Is it just me? Or are dinner parties turning into talent shows? Asks LIZ HOGGARD

Is it just me? Or are dinner parties turning into talent shows? Asks LIZ HOGGARD

Earlier this month the sculptor Sir Antony Gormley explained his dinner party trick. After dessert, the man responsible for the Angel of the North and the cast-iron figures at Crosby beach presses a lump of clay into the hands of guests and invites them to model with it.

‘There’s usually silence at that point,’ he solemnly told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, ‘but people get on with it and it’s rather wonderful.’

Dear God, no! I am second-to-none in my admiration for Sir Antony as an artist. But, as a host, forget it. I can’t think of anything worse than engaging in competitive party games with a table of high-minded guests. What’s wrong with just eating a meal and chatting? Surely being a good host is about putting people at their ease — not torturing them.

LIZ HOGGARD argues dinner parties are turning into talent shows (stock image is shown)

I’ve never understood the need for the ‘entertainment’ part of the evening in TV series Come Dine With Me either. Why make guests dress as a fireman or a disco diva just as everyone is gossiping over a bottle of red?

We’re so rarely allowed to relax over supper. I’ve been to evenings where the hosts supplied handwritten quizzes and personality tests (designed as ice breakers — ha!) or made us take part in charades. At one event we even had to eat cheeses in a particular order (‘Here is the Map of Cheese,’ the host said proudly, handing out printed flyers) so that we could experience the precise flavour combinations.

None of my friends is posh (we’re comprehensive school kids), but the desire for self-improvement is scary. As a nervous house guest, it’s bad enough being asked to move places between courses if you’re spotted getting on too well. So don’t for heaven’s sake ask me to turn the serviette into a party hat — or write a limerick about my neighbour.