Party Skills for the End of the World 

7 July 2017, an abandoned building in Salford, part of Manchester International Festival.  

Wearing a party hat and handmade tissue paper flower, I’m rushed down corridors amoung a stream of people being told to ‘move faster’, and ‘go now’. All around the sounds of planes and bombs blare out, while red flashing lights guide us down abandoned passageways. It’s not a real emergency, but it might be an apocalypse: it’s Party Skills for the End of the World. 

Surreal starts

Having received the tickets for free from my work and going along on somewhat of a wim, it’s safe to say I had no idea what to expect.

Upon arrival, I was ushered across an empty car park and into an abandoned building, down more empty corridors and finally into a room full of fellow participants trying out their martini making skills. We then had to evacuate into another part of the building for a disaster themed sing-along and orange stitching session to prepare us for having to stitch wounds together. ‘Word of advice…don’t get injured..’ a cast member advised my partner after seeing my stitching attempt – I was truly awful at this part (as you would expect from someone who flunked textiles classes at school). 

Suddenly, music started up as a homemade bar sprung up, and from that moment we were free to roam and learn.

Picking up the party skills

Unless you were the world’s fastest  learner there’s no way that you could have visited all the learning spaces available to explore. So instead of trying to catalogue everything from knife throwing to gas mask making on offer, here’s a run down of what I tried:

  • Magic tricks – not the most practical of end of the world skills, but a good laugh. I have to admit I have insuccessfully tried the trick learnt on a couple of friends now I’ve returned to civilisation…
  • Knot tying – If you have an ex-Boy Scout partner like myself, steer clear! I got shown up in style, but at least I know what a wreath knot is now…
  • Pepper spray making – presented in such a fun, bubbly tone. Baby oil is what it’s all about to make the good stuff apparently. 
  • Vegetable animal making – look at this little guy! I’d be able to build on army of bird companions in the apocalypse!

  • Flower making – the calmest, most relaxing apocalypse experience. Despite the screams and helicopter noises, we were all very chill and chatty in the flower zone. 

Into the belly of the beast

The screams, helicopter noises and bomb sounds all ramped up as tension become palpable – then, the evacuation began. We were ushered down flights of stairs and through corridors, all the time told to go faster by stewards and disorientated by coloured strobe lights. Occaisionally a figure appeared in the darkness of rooms we were passing in a gas mask or waving, as we fast walked/jogged towards a seemingly distant rumble.

As we hurried along more corridors, it became apparent that we were moving towards drums before emerging into what looked like an abandoned office met by a band playing and people starting to dance. ‘I can’t believe it’, whispered my partner, ‘this is my old uni library’. 

What followed next was in keeping with the surreal tone of the night, that skipped between serious and silly. A singular figure emerged on stage to list off every possible regret one could have about their life in a doom-ridden poem before PowerPoint slides exclaimed ‘How to Dance’ and the whole room erupted into silly routines. As weird as it sounds, the juxtaposition of contemplating your own worst fears and then bursting into the most-cringeworthy dance moves you’ve ever performed in your life was actually very life affirming! Like dancing off the list that precided it.

Afterwards we were ushered into another room with a DJ, board games, tea and coffee that was decorated with fairy lights, strewn about lamps and paper party emphemera. Now it was time to put those party skills into practice a let our hair down! I’m not sure exactly how much time I spent dancing, playing bowling or relaxing with a drink, but if it weren’t for the thinning crowd I would have happily stayed there for even longer.

On our way out we were given a goody bag and spent the whole of the walk home dissecting the crazy and fun-filled experience we had just had. And I’ve been annoying my friends by not shutting up about this event ever since. 


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