What VICE Staff Were Doing on the Day of the Number 10 Garden Party

"I was so bored I crawled inside a cardboard box for fun."
​Boris Johnson leaving Number 10 Downing St
Boris Johnson leaving Number 10 Downing St. Photo: Imageplotter/Alamy Live News

It’s easy to forget what you were doing on the 20th of May, 2020, so let’s refresh your memory – the UK was still in lockdown, almost a quarter of a million people had tested positive, and the death toll was rising. You were only allowed to meet one person from another household outside, as long as you stayed two metres apart. You weren’t allowed to visit your ailing relative or loved one in a hospital or care home, even if they were dying. Non-essential shops were shut, meaning the highlight of your week was standing in the hour-long socially-distanced queue to enter the Big Tesco


It was on this day that a top Downing Street official invited over 100 staffers to attend a lovely little BYOB party in the Number 10 garden. “Hi all,” reads the leaked email, “after what has been an incredibly busy period we thought it would be nice to make the most of the lovely weather and have some socially distanced drinks in the No 10 garden this evening. Please join us from 6PM and bring your own booze!”

ITV reports that 40 people – including PM Boris Johnson and his wife Carrie Symonds – joined the party to eat picnic food and drink. Less than an hour prior, then-culture secretary Oliver Dowden had spent the daily press conference reminding people to follow the rules and only meet outside in pairs. Johnson and Number 10 said this week that they could not comment on the story due to an ongoing inquiry into alleged rule-breaking at Downing Street. 

In a spirit of openness and honesty that will almost certainly not carry through to the official government inquiry, VICE writers shared what they were doing around the time of the Downing Street party.

“According to my camera roll, on the 20th of May, 2020 I was trying to give myself a fade with some clippers I bought off eBay, and ended up looking like Toad from Mario Kart. I never got into knitting or obsessively feeding a tub of yeast, so that was about as close to peak lockdown tragedy as I got. Nice to know No. 10 was balancing out the bad vibes I'd created by having a pizza party in the sun.” Jamie Clifton


“Wow, May 2020. The only thing I remember about that month is that my days consisted of one daily walk (to the graveyard) and back again. And then our household would drink G&Ts as soon as it hit 6.30PM, because there was literally nothing else to do. We also gave each other – and ourselves – a lot of stick 'n' pokes, so I was probably doing that on the 20th of May. There's this one stick 'n' poke on my leg that's supposed to be a devil's fork (I think?) but now I don't know what it is. A rune stone? I honestly don't remember. So while 40 people were partying at Number 10, I was repeatedly stabbing a needle into my leg. Cool!” Daisy Jones

“20th May was the hottest day of the year, so naturally I spent all of it inside. My friend came and we had a drink outside my door. He sat on a bin. Later that night, I was so bored I crawled inside a cardboard box for fun. At this point, I hadn’t seen my family in Singapore for a year, so it feels brilliant to know that Boris Johnson could allegedly combine work, fun and family time with Carrie all on the same day. It really does inspire you to do the absolute minimum.” Zing Tsjeng


“I just searched through my Instagram archive to see what I was doing in mid-May 2020. Not even fucking with you when I say: There's a video of my old housemate trying to extract a sideways satsuma from a pint glass with two fingers, without touching the sides. It was hilarious at the time. I also found the videos of our 'at home cocktail bar', which consisted of putting all our shit half-empty spirit bottles on the table with a bottle of lilt and some coffee and attempting to construct new ‘recipes’. We put an 'ambient cocktail noise' video on in the background. What a time.” – Helen Thomas


“According to my Instagram stories archive, I had finally managed to get a close-up video of a neighbour’s cat, which means I was unfortunately deep in my ‘watching cat drama from out of the window’ era. Very tragic.” – Hatti Rex

“That was the period of time where it was still light at like 8PM, the sun was out and my neighbour’s kids were outside screaming 24/7. So on May 20th after a big day of working from home, my housemate and I would make margaritas at home and then go sit in the park smoking back to back zoots.” Nana Baah

“It was a Friday; and Friday, Saturdays and Sundays were always bitter in lockdown. They reminded me of being excited. I watched the news, cooked chickpeas, and made one of those awful cocktails from chickpea water. Someone on WhatsApp had told me to make one – I don’t recall who – but I remember they made me feel like an idiot for having thrown away a life time of ‘aquafaba’. I mixed the chickpea water with whisky, lemon juice, syrup and ice, and drank it alone while watching the news. It was bitter, very bitter.” – Joe Zadeh

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“According to the only accurate document of 2020 I actually have (my iPhone photos, because my memories of 2020 cannot be relied on as they are the consistency of mushy peas), I was clearly in what is known as ‘denial’ around 20th May 2020. I was making courgette tarts, knitting awful scarves, and getting really, really into Oddbox, presumably hoping to ‘wholesome’ my way through whatever a ‘pandemic’ was. I am pictured above taking a selfie with a living salad for no discernible reason. There are also a lot of photos of me drinking wine around this date, which does explain things somewhat.” – Lauren O’Neill