The Ultimate Children’s Parties With Sharky & George

Saint Nicholas & Mary Poppins rolled into one, Sharky & george discuss their winning formula

What do you get when you cross Peter Pan with an Oompa Loompa, the Golden Snitch and a talking lion? Major parental kudos, of course. Last year, children’s party organisers du jour Sharky & George did just that, throwing the mother of all birthday bashes in the sprawling grounds of a private country manor. The team recreated five iconic fictional worlds: Narnia, Willy Wonka’s factory, Hogwarts, Neverland and Alice’s Wonderland for 100 enchanted little people, who zip-wired in and out of each magical land.

“We try to look at everything from a child’s perspective,” says company co-founder George Whitefield. It’s an approach that has clearly paid off – Whitefield and his partner George Astor, both 33, are the go-to party planners for London’s A-list parents, hosting shindigs for the offspring of Ewan McGregor, Bear Grylls, Elizabeth Hurley and even David Cameron. Since setting up shop in 2007, the duo now manages a team of 14 full-time staff from their Fulham HQ (complete with tree house and ball pit, naturally) and 180 entertainers on their books.

Whitefield attributes their success to a fresh outlook. “We’re older brother figures rather than traditional performers. We generally don’t like asking children to sit down and watch something; it’s about getting them involved in fun activities such as treasure hunts, water fights, tug of wars, races, etc.”

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If there’s one things these boys know how to do, it’s have fun. The pair, who met at school, discovered their professional calling after pranking their teacher in their final year. “We were always playing games and messing about,” explains Whitefield. “One day, I put a funnel in the top of my trousers then balanced a coin on my forehead. The aim was to get the coin to go into the funnel, but I missed intentionally every time. When the housemaster walked past, Charlie said, “Sir, I bet you can’t do it” and he agreed to give it a go. As he lined the coin up, Charlie poured water down the funnel in his trousers. Instead of detention, we were made to do the games for the housemaster’s daughter’s birthday party (she was scared of the local clown).”

In preparation, Whitefield and Astor adapted games they enjoyed playing to make them more accessible to six-year-olds and resultantly, proved a hit with the kids. They decided to organise more parties for nieces, nephews and cousins, to make a bit of spare cash while studying at Bristol University and, following a brief spell in recruitment and marketing after graduating, formalised the business of fun making.

Sharky And George Dance Floor D103 1096

What does a typical Sharky & George party involve then? “We’re really flexible,” says Whitefield. “We can do just the games or the whole thing – food, venue, cake, decorations, party bags…A mum might say to us, ‘My daughter is nuts about Taylor Swift – can you come up with something cool for her and 15 of her mates?’ So we’ll do our Music Video party and create party bags and decorations linked to the theme.”

There are 14 themes to choose from, including Survival (an action-packed expedition into the woods), Chocotastic (creativity with cocoa) and a mini disco. Most parties last two hours and feature at least two entertainers, but there are no limits to the team’s imagination. If it’s a full weekend of merriment you’re after for your Mini Me, so be it – no request is too great for these magic makers.

“Originally, we were doing parties for ages four to 14, but over the past three years, we’ve started organising events for younger children and teenagers,” says Whitefield. “We even threw a 45th birthday bash for an internet entrepreneur. He’d done everything and wanted us to come up with something different for him and 50 friends. So we planned a fugitive man hunt, teaming him up with an ex Special Forces soldier and setting him loose over a weekend, while his mates had to track him down using drones, helicopters and GPS devices.”

But Whitefield maintains that the best parties are often the least elaborate. “It all comes down to the games. We take the classic party games and give them a twist. Instead of musical chairs, for example, we put yoga mats all over the floor and when the music starts everyone follows one of us. When it stops, you stand on the mat. But you can have as may people as you like on each mat. We keep taking mats away each round until you’ve got all 30 children trying to pile on one mat. Obviously, you don’t want to be too naff about everyone being a winner, but on the other hand, they’re there to have fun. We try to make games much more inclusive and a bit more mischievous. Mischief is a key element of what we do.”

We doubt their old housemaster would disagree with that…

Skarky And George Circus

(Images of a Circus Party Sharky and George)

Sharky And George Dance Floor Food 1

Sharky And George Mad Hatters Party

(Images from Sharky and George Mad Hatters Tea Party)

DIY children’s parties:

Sharky & George’s top tips

  • Plan ahead, and double the amount of activities you think you’ll get through. Inevitably, things go a lot quicker with children. If the food isn’t ready in time, you’ll need a few back-up games up your sleeve to keep everybody busy.
  • It sounds simple, but name stickers are essential. It feels a lot more personal if you can say, Martha, come over here we’re going to play a really cool game. Children forget they have the stickers on and are pleased you know their names. They’re also really in dealing with a naughty child.
  • Children aren’t interested in sitting and having a long meal. They’re there to have fun and run around, so don’t worry too much about the food.
  • It's all about the experience. Our ethos for all parties is the experience of each child has got to be the main focus rather than what the venue looks like or what food they’re having. If you’re planning a children’s party, every 30 seconds needs to be accounted for. A game of musical statues shouldn’t last amy more than 3-4 minutes, To keep the pace and fun up, you need to switch games regularly and that takes a lot of thought and energy.
  • Think Treasure Hunts. A treasure hunt around the house is a good idea for winter parties. If done imaginatively, you don’t need that much space.

The next big thing...

Parties that link to favourite TV shows, films and computer games is big right now. We had a mum with a 16-year-old son, who spends all his time playing Call of Duty. She wanted an event that wasn’t patronising, but not one where the teens would get drunk either. It went down really well.

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Sharky & George’s Classic Party starts at £400 for two hours and two entertainers. sharkeyandgeorge.com


Posted in Spotlight

by Alix O'Neill
on on 07 September 2016

  children's birthday, children's party

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