Peterhouse May Ball

At £150 a ticket, TABATHA LEGGETT is left underwhelmed by Peterhouse’s white tie ball.

Cambridge jakwob May Ball May Week may week 2012 Peterhouse peterhouse may ball review Tabatha Leggett

Peterhouse May Ball

16th June 2012, £150

It’s Cambridge’s oldest college, they only host a ball every three years and the last one was cancelled because students underperformed in their exams. It’s fair to say that no one was expecting anything less than perfection from Peterhouse May Ball this year. But unfortunately, it didn’t deliver.

Don’t get me wrong; some things were done well. Champagne was still flowing at 5am, the lighting show was spectacular and the Ferris wheel was unsurprisingly fantastic. But some of the most basic elements of a ball were overlooked by a committee who appeared to care more about making it look good than making sure their guests had fun. Like catering for hungry people. And thirsty ones. And those who like to pee with the lights on.

Given that students forked out £150 each for a Peterhouse ticket, and that May Balls essentially involve getting drunk with your friends in beautiful settings, it’s very easy to overlook a ball’s deficiencies in favour of reminiscing over a good night. But that wouldn’t make for a fair review.

I’m not denying that Peterhouse looked great. The tents outside were beautifully decorated and furnished, the lighting shows in The Mirrored Court were absolutely lovely and the college’s interior was delightful. And champagne was served in wooden rowing boats, which looked really cool. But severe logistical oversight meant that everything was just a bit confusing. Outside paths were unlit, the ice cream van lacked any lighting whatsoever and the caricaturist couldn’t see her subjects properly. Or maybe I just look surprisingly Oriental. Who can be sure? Even the toilets lacked lighting, which was awkward for the girls and, I imagine, harrowing for the boys.

I’m being harsh. The musical entertainment was good. Jakwob’s set made for great, unpretentious fun, and groups like The Fitz Sirens and Esperada created a charming atmosphere in the outside tent. Even if the music was unexciting it was enjoyable. Jakwob isn’t a great headliner, but he is great fun.

There was never a shortage of things to do. Whilst the typical tarot readers and crystal ball gazers freaked out half of the guests with their, let’s be honest, bullshit, the rest of us were entertained by the usual mix of silent discos, casinos and shisha pipes. And the Ferris wheel. The Ferris wheel, which I found very casual and not at all scary and if anything slightly mundane and underwhelming, and I definitely managed to enjoy the view without fearing for my life. Overreactions aside, there’s nothing quite like watching Cambridge at night from the sky. It was wonderful.

And the catering was also good. Everything just ran out too quickly. The antipasti were delicious, YubbaYubba doughnuts were as tasty as I remember and the paella was served in hugely exciting wooden boats. There was a vast selection of drinks at the start of the night, and it soon became evident that the committee hadn’t skimped on quality. From the gin shack to the cocktail bar and the cider tent, everyone was catered for. But given that cheese stopped being served at 11.30pm and the cocktail bar ran out of cocktails at 1.30am, and I like both cocktails and cheese, I was left sad and hungry.

Good value for money, this wasn’t. Subtleties were overlooked and there’s no way the ticket price felt justified. Peterhouse looked gorgeous and food and drink was fantastic while it lasted. Unfortunately, it just didn’t last long enough.

Food and Drink:


Wow Factor:


Value for Money:


Star Attraction: Everlasting champagne

Biggest Turn-Off: Everything else running out