Review: Churchill Springball

“If Churchill Springball had been in May Week, no-one would have gone.”

Blueprint Churchill june event May Ball May Week springball

If Churchill Springball had been in May Week, no-one would have gone. Why mingle in its concrete shell when you could be gliding elegantly past Pembroke’s medieval gate house? Why pass out on its red-brick steps when you could end your night at Tit Hall, looking drunkenly down to the river at the shimmering reflections of the stars.

However, Churchill Springball wasn’t in May week. It was on Friday night. And it was good. Really good.

Timing wasn’t the only thing which helped the organisers. Their most significant triumph was their recognition of what they couldn’t do. Viennese masquerade this was not, but the committee came at the task without any of the opening paragraph’s pretension, any of its Cambridge snobbery about what constitutes a good time. Enthralling? Magical? Enchanting? Churchill Springball was unequivocally none of these things. Fun? You bet.

The booze situation was perhaps the highlight. After pouring the first few Cherry VKs into glasses to overcome the absurd incongruity of holding a sticky, pink bottle and wearing black tie, we soon dropped the pretence. On the ball’s facebook page one organiser had promised “Booze aplenty, plenty”. The phrase “aplenty, plenty” doesn’t mean anything. But then again Churchill Springball should have been spelt ‘Spring Ball’ and it’s not entirely clear why Spring should actually have made any appearance in the title of the event, so let’s not dwell on semantics. The VKs were just one indication that they were getting the atmosphere right.  Curry on naan bread, brimming plastic cups of fruity mixers and five chocolate fountains weren’t intended to keep dresses clean but to show us a really good time.

Headline act The Rumble Strips entertain the crowd in the main tent. Photo: Gavin Bateman

In the ‘Carnaby Street’ dining hall, decked out ready to host a 1960’s Prom, a choice of curry, pasta and piles of sausages was dished up onto paper plates. The disappearance of a lot of the food after 11.00 might have riled a few but then again Blueprint were performing at 11.45 and Blueprint are better than food. Anyway, find me one girl compaining at the lack of hot fare and there would be ten too delighted at being given free make up by the organisers to even care.

In the spirit of the swinging sixties it was about the freedom to choose between fahitas, kebabs or falafel, and then between giant twister, human table football or a coconut shire. The evening had the feel of a festival with the large marquee, 20 ft inflatable slide and a Woodstock wonderland of blow up things to laze around in.  Though the table cloths were paper and gaffer tape held tissue flowers to the walls at the expense of perfection there was more to do than time would allow.

Photo courtesy of Gavin Bateman

The well run casino saw guests throw away fortunes that they never had and in the impressive theatre the willing crowd responded well to an improv show which, on our visit, featured a fearless Oxford actor telling a helpless John’s 2nd year that he expected him to “mount me and ride until you’re sick. I’m like a kettle, I’m engergy efficient”. On second thoughts you probably had to be there for that one.

Co-president Jasmine Baker told The Tab last week that she was confident that the pieces were in place for Churchill Springball 2010 to be a runaway success. And as the eclectic mix of events, bands and entertainments that she had organised got into swing it became increasingly clear that she would be proved right.

For most May Balls and June Events the chosen theme isn’t much more than an enticing marketing line which gives some coherence to the night’s decorations, some raison d’être for the committee’s elaborate designs. Churchill’s Sixties theme turned out to be more than that. To celebrate the permissive decade, Churchill’s organiser’s gave their visitor’s permission – for one night only – not to worry about fifth week blues.

As some coked-up rocker once said, “If you can remember anything about the sixties, then you weren’t really there.” We can remember most of Churchill Springball because we took photos, some shakey video footage and wrote some barely comprehensible notes on a phone. For everyone else, spot on.

Photo courtesy of Gavin Bateman

Click here to read Chris Bannon’s review of the Springball’s music.

If you were at the Sprinball, you can see and buy photos here.