Tab Tries: Crashing Keble May Ball

Definitely better than John’s: we break into a ball at Oxford so you don’t have to

alex ball Crash danciger infiltrate keble mark may nelson Tab tabtv

We hold our breath as the security guard paces over our heads. He stops, inches away from our prone bodies, and shines his flashlight around. An eternity later he moves on, grunting into his walkie-talkie.

Forget the poseurs. We are crashing one of Oxford’s most extravagant black-tie balls.

What do you do when visiting Oxford? The colleges look exactly like ours. The town feels identical. Even the punting is pretty much the same– they just do it wrong. So when Alex and I made the journey to Other Place, we were looking for something different.

That night, Keble were holding their ‘Romanov Russia’ themed black-tie ball, with tickets priced at a hefty £90. So like Sean Connery in From Russia With Love, we packed up our tuxes, prepared the night vision camera, and set off into the heart of enemy territory.

When we arrived, we were greeted by our inside man. Though not a Keble student himself, his knowledge of Oxford was invaluable, and his room in another college gave us a base for operations.

We retired to his room to get planning. Where were the entrances and exits? Were there any low walls or gates? How would Bond do it? (‘Which Bond?’, Alex quips).

We did not want to balls this up. We then took a stroll around the perimeter of Keble, noting access points and security guard rotas. A low wall leading into the bike sheds caught our eye.

We headed back to get changed. After a final toast to The Tab, we set off to infiltrate enemy territory, like modern day Cambridge spies. Except the enemy was a far greater one: Oxford.

The college was swarming with security.

At first we thought we would get found out immediately – three guys wearing full tuxedos, casually walking around the back of the biggest party in Oxford that night. But somehow we made it past the guards, and found our low wall. It had an electricity box at the bottom, making a perfect step for scaling it. With a deep breath, we hoisted ourselves over the top.

On the other side, we found ourselves in the middle of the bike sheds. We were inside! Unfortunately, we were also staring right at a decidedly unimpressed guard.


We immediately vaulted back over the wall, the guard hot on our heels. We went down an alleyway, and hid in a bush until the guard had passed. The immediate danger had passed, but we still needed a way in.

There was an astonishing sight as we emerged. A flock of fellow tuxedoed gate-crashers were careering down the street and pouring over the wall, just a little further down from where we were. We watched in awe as all the security from that side of the college charged after them.

Finally, an opportunity: security were now preoccupied with this mob, so we had the chance to quietly go back over the wall and move further into the college.

We reached a small bridge, just outside the Keble JCR. At the end of it was an entrance that would get us inside. We tried the door, locked (fuck). To make matters worse, we heard the trademark crunch of boots behind us.

With speed and silence that would make Tom Clancy proud, we swung ourselves under the bridge, getting out of sight of the security guard just seconds before he saw us. We flipped upside-down, the back of our black jackets blending in with the darkness.

The guard marched over the bridge, shining his flashlight around. He stood directly over our heads for what felt like an hour. Finally we heard the most beautiful sound in the world – “There’s no-one here anymore. I’m going to move on.”

We were clear from the guard, but still needed to get through the locked door. Suddenly a miracle occurred. Three fellow crashers appeared on the bridge, keys in hand, and started unlocking the door. We wasted no time in swinging ourselves back onto the bridge, and following our guardian angels into the depths of Keble.

But it was not over yet. There was still a checkpoint between us and the ball, where guards were checking people’s wristbands.

Whilst we had used stealth to get to this point, from here we decided that we needed to use pure balls to get any further. One security guard was being particularly lazy with his checking, and was clearly bored. So we waited for a group of legitimate attendees to go through his gate, and quickly joined in with their group. When the guard asked us for wristbands, we very quickly flashed our bare wrists, and walked through the gate. He didn’t even look at us twice. We had won.

The ball was pretty good, I guess, but it could have been a Gulag, for all we cared. We had made it to the other side. In Oxford, as in Soviet Russia, balls need you.