Sunday, 28 April 2013

The Ectasy and Agony of Doing Our First Party


The experience of putting on my first party in Berlin lived up to its name - it left my mind feeling pretty smeared.  Anyone who's thinking of 'making party' for the first time should do themselves a favour and read on, to find out and what I learned:

1) There are no norms or standards in Berlin's party venue market.

I received venue rental quotes ranging from 120 to 2000 Euros per party, and the venues ranged in size anything from a 20 sq. meter cellars with leaks, to sprawling, hypermodern spaces that rivalled the Tate Modern. Unless your bestie owns a cool space, expect to spend up to half of your organizing time finding one &  making it just right for the guests.

Also specific to Berlin: there seemed to be no universal method of getting in touch with these venues.  Some club managers are contactable by telephone, others by email, Facebook, SMS, YouTube video, telepathy, interpretive dance...??  A couple of clubs were so difficult to get in touch with that I seriously considered spray painting my name and phone number on their front door and hoping for the best.  


2) Be honest.  
It's a Berlin cliche: every second person in the city is a 'designer' an 'entrepreneur' a 'producer' or 'business manager'.  You rarely hear them admit that, 'I'm an underemployed tour guide and amateur, wannabe promoter'.  Many people working in the Berlin club scene are just as opaque about their qualifications as the hipster fantasists who describe themselves in the above flowery terms.  As I quickly learned, it's because some of them don't have real qualifications and the results of working with them can be disastrous.  In the course of organizing this party, I met 'graphic designers' who couldn't recognize layout errors, 'club managers' who hated techno, and 'promoters' who struggle to communicate with their own group of friends, let alone the city of Berlin.

Sticking myself with the less-glamourous, truthful label of 'amateur wannabe promoter' was much more useful in the end; whenever I met people who genuinely were qualified to help me, they were more willing to give me a hand.  (Thank-you Katja, Rachel, Dylan, James, Katie, Dave, Alenee, Zoe and the DJs!)

3) It's the end of the world as we know it (I feel fine)
When Northern Europe was abruptly plunged into a mini-ice age in the middle of March, this did not seem to bode well for our semi-outdoors, April party.  Ditto when I had to rush to hospital for an urgent operation, in the midst of the epic search for a party venue. Still, it was something of a relief to realize that, hey, at least climate change is something I am not personally responsible for sorting out by April 20th. Goddess grant me the strength to change what I can and the wisdom to accept what I cannot etc.  The post-operative strength codeine pills might have helped me to foster that sense of acceptance, too.

4) Printing the flyers is the last thing you should do. Period.
An oversight in the 'quality control'
of our first batch of 
5000 flyers resulted in them being misprinted.  After painstaking efforts were made to ensure that the second flyer batch was correct (this time, I consulted a professional designer with, like, a degree to prove it) I sent off our new, improved flyer to the printer.  The next day, I found out that we had to change the venue.  D'oh!  I was then duly informed by another promoter that flyers only need to be handed out in the final week or two before the party, so there was never any rush to get them done. That brings me to my final point:

5) Delegate the responsibility, delegate the stress.

As this was my first party, I made a fair few mistakes. I was prepared for this.  What I wasn't prepared for was the wall-punching frustration of being given 'helpful' advice by nearly everyone after the fact.  
Like those people, I also posess 20/20 vision in hindsight and, retrospectively, I can see now that it would have been a good idea to find someone with the foresight to avoid mistakes and hand off a few jobs to those people.  It's much less painful than punching walls, and cheaper than buying a time machine as well.

The one thing that this party organizing experience didn't teach me was that having a good party makes everything better again... I already knew that!   Finding time to dance for a whole hour to a set by one of my favourite DJs, and catching glimpses of friends having a great time all throughout the night, made all the stress evaporate faster than a sheen of dancefloor sweat on a cool April night. 

 Would I do it again?  YES.  If it's true that you learn how to avoid mistakes by making them, and how to avoid pitfalls by stumbling into them, then the next Mind Smear party should be utterly mistake & pitfall-free!

Join Mind Smear on Facebook or check back on the party website for the details of the next one!
 

*Thanks very much to Katie for taking the above photos of the party.

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