Breaking and Entering: a guide to crashing May Balls


crashing May Ball may balls May Week

May Balls are great, right? Wrong; they cost too much, and that’s only if you can get a ticket. It’s hardly surprising that every year dozens of people fight The Man for free fun. We’ve all heard the fanciful myths: the guy who scuba-dived into John’s, removing his wetsuit to reveal starchy black tie. But how is it done in the real world?

One particularly secretive and notoriously elusive group has most of the answers. Moving only in the shadows this troop of ransacking bandits could break into the White House if they really wanted to. After months of trying, The Tab finally made contact with these masterminds. We were blind folded and taken to a secret location where the spiritual leader of the group addressed us from behind a smoke screen. We begged for entrance routes and advice and finally got a few gems.

They started by laying out the basics. Wristbands are the easiest way in. Either a friend gets in, cuts it off and manages to smuggle it out or you mock up something that looks very similar. It’s best to use the original and make sure it’s fastened tightly because security Fascists pull hard to make sure you’re not doing exactly what you’re doing.

Confidence is key. Being drunk and oblivious is always useful but better still is acting drunk; the ever professional Shadow Bandits never drink on the job. And this is what it is to them: a job, a sport, a hobby. Purists, they do if for the thrill of beating The Man. They refuel on hog roast and oysters and then glide out unnoticed, moving on to the next target.

The shadow bandits are much like Xmen; each having a particular talent. Some use hypnosis and Derren Brown mental tomfoolery. Others use professional climbing equipment to scale impossible walls that no Brownshirt would ever consider worthy of patrol. One daring individual pounces on security guards, presses two fingers on the jugular for 3 seconds and sends them into a short sweet sleep.

Unfortunately no one is ever selected for the Shadow Bandits. Membership is a privilege bestowed by natural ability. Some people simply have what it takes to never get caught but this doesn’t mean that mere mortals have been unsuccessful. A couple of years ago some cheeky ball-breakers turned up at John’s claiming to be Alcock Improv; before the real Alcock Improv arrived. Sadly over use of this tactic means a performer’s photo ID system is now in place at the better balls.

Nonetheless the battle continues. Every year dozens front as waiters to slip through a much looser security net. Ideally you need a friend already working at the Ball. Show up with said friend ready for work. Get stuck in, clarify what “shifts” you’re doing or volunteer for something easy like rubbish collection. Either way, get your staff pass and slip off into the moonlight.

Preparation is key. With a mole in the security staff you can waltz in as if it was your own birthday party. Also – know your enemy. Get into the mindset of a crazed Vietnam veteran. What would they do? Stake the place out – carry out reconnaissance; look for guard changes and weaknesses in the fence system. Some are much more vulnerable than others. Be bold, bring tools to dismantle a fence or cutters or a blow torch. Lastly, teamwork always helps; communicate security staff whereabouts. Not all weak points can be covered at the same time. Be patient and if need be create a diversion.

As with every year, some missions will end in champagne soaked triumph, others will others fizzle out in a dejecting walk of captured shame. But every year The Man will lose to some.