Gillian’s 50th Birthday Party

On a beautiful late spring evening Gillian stepped on board the New Southern Belle to celebrate a special birthday – here’s her story…

It was my 50th birthday in May and I planned to celebrate in style with up to 100 friends and family.  I looked for a party venue in Richmond where I live, but wanted something more fabulous than a hotel room and buffet

The idea for a boat party came about when…


I moved to Richmond riverside a few years ago, and on my first night in my new home, I had gone to bed early, exhausted after unpacking all day, and then I heard Gloria Gaynor belting out “I Will Survive” coming from the river. I looked out and realised I was hearing the sounds of a party boat – it was the New Southern Belle and it sounded very much like everyone aboard was having a great time! My mind was made up ..

Planning my party… 5 eras of Soul!


I researched all the boat operators and quickly chose Turks – they could accommodate the size of my party, offered a good choice of catering and are not overly expensive to hire. The New Southern Belle also has two decks – giving plenty space for dancing upstairs but room for less energetic guests and chatting downstairs. We’d also be OK if the weather didn’t play nicely, as the decks are covered.


I chose fish and chips for supper – it really was the simplest option for a large party (and they were really good too!) and arranged for the boat to be decorated in silver and purple balloons from Balloon Crazy.  “Dancing through the Years” was the theme, and I put together a playlist of soul and disco tracks from my five decades for the very accommodating DJ! All was set..

The BIG day arrived!

A gorgeous Richmond, sunny day turned into a beautiful summer’s evening. When the boat came into view and made its way to the pier outside the White Cross on the Richmond riverside, the buzz of excitement was audible. Everyone was dressed in black tie and cocktail dresses, and I have to admit feeling a little smug as other patrons at the pub looked on enviously!

The captain greeted us on boarding and everyone was served welcome drinks. Frank Valli and the Four Seasons started up and we were off!

The Turks crew were fabulous – really welcoming and nothing was too much trouble. When we looked like we were running low of Prosecco, I have no idea how, but suddenly they had managed to get extra bottles on board! To have all your favourite people around you, dancing and laughing, great music and great food, and stunning views from the river, it could not have been any better.

The four hours flew past and everyone said it was really the best party ever and demanded a repeat next year! In fact, one couple have already booked their wedding reception on the New Southern Belle later this year.

My party’s most defining moment.

As we came back to Richmond, we ended with Pharrell Williams’ “Happy” which was very appropriate. In fact 1982’s track summed the night up perfectly – “A Night to Remember” by Shalamar. It’s not so bad being fifty after all!

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