REVIEW: Jesus May Ball
As big balls go, Jesus lacks the panache of John’s or Trinity – it’s basically just quite big
Comparing May Balls may seem easy – cue those all-important comparisons regarding food, drink, music and value for money.
But these risk becoming rather samey. Most May Ball committees do a good job.
What makes one ball really stand out from the crowd is something much harder to put your finger on.
We feel that Jesus did not stand out. It was mostly well-run, the food was great and the music top-notch. But it lacked the originality that is the mark of a truly brilliant ball. In short, Jesus’ rambling size stifled its atmosphere.
Even so, it would be unfair to not begin by recognising the Jesus Ball Committee’s generally impressive efforts.
Long-dubbed “the freshers’ ball”, they did not disappoint.
Welcomed by prosecco and delicious canapés in one of Jesus’ many magnificent courts, we were soon whisked into the world of Alice in Wonderland for a Wildcard-themed night.
The theme was skilfully incorporated into the decorations: there was a huge house of cards and a larger-than-life chess board, while all the courts were named after suits or the king and queen.
As soon as we entered into Queen court we decided to try the food and ran into one major obstacle: the sheer size of the ball. Jesus’ grounds are huge and not structured. When we finally found the food we were after – and faced the long queues – the end result was delicious. There was a huge variety, matched by an even larger variety of drinks.
Though many of the latter were exceedingly sweet, they were certainly plentiful. The cinnamon-flavoured whisky shots and ginger-spiced cocktails served in the fairground received a notably mixed response.
The fairground itself was a success: the rides were large, the queues were short and the popcorn and candy floss was appropriately sickeningly sweet.
While its setting on Jesus’ pitches made the fairground feel quite detached from the main ball, it did mean there were some pretty “big” rides relative to other balls.
After a long trek back from the fairground to the main stage, James Bay did not disappoint. He delivered a strong set, but the true highlight was yet to come: a brilliant Arctic Monkeys cover band (The Antarctic Monkeys). Playing from 2 to 3, this band got everyone hyped and ready to dance.
One major criticism of the music was that Prides – the brilliant opening act – were on far too early, as was James Bay.
To kill the remaining hours, we headed to Churchill casino, which had appropriately been given a large hall in keeping with the night’s theme.
It was impressive. It was also about as Oxbridge as you can get: a hundred or more black tie clad Cantabs gambling away beneath an ostensibly ancient vaulted ceiling. The Daily Mail would have wet themselves.
The atmosphere here, as in some other parts of the ball, was quite unique.
All the same, the ball as a whole felt disjointed. If there is one complaint to be made, it was that the ball was just too big. Rather than a process of discovery, we often felt a little lost.
The courts often felt a bit empty, and the distances involved in navigating the ball too long. This emptiness translated to the variety of entertainments on offer: while all the classic may ball trappings were there, it was missing that spark of creativity.
Jesus was a great way to begin the “ballin'” season. But it felt like something of a dry run. Certainly by the end of May Week and a further two balls, Jesus seems wanting.
Its title as “the freshers’ ball” seems apt. It’s a tried-and-tested formula – catering to a lot of guests – that always delivers. But it lacks the originality of the best college ball. It was less a ball situated in the beautiful courts of Jesus college – the most impressive court was only used for queueing – than one held in its extensive and rather less individual grounds.
May balls are about entertainment, but it’s not rocket science to do that with the aid of a big budget. More so than just music or food, a ball should celebrate the inimitable character and setting of each individual college. That sort of atmosphere is more special.
Ultimately, Jesus was more than half-way along to this goal, but other colleges were further ahead.
Wow factor: 3/5
Food & drink: 4/5
Value for money: 4/5