I was the head of the Piers Gaveston Society, which is the society that David Cameron allegedly stuck his dick in a pig for. I never did that. According to Lord Ashcroft’s unofficial biography of the prime minister, Cameron did what he did as part of an initiation ritual, but the society in my day (late 2000s) didn’t have initiation rituals because it wasn’t a proper society. Unlike the Bullingdon Club, we didn’t get up in ridiculous costumes and vandalise restaurants. All we did was organise the kind of party that people put their dicks in pigs at. If Porkergate happened at all, it was almost certainly at a party and not at dinner and people were almost certainly doing more shocking things at it than fucking pigs’ heads.
The society was left to me by an old schoolfriend at a time of crisis. There are traditionally 12 members but eight of them had just left the university, so I roped in some more friends. In the past, members of the society would stump up a few hundred quid to join. This money would be used as the start-up capital for the party, and it entitled the members to a share of the profits made by the sale of ‘invitations’. My friends didn’t want to give me hundreds of pounds, either because they didn’t have them or because they thought if they gave them to me they’d never see them again. I said that was fine: I could begin by covering costs myself, then use the money from ‘invitation’ sales as it came in. I asked several female friends if I should be asking women to join the ‘society’ and they all said no. In their view people only went to Oxford to feel as if they were in a pornified Evelyn Waugh novel. If word got out that there were women in Piers Gav (as it was known) it would impact on ticket sales.
The first thing to sort out was our names. There was a traditional stock of them, but as a reformist and moderniser I allowed the new members to choose new ones if they wished. Most didn’t, and I assigned the names we had randomly. I can’t remember all of them, or who was who, but among our number there was a Fellatrix, an Irrumator, a Raging Horn and a Mr Whippy. The one name that couldn’t be randomly allocated was mine. The head of the Piers Gaveston Society is known as the Lord High Spanker – Spanks to his mates.
The next thing was the ‘invitations’. We met up, got drunk and decided on a colour scheme: hot pink with gilt edges. We started selling them (£40 a pop x 500), which was easy, because the society has a reputation for sex and debauchery. One reason they were called ‘invitations’ rather than ‘tickets’ was that it’s illegal to serve alcohol without a licence unless you’re putting on a private party. As it happened, I managed to apply successfully for a temporary events licence – legally we were in the clear – but we were selective about whom we sold tickets to. There was a bit of ‘inviting’. At least half the guests needed to be women, and if you looked like the kind of person who would freak out and need to go to hospital, or call the cops, you couldn’t come. But you didn’t need to be posh.
I started making bookings. The most important thing about the party is that it takes place at a secret location. Guests meet at a certain time and place and coaches come to pick them up and take them to the venue. In the morning, coaches pick them up again and take them back to Oxford and none of them knows where they’ve been. That makes the party feel more magical, and, like the names, makes it safer for the organisers if something goes wrong: ‘The drug-fuelled orgy was organised by a man called, erm, Spanks, and took place, well, in a meadow somewhere. There were trees … I distinctly remember trees …’ The coaches were by far the most expensive thing I paid for. The next most expensive thing was the soundsystem and DJs. I wanted the party to have the air of imminent catastrophe that I’d known at squat raves in London, so I booked a guy called Matt Storm and a couple of his mates who had a rig and played hard dance and acid techno at parties around Oxfordshire.
One of the members of the society – our token aristo – said that his family had a small hill and barn we could use as a venue for £500. I drove out there with another society member to check it out and it was perfect, not at all the kind of place where you have wedding receptions. The hill was craggy, steep, wind-blasted and isolated; the barn looked as though something dreadful had happened there. I remember thinking about what it would be like when the guests arrived and saw it for the first time, about the tang of fear that would reassure them that they were doing something wild. We booked it. Another member knew a friendly drug dealer who was up for being the party’s official medicine man. I had a meeting with the dealer and we drove out to the venue again to show him how to get there. It was Sunday afternoon. When we got to the hill we heard the sound of techno coming from some woods nearby. We followed the sound and found a small rave which had been going on since the Friday. Another good sign.
The party went well, I think. It’s hard to know. I was at the venue all day. We built a large fire. The booze – about a million tonnes of it – arrived on time. Some marquee guys put together a chill-out tent. I’d decided that people on drugs would want to eat sweets, so I’d bought loads of them, but we didn’t have a table to put them on so they stayed on the floor: I felt vaguely irritated by that all night. The fire was lit. Storm fired up the techno. At nightfall, the coaches arrived full of guests wearing drag, fetish outfits, superhero costumes, wedding dresses, ecclesiastical robes, Mexican wrestling masks. Some of them were anxious at first because they couldn’t find the drugs, but then the dealer turned up. He was wearing a white cowboy outfit and had a large suitcase full of powders and pills. People got wasted, danced and had sex. Even I had sex, in a non-exhibitionistic way, with a fellow human being. I thought it would reflect badly on the society if I didn’t. I also worried quite a lot about the fire going out. At some point the cops showed up but I managed to keep it together enough to wave the temporary events licence in their face, and the party continued. It wasn’t until daybreak that I felt I could relax. At six, people were sat around the fire looking grey, but I became a charming host, bubbly and gracious, passing round plates piled with drugs and thanking people for coming. No one, as far as I know, fucked a pig’s head. But if they had it wouldn’t have mattered (provided it was consensual). Fucking a pig’s head is not what makes David Cameron a rubbish prime minister.
A couple of years later, after my finals, I went to a Piers Gav rave again. Former members can get in for free. I went to the members’ tent to say hi to the Lord High Spanker, but he was having sex with someone so I only saw his arse. I thought about trying to give him a high five, but the angle made it difficult. His party was excellent though, more Salammbô than Wuthering Heights, with hookah pipes and upholstery everywhere and a massive bowl of LSD-spiked punch.