goosebumps become visible. Step three: start referring to a nearby object (a plant works well) as ‘the security guard’ and feel them ominously watching your every move. Step four: ask your fellow party people to take a look at the ‘conversation cards’ that you sent them earlier. These should be based on the enlightened topics you’d usually discuss in your 5am smoking area state: could someone use the torch on their phone to help find your baggy? Has anyone got a lighter? Do you just like, not understand why your friend doesn’t see how beautiful and amazing she is and how good she is at her job? Extra points if you can turn that last one into a 30-minute speech.

The ‘Your best friend’s 21st birthday party at Infernos (the mystery edition)’ theme

It’s midnight on Saturday at Infernos (aka Clapham’s loosest nightclub). You’re three JD and Cokes down, and the last time you spotted your best friend she was slut-dropping to ‘Turn Down For What’, booze splashing all over her high-waisted Topshop denim shorts. That was an hour ago! The only solution? Gathering your mates together in the area near the toilets and devising a plan to hunt her down. Think of this Zoom party as a murder mystery, without the murder – and instead with you as the fishnetted Dungeon Master leading the group on a fantastical, trash-tastic journey. Your job is to give guests tasks to solve as they move between the upstairs and downstairs (would your missing friend be more into ‘90s pop bangers, or is she losing her shit to ‘Mr. Brightside’ on the podium?). Don’t forget to check if the shitfaced smokers have seen her, and remember that the group of 20-year-old Australian women in the queue for the toilets might have some valuable information for you if you compliment their outfits.

The bottomless drag brunch’ theme

There’s one golden rule of attending a drag bottomless brunch: do not make plans for later in the day. You will simply not attend them. The other rule is to never touch the drag queens. That’s just rude. Thankfully, the latter isn’t possible in this lockdown-friendly version. To really recreate the feeling of downing free-flowing bubbles at Dalston Superstore, the Queen of Hoxton or Nikki’s Bar, we first suggest assigning personalities to each of your friends. Your most gregarious, glamorous and most resilient pals should drag up; then you’ve gotta have the sensible ‘maybe I’ll skip this round’ one, the one who’s overly familiar with the queens and the one who goes way too hard, way too soon (just because negronis are included in the deal, doesn’t mean they should be). Your Zoom ends strictly at 90 minutes. Whether you choose to roll on at the virtual ‘pub’ is up to you…

The ‘work party at Ballie Ballerson’ theme

‘If anything in this entire universe could put a stop to the office novelty bonding activity, surely it is a god-damn global pandemic!’ you once said. You absolute fool. How wrong you were! It turns out that the office novelty bonding activity is just as resilient, just as sneaky and just as adaptable as the very virus you thought could abolish it. It took mere weeks for escape rooms, quizzes and bingo to bounce back in digital form, and even less time for HR officers to book them in for you and your team. It’s not that these activities are fundamentally terrible, it’s just that they can become awkward as hell in a corporate context. Revel in the discomfort by attempting to recreate the one novelty bonding activity that has thus far evaded the digital world: adult ball pits. To do this, simply throw all your cushions on the floor and writhe around in them while taking short breaks to drink sickly sweet cocktails. If one of your Zoom ‘colleagues’ suggests a round of ‘Two truths and a lie’, mute them immediately. There’s always one who takes the roleplay a step too far.

Photograph: Time Out
Photograph: Time Out

The ‘Camden pub crawl’ theme

To begin, blast some cacophonous industrial grindcore through your headphones. No, that’s not the music from The Devonshire Arms – that’s just the Northern line. LOL. But seriously though, tonight you and your pals are having a head-bangingly big night, so start early if you’d prefer not to annoy the neighbours. First, ask everyone to open many cans of Red Bull in advance to fill your homes with that unmistakable Jager Bomb smell. Sprinkle liberally on the kitchen floor, too for those lush sticky underfoot feels. Go even further in the name of realism and block your toilet, forcing you and your co-habitants to spend the rest of the night weeing on the horrible mound of sodden toilet roll.

The ‘A friend of a friend’s engagement party at the Shard’ theme

Pick this option only if you wish to feel very uncomfortable for a long period of time. You see, this one involves Actually Dressing Up, which you might find confronting if tracksuits and trainers are now your entire life. But if getting a bit glam actually appeals, then lean in to those ironed shirts and high heels. Before you log on for the night, remember to download one of these London skyline Zoom backgrounds. Then lie on your bed with your head hanging off the edge for one minute to experience the slight lightheadedness that comes from zipping up to the bar in the elevator. Make sure you’ve prepared some unfeasibly small canapes and pour yourself a Martini, incessantly Instagramming every step of the process. To really recreate the sense of being at a party where you hardly know anyone, ask your Zoom friends to each bring a pal, then surprise everyone by divvying the group up into breakout rooms for lengthy periods of time. They’ll absolutely love you for it.

The ‘museum late’ theme

Several years ago, you decided that you wanted more from a night out. Less boozing, more learning; less shit-talking, more lectures on the legacy of Victorian transport infrastructure. How did that go for you? If your answer is ‘yeah, alright, but I probably wouldn’t do it again’ then congratulations! You should totally do it again, but on your own terms. This time round, force one of your friends to give a talk about something they know little to nothing about (the history of cholera in London? Yes please!). Create loosely themed cocktails around this topic, which you’ll soak up with tiny, tiny sausage rolls. Each person in the group is required to come up with an activity (craftivism and performance poetry optional, but recommended). Blast out an overly loud and disruptive playlist of found sounds while you do all these things. Take it in turns to reference how progressive it is that the museum is hosting a Boiler Room residency tonight.

The ‘queue outside a West London nightclub’ theme

Dress up as glamorously as humanly possible. Honestly, prep your look for days. Toe nails painted, hair in rollers, false lashes on. The lot. Then click on the Zoom link and spend the following two hours waiting for your friend (who tonight will be playing the part of ‘promoter you met at Mahiki’) to allow you into the meeting. Eventually give up and order yourself a McDonalds instead. A particularly good one if you can’t be fucked to talk to anyone.

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