Douglas Adams The Party

Douglas Adams The Party

Sunday 11 March saw a mass of towel-adorned Douglas Adams fans congregate for “the second most significant 60th jubilee of the year” (Chortle): Douglas Adams The Party. Save the Rhino and Douglas’s family and friends got together to create a 60th birthday party worthy of the late, great Douglas Adams. Held at the Hammersmith Apollo for 3,500 people, the event captured the essence of an evening spent at one of Douglas’s famous house parties.

Many of Douglas’s friends from the worlds of music, comedy, entertainment and science came together to honour the author, most famous for The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy. Stephen Fry was there in virtual form to introduce a film of himself and Mark Carwardine discussing Douglas’s passion for conservation.

Save the Rhino Patron and good friend of Douglas’s, Clive Anderson, did a fantastic job of hosting the evening and interviewing Python star Terry Jones and Sanjeev Bhaskar, where it came out that Douglas had once almost killed most of the Monty Python stars by driving the wrong way down the motorway. Sanjeev also told us that his famous comedy series The Kumars at Number 42 was a nod to the significant Hitchhiker’s reference (42 being the answer to life, the Universe and everything).

Clive hilariously referred to the time he famously offended the Bee Gees to the extent they walked off his talk show after the tribute act The Heebeegeebees (made up of Angus Deayton, Michael Fenton Stevens and Philip Pope) sang Meaningless Songs (In Very High Voices).

Douglas is of course best known for his science fiction writing, in which he explored his curiosity about the Universe and demonstrated his ability to think about the world in completely new ways. Those of Uncaged Monkey fame, Robin Ince, Simon Singh and Helen Keen covered the science for the evening, proving that Tellytubbies are in fact evil and that cats will one day take over the world (as well as how we know the Universe is expanding).

Jon Culshaw stood in for the sadly missing Brian Cox (who had to fly to Australia last minute – “to point at volcanoes” according to Robin Ince), with an excellent impression (complete with pointing). He also demonstrated his versatility by treating us to impressions of Sir Patrick Moore and Tom Baker (for whom Douglas wrote Dr Who episodes).

John Lloyd, creator of Blackadder and QI wrote The Meaning of Liff with Douglas in 1983. He treated us to a few of the top ‘Liffs’ that they created together – a redefinition of a place name with a meaning for which there is no current word. He also read some of the winning entries to the competition we ran in the lead up to the show. The winner was:

PEAKIRK n: One who regularly points out that there are no lavatories on the USS Enterprise

Interspersed throughout the night were various sketches written by Adams in the early years – for the 70s series The Burkiss Way and 1974 Cambridge Footlights, performed as if for a radio recording. Rory McGrath, Will Adams, Martin Smith and Susan Sheridan were amongst the performers demonstrating Douglas’s inventive use of language and wry sense of humour.

The surprise reveal at the end of the night was the band, who last performed together in Douglas’s living room. Introduced by Richard Curtis, the line up included David Gilmour, Robbie McIntosh, Gary Brooker, Jodi Linscott, Paul ‘Wix’ Wickens, Margo Buchanan, Dave Bronze and Paul Bevis.

“When a lean, affecting Gilmour sang Wish you Were Here or Gary Brooker from Procul Harum ended the show with A Whiter Shade of Pale, this really felt like a birthday party to remember” – The Times.

Ending with a heart-warming thanks by Douglas’s family and a film of Douglas walking into the sea overlain by What a Wonderful World, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house, or a person left sitting in their seats.

We’re proud and honoured to have created “one of the greatest events in the Galaxy” (Stephen Fry), with the wonderful friends and family of Douglas Adams. Thank you to everyone who helped make this happen. The Party raised almost £70,000, and we will be making grants to two other charities with which Douglas was closely involved: The Environmental Investigation Agency and the Gorilla Organization.

“In pursuit of the spirit of Adams, the whole evening was a touching tribute to a man whose work is not only loved, but still being adapted anew for television and radio nearly 11 years after his untimely death” – Herald Scotland

“For a brief time it felt like the much-missed wordsmith was indeed here. Particularly at the eyecatching end when the onstage screen showed him strolling naked into the ocean” – London Evening Standard

P.S. The highlight for us of course had to be the troupe of eight tap-dancing rhinos!

