Australia’s events guru extraordinaire David Grant has been the invisible hand behind eight Olympic Games and some of the sexiest parties from Sydney to New York. With over 25 years experience in drumming up jaw-dropping events for media players and luxury brands such as Hermès and Calvin Klein, David knows a thing or two about what makes a party rock. This Smith reviewer also has a seriously adventurous travel habit. When not skiing in Jackson Hole (left), trying his hand at archery in Bhutan or taking mobile phone calls from the roof of Milan’s Duomo, he counts ‘fabulous’ Sydney as home.
What inspired you to get into event planning?
I’ve always had a creative streak and enjoyed entertaining, amusing and intriguing others, and my elaborate personal parties and ‘happenings’ sort of grew into a business. I love that you can dream up something totally fresh and ‘now’, pull it together by a strict deadline and then the next day it’s out of your life forever – the curse of a short attention span, perhaps?
Which of your past events are you most proud of?
I adore any event where the client totally trusts us to pull off something very cutting-edge and imaginative, and our experience and flair make it happen. Especially when guests bump into me in the street years later and say, ‘I still remember that amazing night when you did X….’ I always strive for that impact, and luckily, I’ve succeeded most of the time.
What are your top five tips for hosting the perfect party?
1: The right guest list is essential – a diverse group who know each other or have common interests, and are fun! – be brutal and keep it tight.
2: Create a bespoke ambience through stimulating design, lighting and sound so it’s a unique, emotional occasion.
3: Great service, food and drinks – regardless of budget, these basics need to be well thought out and presented.
4: Amusements – entertainments, diversions, intrigues that just ‘happen’ and create a journey over the ever-evolving life of the event so it’s always interesting, there are high and low points, loud and quiet ones, and a dynamic yet comfortable environment that leaves everyone with a smile and the feeling that they never want it to end!
5: Add a different element – that ‘wow’ effect that makes your bash memorable.
Which are your favourite party cities?
Beijing (right) for its creativity and audacity on steroids, out-there design, scale and mega-money. It’s a high-energy blend of expats and locals in a Blade Runner-esque world like no other. New York – because the entire universe is never more than 30 minutes’ away – whatever you want, whenever you want it. And New Orleans, especially Bourbon Street, for its unrelenting in-your-face entertainment, where every bar has a live band or DJ, and people dance outdoors. I love its unbridled, down-and-dirty funkiness.
Describe your ideal weekend away.
While I love a city weekend sampling restaurants and galleries in Melbourne, if I had a week to live I’d have to say Noosa on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast – get a beachfront apartment, out the front door there’s wining and dining on Hastings Street, and out the back door perhaps the best beach in Australia, plus great walks in the national park. It’s just a very easy, relaxing no-brainer of a break with reliably fabulous weather, and it’s only a 90-minute flight from Sydney.
Any pet hotel hates? Shower curtains instead of glass screens. Lack of generosity in rooms, whether it be towels, toiletries or TV channels. Unreliable laundry services that don’t meet your deadlines, when you’ve met theirs. Blasé concierges who despite their superior attitude generally know less than you do and have no more pull around town than you can quickly get yourself for restaurants, shows etc. Your room not being ready at the designated check-in time. Slow porters who finally get around to delivering your bag an hour later when you really wanted to just bring it up yourself!
And loves? Too many to mention. I do a lot of research to pick the right place to stay on my travels because I’ve always believed you can’t waste time or have regrets on any holiday and you should never stay anywhere ‘worse’ than where you already live – your hotel should inspire and relax you. I’ve got lots of favourites but everything is consistently perfect at the Amankila in Bali. I also love Southern Ocean Lodge on Kangaroo Island in South Australia, which I reviewed for Smith. Amazing location, staff, food and rooms – truly world class.
What do you never leave home without? A good budget, sleeping tablets and an iPhone loaded with audio books, podcasts and music for every occasion.
What travel trends are you predicting? Affordable luxury in hotels; cheaper business-class and first-class air travel as airlines either go hard or go bust; and Australians travelling abroad more because the Aussie dollar is so strong.
Who’s your ideal travel companion? My family, or anyone who drinks, laughs, sings and stays up late, then lies quietly in the sun during the day.