Johnny Roxburgh

 Johnny's Eye 

  • Johnny in the sk‘eye’

    • Parties
    • Travel
    • Weddings

    Given that I spend so much time at Terminal 5, it seems totally appropriate that I should be writing the latest Johnny’s Eye at 36,000 feet on my way to organise a wedding in glorious Madrid.
    It is almost inconceivable that this Easter weekend wedding has come around so quickly! How can 2019 be disappearing so fast?

    There are times when I feel I take too many flights; I don’t ever remember travelling so much. Over the last few weeks I have been planning an extraordinary wedding in New York, a party in the South of France, a glittering wedding celebration in Madrid, a party in Ireland, a dance at Spencer House in London, a Highland birthday and countless other events; I have spoken at conferences in Italy, started planning a TV programme in India, been to a wedding conference in Dubai, designed two dinners in Florence, and it’s not even May yet – seems enough for anyone.

    The party in NYC is being held in an uber-sexy nightclub/cabaret theatre in a run-down street in Brooklyn. The waiters (who are also the artistes) are 98%, or is it 99%…, nude. Edgy, cool and the kind of place that only a very self-confident couple could choose. I have been having great fun designing the menus, cocktails and whole look of the evening. My clients are divine; exciting to work with and full of energy – it’s rather what life should be about.

    Whilst I was in New York, I stayed at the NoMad Hotel; a very cool hotel designed by the fantastic Jacques Garcia. His flair is faultless and this hotel is truly wonderful – their truffle stuffed chicken is right up there in my list of last suppers, together with their hen’s eggshells filled with sturgeon, sitting on chive oil topped with a warm sabayon and served in a copper ‘Faberge’ egg. Blissful urban bedrooms and charming martini-stirring barmen – a superb place to stay. Personally, I never understand why anyone would want their martini to be shaken – the shattering ice just dilutes the spirit – Bond has it completely wrong as far as I’m concerned.

    I have just come back from a few days in Dubai, where I was invited to the excellent wedding planning conference, held at the incredible Atlantis Hotel. This fantasy setting, with its amazing tanks of huge tropical fish and water parks where you can swim with dolphins, was the perfect setting. Efficiently run and hugely enjoyable; I met lots of friends, both old and new, and as always learnt new ideas and creative skills. A huge thank you to the Destination Wedding Planners Congress for inviting me.

    After the Atlantis, we moved to the Armani Hotel in the Burj Khalifa. We hadn’t planned to go there but our trip to India had to be changed, so we spent two blissful days in this effortlessly cool ‘Europe in Dubai’ hotel. Wonderful food and heavenly rooms with great views of metropolitan Dubai. Polished, smooth, super European, but with a Dubai influence – we loved it. A shame we didn’t get to India in the end, but I am rather glad we had the chance to enjoy such a spoiling treat.

    My great, great, great, great ……… grandfather was, I believe, the father of Indian botany. Like me, he came from Scotland and eventually found himself living in Kolkata as a doctor in the 1790s. Fascinated by Indian flora he built a vast house in the middle of the Botanical Gardens and began an intensive study of Indian plants. You can look up the house online ‘William Roxburgh House’. It’s now a ruin and there are plans to restore it and make it the centrepiece of botanical education, to be named The Roxburgh Hub. The Scottish Asia trust is involved as well as several other institutions. I may or may not be a direct descendant, but all the eldest sons in my family are called William and have been for generations. I think it’s fascinating and am thrilled to be involved. I am in the process of discussing the possibility of making a documentary about this lovely old building, which should be great fun to do and a wonderful chance to learn about my ancestor.

    I had planned to go there after Dubai – flights and hotels all arranged – but as Robbie Burns said ‘The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft a-gley’… We suddenly had to get back to London and so my trip to this part of one of my favourite continents will have to wait until later in the year.

    Good things always come out of chaos and for us, the upside was that we were treated to a First Class Emirates flight from Dubai to London. Emirates is a truly class act, with great staff and a polished product – I feel my life has been very deprived as I have never flown in a plane with two 10-foot long bathrooms complete with working showers; I think it may be something I could become accustomed to very easily!

