Robinson May Ball 2013

JONNY SINGER had a blast at Robinson’s ‘budget ball’, which got pretty much everything right, just a bit more cheaply.

2013 review Robinson Robinson May Ball

Robinson May Ball

The Great Exhibition of 1851

Friday, 14th June, £89

Robinson is not a college known for extravagance: a building that screams functionality and a ball ticket price that suggests you might be underwhelmed. Well, my friends, it’s time to rethink that impression. This committee changed all that.

The triumph of the ‘budget ball’ came from doing all the same things as other colleges, but just a bit cheaper. Take the food; it may have been a slightly lower quality than some other balls, but the staples were all there – from hog roast and donuts to burgers and pizza – and it never ran out. In fact, quantity-wise this was as good a ball I’ve been to for food: almost no queues anywhere (aside from the fajita tent early on), huge variety, and a good mix of sweet/savoury. Breakfast was a bit of a shambles but by that point anyone who wanted to had already eaten themselves silly anyway.

Drinks, whilst not fancy, were never-ending. Champagne and cocktails lasted longer than you might expect and beer, Pimms, and spirit-mixers were still in ready supply as the sun came up. A committee that makes sure there’s never a queue for alcohol, and that it never runs out, deserves high praise.

Theme-wise, the ball was vaguely coherent without devoting too much time or effort to it. The Great Exhibition basically meant a few flags here and there, a ‘Chinese’ section (which had noodles, but also bowling and mini golf) and the naming of the comedy stage “The Salon of Amusement”. Basically it was a theme which allowed for a fairly standard range of attractions without ever being adhered to too strictly – just the way it should be.

Ok, so you want to know about the music. Plenty to talk about here, with three stages running throughout the night. I can’t imagine too many people picked Robinson for the headline acts, which was just as well. Clean Bandit were fine but not amazing, and The Pigeon Detectives were, frankly, a bit sad – still as they ever were, but looking a bit older (not that that excuses the bottle-throwing douchebag) and unable to fill the main stage tent. But the alternative stage was a great place to chill out, the instrumental stage had some cracking acts, and when people wanted to dance, they flocked back to the main stage to hear a spectacularly funky set from the effortlessly cool Cromwell’s Head, who somewhat stole the show.

Credit: Octavia Sheepshanks

The great success of the ents, as with the food, was the variety. The Chinese dance troupe were great, moving around the ball; the comedy tent was always popular; and the brave, if not entirely successful decision to have burlesque was, at the very least, quite fun. Also, while it was often not hugely full, the idea of a magic tent was great.

I could go on, because the great thing about this ball was that, even at the knock-down price, there was so much to do – I’m aware that this review has missed out loads of really cool stuff. Nowhere ever seemed too full, and I rarely got the impression of people standing around not knowing where to go (except for a brief period before the fireworks, when, frankly, little was happening). Maybe it was because this was the first ball of the year, just after exams, but there was an aura of joy around this ball – which is something a ticket price can’t prepare you for. People see Robinson as a ‘cheap’ (it’s all relative after all) alternative, but this was a ball that was worth a lot more than £89.

Food and Drink:


Wow Factor:


Value for Money:


Star Attraction: Incredible variety

Biggest Turn-Off: Crappy breakfast.