Downing May Ball 2013

KATIE ZINSER’s experience of Downing May Ball was less “Dancing in the Moonlight” and more queuing into the early hours of the morning.

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Downing May Ball

Eastern Odyssey

Tuesday, 18th June, 2013

Given the theme of Downing’s ball this year – ‘Eastern Odyssey’ – my expectations were fairly high. The theme was the kind that allowed for both variety and attention to detail, whilst the different sections of the ball – which, according to the programme, were aligned with different areas of Asia – left me particularly expectant for a wide selection of mouth-watering Far-Eastern food.

Initially, these expectations were met. The queues were long, but we were entertained whilst waiting with delicious Chinese nibbles and fire-dancers. So far, so good. Similarly, upon entrance there was champagne and music which created a wonderful welcome.

The Downing Committee would have faced the issue of the spatial nature of the college, and indeed this did perhaps lessen the quality of the overall atmosphere. However, I thought they did a decent job of breaking up the space, and ensuring vast areas did not go to waste. It had a nice fairground feel to it, with an Asian twist.

However, the spatial issue also meant that the attention to detail was lacking at times. There was a beautiful water feature in the middle of the field onto which patterns were projected, but the attention of those operating it apparently kept lapsing, as the colourful swirls and pictures too frequently returned to the Windows home page. Even in the inside areas, where space cannot really be used as an excuse for a lack of attention to detail, the decoration seemed sparse and the atmosphere was underwhelming.

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Tab TV presenter Nick Harris’ face is projected onto the massive water feature

The best thing was undoubtedly the fact that the drink was free flowing, with delicious cocktails provided by La Raza, wine all night, champagne until the small hours of the morning, and a variety of other drinks including an ale and cider stall. Moreover, parts of the entertainment were wonderful: the silent disco was buzzing and had a great selection of music; the fireworks came as a nice surprise; and the fairground rides were the right kind of entertainment for the main central field in which the majority of the Ball took place.

The musical entertainment brought both unsuspected gems and disappointments: I thought Dog is Dead, despite having never heard of them, were fantastic, and the surprise act, Lethal Bizzle, was a welcome addition. Toploader, the headline act, were disappointing, only performing their signature one-hit-wonder Dancing in the Moonlight once and leaving the crowd feeling somewhat short-changed.

However, the biggest problem with the night was the food. First of all, before midnight, long queues were building around every food stall. The queue for the outback burgers and the Indian food in particular were enormous, and left me wondering whether it was even worth queuing over half an hour for some kangaroo in a bun. This would have been more forgivable if it weren’t for the fact that the quality of the food was mediocre. Certainly, there were highlights: the lamb rogan josh was great; the cheese and port room was predictably delicious; and the pulled pork later in the evening was an absolute gem. However, each Asian ‘section’ – Thailand, China, India, and so on – only provided one main dish, which meant a disappointing lack of variety. The Chinese noodles at the noodle bar were bland and tasteless, and the Thai green curry was average. The Yo Sushi bar I’m sure was excellent, however I didn’t get to try it because of enormous queues, and the facts that it shut periodically and ran out before midnight.

All in all, my night was an enjoyable one, and the committee should be congratulated for the entertainment and alcohol, as well as for doing a good job of dealing with the spatial nature of Downing. However, my expectations were disappointed, and queues left me feeling unsatisfied and at times frustrated.

Food and Drink:

3/5

Wow Factor:

4/5

Value for Money:

4/5

Star Attraction: Lots of Booze

Biggest Turn Off: Long Queues