    I would, however, be being churlish if I didn’t also thank British Airways for giving me a whole page in their April High Life magazine! They had asked me for the 15 things I pack when travelling – I hope it is inspiring but also makes you smile.

    Spencer House is the setting for a beautiful dance I am designing for September. The gardens lend themselves perfectly to a marquee and the house is beyond ravishing – truly the jewel in the London-venue crown. I can’t give away the design just now but I will tell you all later in the year.

    The seat belt sign has just come on and so I guess we are coming in to land – a good reason to let Johnny’s Eye close – but it will be wide open again very soon.

    I hope you all had a very Happy Easter.

  • Mentoring

    • Parties

    For the last few years, I have had the privilege to provide mentoring to students at The Event Academy all of whom are studying to be involved in the events industry.

    The students are a refreshing mixture of enthusiastic young people and I find the cross-pollination of ideas between them and me is stimulating, refreshing and perhaps most importantly fun.

    I write a very detailed brief for an event – peppered with clues and plans for them to research, and then in groups of between 6 and 8 people they produce a fully costed pitch.

    I always ensure that the budget is a healthy one (no one wants to have their imagination limited by anything a sordid as money) – of course in the real world life is not often like that.

    I go to meet all the students together and they fire questions at me for two and a half hours, getting more information and details about the proposed event. Then after about two months, they pitch their ideas to me and two of the University lecturers.

    They produce amazing props, videos, place settings, and floor plans – really they go to a huge amount of work. In addition to the physical creations, they also produce a fully cost document listing all the suppliers and their costs together with floor plans, risk assessments, menus, wine lists etc. some are hugely impressive and look like glossy magazines.

    I think the students really enjoy doing what they do and I love their enthusiasm.

    Below is a summary of this year’s brief together with the three best entries condensed pitches.

    All the students should be very proud of what they produce but these ones were the outstanding ones for 2018.

    These young people are the future of our industry and I wish them all success.

    Find out more about the assignment here:

    Christmas Party Concept


    ColCreMi – A Never Ending Story
    Magnificent Moments
    StoryTeller Events Proposal


  • Back to the U.S.A. – A Tri-state trip

    • Parties
    • Travel

    I am always thrilled to be going to America – New York, Boston, San Francisco, Los Angeles and anywhere in between.

    Two weeks ago I set off for Las Vegas as part of a trip to plan an event later in the year. My flight from Terminal 5 was at a civilised time of the day so I made my way to the luxury of Fortnum and Mason for a late breakfast. This is a perfect bar in the middle of the terminal, where I often have a light lunch or supper before a flight. The staff are charming and remember who you are, the coffee is delicious and the food simple but good.

    I had just come back from working in Nice, Paris and Rome and was looking forward to a long 12 hours rest courtesy of BA and was fortunate to have a comfortable window seat. I was also testing Jet Candy, a new homeopathic anti-jetlag. It comes in the form of pinhead-sized pills and you take a series of them before you take off, on the flight and when you land. It seemed to have worked well and I certainly wasn’t as wiped as usual!

    Las Vegas is always fun for a couple of days. We were looking for private dining rooms here for when the guests arrive from Europe but managed to squeeze in a great drag show called Divas whilst we were there – very fun! After a few eye-watering buckets of gin and tonic (mostly gin!) we went to Fremont Street to see the zip-line (you fly from one end a huge shopping mall to the other 20’ off the ground while above your head an incredible video and sound projection plays).

    We found the perfect venues, shopped in Venice – the bizarre copy of the Grand Canal two floors up in The Venetian Hotel – and had an excellent dinner at Le Cirque while watching the dancing waters of Bellagio. A quick bit of gaming and then back to the Mandarin Oriental.

    In the hotel, a young couple were celebrating their wedding and having their photographs taken in the lobby. Unfortunately, they hadn’t realised that in every picture there was a huge vending machine in the background – I told them and I think they were pleased that for the rest of time they wouldn’t have the MO drinks dispenser in their photos.

