Last month’s launch party for Bouga Cocktail Lounge in London’s Crouch End was a glittering celebrity charity bash for a rather surprising cause – grass-roots activist Peter Tatchell’s Human Rights Fund (PTHRF).
Transylvanian pop duo, The Cheeky Girls, Big Brother loudmouth Shabnam, glamour model Cassie Sumner and Keith Levene, a founding member of legendary punk rock band The Clash, were among some 200 guests who partied at the Moroccan restaurant in aid of the charity on July 23rd.
Other guests included actress Tracie Bennett, Princess Katarina of Yugoslavia and Baroness Young of Hornsey.
Carol Thatcher had said she would attend the event, but sadly failed to make an appearance.
A small number of tickets were sold to the public, at a hefty £150 a pair.
The majority of guests were celebrities and press invited by the man behind the event, Richard Curson, of Tangible Media.
The Bouga event is an interesting change of tone for Tatchell, who has shied away from the celebrity scene throughout his campaigning career, appearing to disapprove of corporate functions and champagne-fuelled celeb bashes hosted by the likes of Stonewall and similar organisations.
Peter Tatchell told PinkNews.co.uk:
“This event wasn’t organised or endorsed by the PTHRF. It was done independently by a well wisher. Richard Curson is a big supporter of my work and decided he wanted to turn the opening of this new restaurant into a fundraiser for my organisation.
“Celebrity bashes are not the way the PTHRF operates. I don’t mix in that world, I’m not really comfortable with celebrities, but it’s nice that someone wanted to raise money for the Fund.”
When asked about his seemingly critical view of such events he said:
“I don’t agree with grass-roots campaigning being usurped by celebrity events, but there is nothing wrong with celebrity events per se.
“I have never been critical of other organisations holding celebrity champagne bashes, if it means people are prepared to donate to any gay or human rights campaign.
“But no campaign group should ever accept sponsorship or funding from an organisation that is involved in discrimination.”
Pictures of Peter at the event will feature in a full-page spread in celebrity gossip magazine OK! next week.
He was snapped with The Cheeky Girls, band Mesh-29 and Keith Levene, among others.
“I don’t regard myself as a celebrity. I don’t want to be a celebrity,” he told PinkNews.co.uk
“I am a grass-roots human rights activist. But if celebrities want to support, publicise and donate to my campaign, then that’s fine.
“PTHRF-organised events, namely our annual fundraiser which is held in November, are not celebrity driven and have fairly low ticket prices to make them accessible to a wide-range of supporters.
“This event was a one-off and does not mark any change in direction for my Fund.”
The event received very little publicity and minimal coverage in the press afterwards, although the Hornsey Journal and London’s Evening Standard discussed the celebrities who attended in their showbiz columns.
Tatchell said: “I made the decision not to publicise the event on my websites as it was not organised by me.”
The press release for the event stated that: “Celebrities and press will not be expected to pay or donate as we hope their presence will attract positive awareness.”
Instead, the £2,000 which the event raised came from the few tickets that were sold and from money guests donated to Mr Tatchell’s charity throughout the evening, for example, by having a reading with clairvoyant Sue Miller Rolt or a tattoo from a henna artist.
The man behind the event, Richard Curson is a radio journalist and presenter, also known as Livsey. He used to work for MagicFM and Kerrang Radio, and now runs corporate PR company Tangible Media.
Curson and Tatchell became friends after back in 2004 when Curson was the victim of a homophobic prank by Kerrang DJ Tim Shaw. Tatchell helped Curson report Shaw to Ofcom.
He told PinkNews.co.uk:
“Peter has worked for 40 years as a human rights activist. He works 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.
“His whole life is devoted to helping other people. He works so hard he makes himself ill.
“I think that kind of determination and selflessness is just incredible. I admire him so much as a person and I wanted to do something for him and his organisation.”
Richard described the Bouga Cocktail Lounge event as an “entertainment-based party, with a celebrity focus.
“It was totally different to what he (Tatchell) has done before. It has taken the PTHRF into a totally different area. We have taken Peter’s message to a totally new group of people.
“At first Peter was anxious about the celebrity focus of the event. But I said to him it would make a change to get away from the normal, boring, routine human rights stuff. ‘Leave it to me, it will be fabulous,’ I told him.
“I dealt with all the publicity for the event – I didn’t want to take up Peter’s valuable time.
“The event raised less than £2,000. I had hoped it would raise more. But we invited so many celebrities and press. That was the main focus, the most important thing – raising awareness.
“A limited number of tickets were made available to the public but we tried to keep it low-key. It’s a very small venue and I didn’t want it to turn into a riot. I wanted to achieve a certain type of publicity.
“Everyone who attended gave something in some way, for example the Cheeky Girls performed for free, normally they would charge £5,000. None of the celebrities were paid to attend.
“Keith Levene performed for the first time in 20 years, which was a huge honour. He has also said he wants to donate 30 per cent of sales of his new album to the PTHRF, which is amazing.
“The whole event is being published in a one-page spread in next week’s OK! magazine – a first for Peter and the PTHRF.
“I think Peter feels quite honoured to be appearing in OK!, though he doesn’t see himself as a celebrity and is not overly impressed by such things. For him it just means raising the profile of his charity amongst a different group of people.”
Mr Curson has big plans for Tatchell’s annual PTHRF fundraiser, which he will be doing the PR for.
“The event will take place on the Southbank in November. Peter wants it to be more traditional than the Bouga event.
“He treats the Fund very seriously. But I am trying to persuade him it would be good to invite a few celebrities, for publicity. In the end though it is his decision and I respect that.
“I have asked Elton John to perform at the event though, to say thank you for giving me my freedom in a way. I think people like Elton who are successful and open about their sexuality owe a lot to Peter Tatchell.”
To see images of Peter Tatchell with the Cheeky Girls click here.