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Monday, 17 December, 2001, 12:23 GMT
Top tips for gatecrashing
With the economy looking dodgy, many companies have scaled down - or even cancelled - their Christmas parties. But those prepared to blag their way in may well find a swell party or two.

It's almost Christmas and the economic climate is almost as chilly as the air outside. Hence 12% of British organisations have ditched their annual bash, while many others are holding altogether more sombre affairs.

What to do instead? Here, consummate gatecrasher Nicholas Allan provides his top tips for getting your fill of festive cheer - at someone else's expense. (Of course, the BBC cannot endorse such behaviour).

Elijah Wood, a.k.a. Frodo, and fellow stars at the Lord of the Rings premiere
Want to party with the hobbits? Try these top tips
• Look the part
For those keen to enjoy the best things in life - as opposed to the bought-in-bulk drinks and nibbles laid on at your own work party - first impressions count. Go for anonymous black - designer suit for men, little black dress for women - and thermal underwear to avoid the risk of being collared while waiting to check a coat into the cloakroom. If it's fancy dress, boys, just say you're James Bond.

• Wait for the moment of mass stampede
Turn up alone and it's usually no invite, no entry. Tag on to a gaggle of guests, who may well hand over their invitations en masse with the words, "There's six of us." Make it through as guest number four and you're away.

• Know where to go
Scan the papers for a new bar or club about to open, a festival due to start, an exhibition preview. Listen in to conversations for parties to crash - mobile phone users, bless 'em, almost always blurt out where they're off to when arranging to meet friends.

• Keep your eyes open
All manner of goodies can be found on side tables: discarded invites (handy if the heavies start looking for freeloaders); business cards (those belonging to journalists are particularly helpful in getting into subsequent events); seating plans (learn the names of other guests, drop their names in conversation as if you know them).

• Drink and merry
But not too merry. Pack the party-goer's equivalent of emergency rations - cheese wedges, boiled eggs - and line your stomach before reaching for the free drinks. Following the canapé tray around the room will only get you noticed for the wrong reasons.

Madge at the Turner Prize
If you sit in Madonna's seat, don't pretend to be Madonna
• My name is...
Sometimes a bash includes a sit-down dinner with a seating plan. When everyone else has taken their place, make a beeline for an empty seat. But don't say you are that person - your neighbour may know them and immediately rumble you as an impostor. Instead say that you'd been put next to an "ex", a disgruntled employee, or a model railway collector and needed to get away. They will surely understand.

• What to do on being caught
Create doubt in the mind of your accuser. And if that doesn't work, say you mistook the party for another, particularly if more than one event is taking place at the same venue.

Finally, a word of warning from Mr Allan: gatecrashing can be strangely addictive, so much so for him that he ended up writing a book - The Complete Guide to Gatecrashing - about it.

But, he says, there is a downside. The appeal of genuine parties may wane for those who thrill to the subterfuge involved in blagging their way into someone else's bash.

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