    Vegas: “tick” – we covered everything one needs to do, apart from the Cirque du Soleil shows. Perhaps next time…

  • Travel tips

    • Fashion
    • Parties
    • Travel

    I spend my life travelling around the world organising amazing parties and weddings.
    No matter how I travel, it’s always an effort, and in my life I get off a plane, start working immediately and have to look as polished as I can. So here are some travel tips that make my globe-trotting lifestyle easier. I hope you find them useful.

    I have to say I am slightly addicted to great hotel laundry. There is little as wonderful as a snow white shirt that has been starched and pressed in a far eastern five-star hotel or dried in the sun in an amazing Italian, Spanish, Portuguese…. laundry – all smelling of lavender and olive soap.

    This luxury, of course, comes at a price, and while I still send alarming quantities to the Gritti Palace laundry in Venice (my favourite hotel) I have, over the years, learnt a little about packing, which at least means I can still go out for dinner night one, looking reasonably crisp.

    The first trick seems simplicity itself – buy a good suitcase. Unless you are flying PJ all luggage gets bashed and so I buy cases that look even better once they have been knocked about.

    I love Globe-trotter luggage– their Orient express inspired 33” case is finished in dark brown Japanese urushi lacquer, with burgundy leather trim and champagne silk lining. The range is smart and timeless. Add your initials in a wonderful colour and then the final touch – a Globe-trotter luggage label – I have just been given a red one with an image of my spaniel on it – perfect for this ‘Chinese Year of the Dog’. The older these cases are, the grander they look – they have style written in every scratch and dent and of course, these marks are a visible record of your travels.

    Packing in tissue paper may sound old fashioned but if your clothes are properly folded or rolled and then enveloped in tissue, that has to be the way forward.

    A less complicated solution is Muji’s different sized zip up bags – light as air and perfect for packing shirts, pullovers, underpants and socks, they keep everything flat, tightly together and make unpacking in hotel rooms a dream. I am sure they are also great for women’s clothes but I have a little less experience packing them! I stuff jacket sleeves with tissue, put clean shoes in shoe bags (I don’t want polish on my clothes) and always take a dirty laundry bag with me.

    I fold shirts and pullovers over a copy of Tatler – just the right size to avoid obvious creases when you unpack. On that note, I always travel with Roullier White’s Mrs White’s ‘Crease Decrease’. At £15, this spray is a bargain and like so many of their products it really works. I have been using their amazing ‘Unstung hero’ insect repellant for years – fantastic and unlike so many mosquito sprays it smells delicious, rather like a gin and tonic, which always works for me.

    When I am going to two destinations I often take two cases with me and pack the things that I need for each part of my trip in a separate case so that I am not lugging one huge case around. Also, it gives me an excuse to buy more luggage. Real luxury is not carrying your cases at all. Use ‘First luggage’ to ship everything for you in advance. This luxury travel service delivers door to door and better still returns it – they carry your bags so you don’t have to.

    For mere mortals, there is one absolutely invaluable tip, which takes seconds. When you fly, photograph your case with the airline tag on it before it disappears on the conveyor belt at check-in. If the airline loses your luggage and asks you what it looks like, you can show them. Couldn’t be easier, I hope you never have to use it.

    Travelling is fun, and I love it. Fortunately, I am still asked to wonderful places. Follow ‘Johnny’s Eye’ for more insights into my world.

  • Dreaming and travelling

    • Parties
    • Styling
    • Travel

    A life spent dreaming and travelling has given me access to some of the most extraordinary places, houses and people.

    I think it’s time for me to share a few of my ideas and inspirations.

    It’s only the middle of February and already I have eaten tempura in Tokyo, watched snow monkeys playing in the frost covered trees of northern Japan, flown to Nice and Monaco twice – (going for a third time next week) – been to the Vatican where I am planning a very special lunch and dinner and am packing my Globe-Trotter cases to fly to Vegas, Utah and L.A. in ten days time, to organise a stunning weekend party in the desert.

    Seems enough air miles for six weeks!

    Will find so many great new suppliers and will share these and my visions of the future and also the some of my extraordinary heritage – I hope you enjoy reading Johnny’s Eye.