Intergalactic? Paranoid? Exterminating? Kamikazi? Or just plain fun? Tell us what you thought of Douglas Adams the Party!


The Times - Start turn out to say so long and thanks for all the memories

The Times: Stars turn out to say so long and thanks for all the memories

Starburst: Event review – Douglas Adams The Party, by Kris Griffin

The Telegraph: Douglas Adams: The Party, Hammersmith Apollo,  Review, by Dominic Cavendish

The Herald: A galaxy of real stars, by Carmody Wilson

London Evening Standard: Douglas Adams: The Party – Virtual 60th, Hammersmith Apollo, W6, by Bruce Dessau

Chortle: Douglas Adams the Party, by Steve Bennett

Brain Damage: Davd Gilmour performs at the Douglas Adams 60th Birthday Party, by Matt

Digital Spy: David Gilmour, Gary Brooker all-star band celebrate Douglas Adams’ 60th, by Mayer Nissim A galaxy of hitmakers David Gilmour live at Douglas Adam birthday party!


Hindustan Times: Adams – writer who made millions laugh out loud, by Dipanker De Sarker

Geek Dad: I miss Douglas Adams, by Jason Cranford Teague

The Guardian: Douglas Adams’s 60th birthday marked with liff, the universe and Pink Floyd, by Jonathan Sale

The Telegraph: Mark Carwardine: “Douglas Adams and Stephen Fry were unbelievably similar”, by Cole Morton

BBC: Douglas Adams loved ideas, but hated writing, says Terry Jones

25 thoughts on “Douglas Adams The Party

  1. Loved the show, no not too long. Went far too quickly. Great to see Philip Pope and the lovely Michael Fenton- Stevens ( sorry if spelt wrong) The dancing rhinos made me cry, and just one little niggle, not enough about their plight. Well done Cathy and team.

  2. I thought it was an absolutely outstanding evening. The icing on the cake for me was when they played “”Whiter Shade of Pale”” because I adored that when I was young, and there was the same man singing it in the same voice, after all that time! And I thought the film clip of Douglas in the sea was so touching and such a perfect way to end the proceedings – certainly left me with a lump in my throat and I’d never even met the man!

  3. Thanks and congratulations to everyone involved in Douglas Adams:The Party. It was everything a tribute should be, Douglas was so much at the heart of everything that despite never having met him I now feel like I’ve known him all my life! So many highlights – dancing rhinos, brilliant sketches, science with loads of oomph, tear jerking birthday messages, David Gilmour’s appearance – DAVID GILMOUR! I actually felt vaguely cool for the first time in my life!, superb rendition from everyone of A Whiter Shade of Pale and the excellent Liff entries. So good to be on the tube on the way home with a load of total strangers all singing ‘Meaningless Songs’. Exactly as a party should end. Happy Birthday Douglas.

  4. What a great night! If only it could run and run…and well done to all the Save the Rhino team/helper/staff/supporters/hangers-on/donors/and people with a passing interest in (a) Douglas Adams (b) rhinos and (c) a mostly harmless planet. We can do it when we try!!!! Which reminds me….I lumbered up Kilimanjaro for Save the Rhino last year. Unfortunately this years fund-raising epic has had to be postponed so if anyone reading this has a slight inkling of ‘doing Kili’ , please step up to the plate. The rhino’s need you and Save the Rhino will make it an unforgettable experience….honest!

  5. This was an outstanding show that had me alternating between tears and laughter. I cannot believe someone as idiotic as “”Jocelyn”” could have ever had the intellect to have enjoyed it anyway, but just for the record (a) it was for charity – no, wait, charities, (2) holding a script is the way things are done on the wireless, love, and (iii) “”Simon Singh (who?)”” What??? Read a zarking book!

