Queens’ May Ball 2013

Find out if Queens’ ball managed to live up to the hype, as LUCY BUTTERFIELD delivers her verdict on the hottest ticket in town.

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Queens’ May Ball

Tuesday, 18th June, 2013

Significant anniversaries are annoyingly stressful.

The prospect of tackling my own 21st was so terrifying I shunned it completely and will have to hold a rogue 22nd in its stead. As such, the Queens’ May Ball committee had a pretty sizeable gorgon of their own to contend with, given the added centenary element to this year’s ball – and expectations were undoubtedly sky-high.

Unlike me however, they dealt with it with style, aplomb and bags of attention to detail. The whole event was incredibly well thought out, and the organisers are to be highly praised for thinking outside of the traditional May Ball box and tackling head-on some of the classic irritations of the night which most of us treat as inevitable.

First, the dreaded pre-ball queue: a tiresome prelude to the revelry which was refreshingly obliterated for many. From 6:30, Queens’ students and any out of college partners were sent up to our rooms like children on Christmas Eve to potter and preen amidst the tantalising wafts of Bastille’s sound check before being allowed straight into the ball at 8:45. Slick.

Second, the loss of friends as the evening continues. Too many times have we lost track of our ball bezzies at midnight and not laid eyes on them again until we find them stumbling around alternately weeping and vomiting at 4am. ‘No longer!’ cried the Queens’ comittee. Wristbands were taken to a new techno level, scanned as one entered a new court and accompanied by an iPhone app which allowed you to track which areas your friends had been scanned into and thus stalk them like amicable white-tie wearing Uruk-hai. Admittedly this caused some congestion between areas as people queued to be scanned in or out – but it was a small price to pay for the joyous resolution of the friend-loss botheration.

The festivities began in earnest when the dulcet tones of the queen of Queens’ himself, Stephen Fry, boomed over Erasmus lawn in a specially recorded message to welcome us to the centenary ball. What a babe. He introduced the fireworks, which culminated in a spectacular finale set to the Kaiser Chiefs’ ‘I Predict a Riot’ – particularly apt given the subsequent surge towards the main stage to await the imminent arrival of the headliners Bastille.

I ought to admit I was not one of the Bastille faithful before the ball itself. Friends quizzing me about just how excited I was to see them were disappointed as I professed I vaguely knew ‘that one about something about closing your eyes’. It is testament to their exceptional performance that their album has since been feverishly downloaded onto my iPod. Easily the best music act I’ve seen at a May Ball, they absolutely stole the show (the fit pianist additionally stole my heart), working the audience into a bouncing, screaming frenzy with a set which was thoughtfully personalised to include collaborations with the Queens’ College Choir and the Cambridge Chamber Orchestra. Also they’re super good at battering drums. Other acts didn’t disappoint – The Man with the Tape on his Face was well received as the comedy must-see, whilst the inimitable Denims tore up the Fitzpat once again with a set both riotously sassy and vocally brilliant.

Bastille storm the stage

The overarching feeling of the ball was that of a party to end all parties in which the committee hadn’t pulled out all the stops so much as destroyed them entirely. Food and drink (of which the paella and wonderfully mixed gin and tonics were personal highlights) were clearly of an excellent quality – with not so much as a half-heartedly flipped burger nor a cheapo glass of cava in sight. Combined with a stellar selection of live acts, ents and attractions, the energy of the ball and its attendants remained enviably high throughout.

The only real disappointment was the frustrating speed with which dawn broke over the college, which was undoubtedly host to one of the most triumphant hotbeds of fun this May Week.


Food and Drink:


Wow Factor:


Value for Money:


Star Attraction: Bastille

Biggest Turn-Off: Frequent wristband scanning