REVIEW: Downing May Ball
Downing May Ball exceeded even my highest expectations with what, in my opinion, was the best theme of May week.
“We have so much time and so little to do. Strike that, reverse it.”
Queuing for the ball, I couldn’t help but wonder how the committee would go about executing the theme, “Written by Roald Dahl, Illustrated by Quentin Blake”, short of an excess of chocolate and maybe a rogue fox or two. I didn’t have long to wonder, however, because we got into the college almost an hour before the start of the ball. There was more queuing inside, but it was accompanied by champagne, popcorn of multiple flavours (gin and tonic anyone?), and performers dressed as our favourite Roald Dahl characters. It felt like I was already at the ball.
Upon entering, I headed straight for the Mac & Cheese. Many people had a similar idea – and whilst the queue was already annoyingly long, it was easily the longest of the night. Other offerings included a hog roast, chicken pie and mash, and seafood risotto. Sponsors Nanna Mexico and Yo Sushi also had stalls, although the latter ran out of food within an hour.
For those with a sweet tooth, there was candyfloss, oreo eton mess (a friend had seven pots of this), and a chocolate fountain. Most excitingly, there was a literal bath filled with sweets, chocolate and other sugary goodies (complete with rubber duck).
Naturally, drinks were abundant and diverse. The cocktails,were delicious, and the bar men delightfully chatty and fun, making the wait enjoyable (special shout out to the guy making the orange and pink one – call me). Dotted at regular points throughout the grounds, there were giant ice buckets filled with beers and alcopops- allowing ballgoers to grab a quick drink whilst walking between courts rather than having to queue at a bar.
Between consuming all the food and drink I could get my hands on, I also loved the array of entertainment available. I’ve not seen anything like the Meteorite ride at a ball before – whilst it was a lot of fun, I would recommend going on it before filling up on food and drink, to reduce the likelihood of G-force-induced emesis. A much safer bet was the classic and ever-fun dodgems. There were also acts on in the theatre throughout the night, ranging from mimes to comedians. I’ve been told Quentin Blake was also roaming around posing for photos, although I didn’t spot him.
However, by FAR the highlight of the night for me was the huge main stage line up – specifically the Feeling. Their set reduced me to my circa-2008 teenage self and left me feeling on top of the world, if a little hoarse. They knew how to get the crowd going and they kept everyone screaming throughout their 50 minute set.
Wretch 32 and DJ Fresh aren’t my cup of tea, but I’ve been told they were also pretty incredible, and their more famous ones still had me singing and jumping all over the place. A more laid-back vibe could be found at the second, smaller stage, which boasted a selection of Cambridge favourites and ended the night with a good old-fashioned Ceilidh.
If I had to give a single criticism of the night, it would be that almost everything shut by 5am, leaving most of us sitting on the grass and eating any food we could find (mostly just a sort of sad-looking quiche) until the survivors photo at 5.45am. Also, the silent disco only had one channel when I went along, but now I’m just being picky.
5 stars for a magical night that was completely worth what I paid for the golden ticket.