  6. I was privileged enough to be there all day as a volunteer, so met some wonderful people and made some lovely new friends. As a close friend of the family, I know just how hard everyone worked to make the event happen and the generosity shown by so many was quite humbling. I never met Douglas, but if he was any way as sweet and loyal as Sue and the rest of the family, he was extremely special!! We are still on a high and buzzing from the whole event. In response to ‘Jocelyn’, I can only hope she doesn’t cross my path, as that level of crass self-centredness is disgusting. Did she shut her eyes during the footage of the rhino massace or doesn’t that matter to her as much as her collection of ‘celebrity spotting’? Very much not in my nature to respond to mis-guided vitriol but having seen the energy and love put into sharing some very personal memories of a wonderful brother, son, dad and friend, I want others to know how wrong she is.
    Thank you to all for allowing me to be part of something so awesome!! love n hugs xx

  7. What an astonishing achievement for a charity with a staff of 5. Not just the array of legenday comedians but then The Band. Incredible doesn’t do it justice. And as for the tap dancing rhinos, surely a viral hit waiting to happen.

  8. Some comments from Twitter: @DouglasAdams60

    Brian Cox ‏ @ProfBrianCox
    Sorry I missed the Douglas Adams party. I’m in Dubai waiting to head onwards to Australia to film crabs. Christopher Biggins was on my plane

    Stephen Fry ‏ @stephenfry
    Happy 60th Douglas Noel Adams. 11 March 1952 – 11 May 2001. As revered, admired, funny, needed & missed as ever #DouglasAdams60th

    Stephen Fry ‏ @stephenfry
    Here’s the avatar of me that introduced the Douglas Adams evening. Made by clever Headcast. or

    Neil Gaiman ‏ @neilhimself – my message to Douglas Adams, on the occasion of his 60th birthday.

    Simon Singh ‏ @SLSingh
    .@pollyjradams A pleasure & an honour to be a small part of Douglas Adams 60th birthday bash . Thanks.

    Mark Carwardine ‏ @MarkCarwardine
    Sadly will miss big Douglas Adams birthday party ( on Sunday. He’d have been 60. Miss him a lot. Tkts still available.

    @DouglasAdams60 I hope there is a DVD of the event planned! Is there, please tell me so!

    @DouglasAdams60 it was magic yesterday, thank you. (And that was the perfect clip to end on, too.)

    @DouglasAdams60 Thanks to everyone involved in yesterday’s fantastic show. It was a terrific celebration of a brilliant man’s life.

    @DorsetMacMan @pollyjradams @DouglasAdams60 THANK YOU for a wonderful, wonderful evening. #douglasadamstheparty

    @DouglasAdams60 @savetherhino Thanks for a fantastic night – I loved it!

    Had a great night at the Apollo for @DouglasAdams60

    So @DouglasAdams60 was amazing. I’ve come out inspired to write, sing, dance, read and look at the stars. Also – DAVID GILMOUR!!!!

    Well! That was Gary Brooker playing “”A Whiter Shade of Pale”” live. So there’s a thing! Great night.(@DouglasAdams60)

    @DouglasAdams60 #meaningofliff #liff I now need one for sobbing during a dancing rhino performance. @savetherhino

    Now Gary Brooker’s playing Whiter Shade of Pale at @DouglasAdams60 … Fantastic!

    Love that there wasn’t a queue for the handdryer @DouglasAdams60 because people have brought their own towels

    Amazing special guest performance by #dalek at @DouglasAdams60

    Laughing so much my face hurts @douglasadams60. Someone get me icecream!

    Enjoying @DouglasAdams60. Good show so far. I met Douglas in the early 80s & was an extra in the stage play at the Rainbow.

    Bet you’re jealous of the fact that I just saw Terry Jones in conversation @DouglasAdams60.

    Kids in the family sitting next to me have brought towels to @DouglasAdams60 – heartwarming.

    There are thousands of people at the Hammersmith Apollo for @DouglasAdams60 – it’s kinda awe-inspiring!

  9. Comments from the Douglas Adams The Party Facebook page:

    Jenz Kjellberg
    Brilliant night last night! Thank you so much!

    Clare Fitzpatrick Absolutely brilliant show… and what an ending! Such a privilege to be there. Will there be a video of the show available at some point? ;o) x

    Graham Nash Superb entertainment, brilliant evening. David Gilmour – legendary but Gary Brooker – what a talent?! Hat’s off to all involved with the organisation and to all the excellent performers. SAVE THE RHINO!

    Tammy Stevens
    Did not expect to see 6 rhinos tonight doing time step!

  10. What a fantastic night
    Dirk & the team did Douglas proud.

    The comedians, the scientists and the music where all top notch -what an amazing end, all those world class musicians coming together at the end – A night to remember for the rest of my life!

    All I need now is to win the Rhino to make my weekend even better 😉

  11. It was a brilliant from beginning to end. There was definitely a party atmosphere with so much variety something for everyone. Not forgetting your all too important message.
    Thank you everyone at Save the Rhino, whose hard work made it an evening to remember.
    My only regret is that I forgot my towel!!!

  12. Absolutely perfect. What better way to celebrate Douglas’s 60th?? I loved the music, the science (finally, someone’s proven the absolute evil of the teletubbies) and well… the sketches! My mum’s face when David Gilmour appeared was priceless, as was mine! I loved the fact that everything seemed so relaxed (and I bet it wasn’t backstage!), as if you were sitting in Douglas’s front room back in the day. I mean, the element of everyone having a script to hold was perfect; it was as if I were at a radio recording. Clive Anderson was a great host, and thanks for the perfect evening! It certainly gave me something to talk about at school (not that anyone knew who Douglas was 🙁 )

  13. Really disappointed with the shambles of Douglas Adams: The Party. Some party – two of the lineup didn’t even turn up and this was not publicised (apparently it was brought to peoples’ attention on a secret/imaginary Facebook update in the basement or something)

    The sketches were unrehearsed. Apparently this was a feature of the show but they were so unrehearsed that every single person had to hold a script. It was like watching the rehearsals of a school play.

    I really wouldn’t have bothered coming had I known the two people I actually wanted to see were not going to be there. Apparently I should be grateful that Simon Singh (who?) and David Gilmour were playing. Not knowing who the former is and the latter playing a song that was played at one of my friends’ funerals really did not make up for it.

    What a waste of money.

  14. Fantastic night and thank you to everyone involved, it was stunning. Expect the unexpected and you get dancing rhinos – bargain!

  15. As soon as I heard of the Party, I treated me and my family to tickets and what a treat – a moment to remember. This is my personal vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big thanks to all of you at STR for all the hard work in organising the Party. And to Douglas’s family too who are kind enough to share this special date with us and also did so much to make the Party happen. Quite simply it was a privilege to be a part of the crowd’s frisson of excitement of as we lined up to get in, the show itself, and the ‘that was one of the best events ever’ afterwards.
    My children are in their early 20s and they grew up with my love of Hitchhikers, Monty Python, and other silly but wonderful and clever comedy and have their own love of it. I weaned them on Pink Floyd and Queen and introduced them to my kind of music including Procol Harem. They now have a very eclectic and wide love of music including my kind of sounds. We laughed all evening until the music started at which point we were in awe. Loving music as much as my children do, for them to see David Gilmour perform live was the pinnacle of the evening – and what a performance with Gary Brooker. I am being repeatedly thanked by my family for taking them. Actually we need to thank all the performers for generously sharing their talents with us. And Douglas for being Douglas.
    I hope the show has raised a ton of money for STR, the desperately in need rhinos and this Wonderful World. I was pleased to see t-shirts, cuddly rhinos etc flying out of the booth.
    Thank you again for your triumph and for making my family very happy because we were there.

  16. It was really impressive, and we both enjoyed the show very much. I’ve got my raffle tickets and really want to win the Ardman model.

  17. A wonderful, original and entertaining event last night. The finish with Gary Brooker of Procul Harem singing ‘Whiter shade of Pale’ with Dave Gilmour on lead was a life moment. I was brought up with that track being played continuously… Who was the girl singer? She was brilliant but I couldn’t place her and she wasn’t introduced (unless I missed it).
    Anyway thanks for a great time

  18. It was a fabulous evening and amazing what the team managed to pull off, the audience would have been happy to sit there for another couple of hours. The time went past so quickly and the support for such a good cause was brilliant.

  19. Wow!! What a brilliant night! Loved the comedy, loved the scientists (yes, yes, they were part of the comedy), loved the rhinos (esp the dancing ones), loved the reminiscences, loved the music, loved it all. Thank everyone who helped, it was epic. It was peng. It was spiffy. It was wonderful, just wonderful.

  20. Top night Cathy – well done to you and the whole team for pulling that all together. Sorry we couldn’t hang around afterwards for a beer, but I hope you had a couple of glasses to celebrate the successful evening.

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