The Grantchester Meadows: the new garden party hotspot?

In Pictures: ChariTea Garden Party 2016

Cambridge University charitea charity Garden Party May Week RAG

This year’s Charitea Garden Party – RAG’s second ever, and first in partnership with the newly-relaunched Cambridge Guild careers society – built upon the strong foundations laid by last year’s debut, presenting a confident and down-to-earth afternoon in the sun. 

In lieu of a review, scroll through our gloriously summery photo-by-photo timeline of the day. Thanks to Matt Harrison for the photos.

Getting there

The only garden party you can arrive by punt to

Shorn of the pre-packaged decadence of its sibling events, the ChariTea garden party stands out as something of a unique escape from the Cambridge city centre bubble and was an enjoyable day out along the Cam.

Given the pouring rain that kicked off May Week yesterday, it seems the pre-May Week timing was perfect from a meteorological point-of-view. (Indeed, it seems May Week may not be the best time for a garden party: condolences to yesterday’s Law Soc Garden Party which soldiered on in the pouring rain and in the middle of construction workers setting up Pembroke’s Ball.)

Most partygoers arrived by bike or on foot, but the River Cam presented an alternative means of getting there for some.

Unfortunately, these swimmers were not on the guest list


The music tent

The diversity of Ents was impressive. If you fancied fighting the sloth of midday drinking you could enjoy face painting, giant board games and a specially hired petting zoo, while those more inclined to wallow in their post-exam stupor could sit back and allow the dulcet tones of a strong lineup of local Cambridge Jazz and Indie bands to wash over them.

A brilliant range of music groups from AcaPembroke and Cadenza to Puzzles, Churchill Jazz and Emma Big Band meant one was never bored.

Soothing notes

Comedy was also on offer, but probably suffered the most from the event’s rustic location. While a great deal of effort had clearly been made to get the musicians whatever technical support they needed, standup Christof Epaminondas and the Cambridge Impronauts noticeably struggled without the aid of amplification or a quiet stage area, competing with the bands at the other end of the field. As a result – entertaining as their material may have been – jokes tended to fall flat simply because they were hard to hear.

Nevertheless, there were no difficulties viewing and handling the inhabitants of the world-beating petting zoo. The selection of owls went down a treat.

A real treat – to touch

A few neat ideas like the cardboard Instagram filter and a chill-out zone also added real character not usually thought of at garden parties.


The Chill Out Zone was stocked with glitter, masseurs and games for those seeking a break from the rest of the party.

Chill Out Zone

Culinary offering

Ice cream in the sunshine – a far-cry from this week’s weather

Food and drink were plentiful, the latter especially so – one of the bands was even interrupted to announce the large amounts of free G&T still going around. All food was included in the tokens which came with the £15 ticket; a few hungry partygoers seemed to want more tokens than they were given, but this was a slight source of frustration inevitable at any garden party.

Toni’s ice cream truck

That said, the Wandering Yak meal boxes were totally delicious, while the locally sourced ciders from Cranes were a fantastic discovery for a sunny afternoon. Perhaps thanks to the extra funding from the Cambridge Guild, this year’s event had a more classy culinary offering than previously.

Highly recommend

However, as someone with particularly fond memories of last year’s Charitea Party cheese tent, perhaps some cheaper substantial foods could have been brought in bulk to stop us poor Cambridge students hungry after the lovely but long walk to Grantchester.

Picnic time

The grass

Decent grass

The quality of grass – one of the major sticking points in last year’s event – had improved. Some attempts had obviously been made to transform the meadow into something a little closer to a manicured college lawn, and to provide picnic blankets where this was less possible.

Money raised

The 10 Charities: Cambridge Rape Crisis Centre, Child Brain Injury Trust, Settle, FoodCycle Cambridge, Addenbrooke’s Charitable Trust, Médecins Sans Frontières, Save the Children, Children with Cancer UK, Freedom from Torture, Anti-Slavery International.

The event looks to have raised somewhere in the region of £3,500 so far, which is good news for RAG’s charities – a number of whom sent their representatives to the event.

That is an increase of £1,000 from last year, and is largely thanks to higher attendance rates – tickets were trading like hotcakes, as you’ll remember – and the efficient planning of RAG and The Cambridge Guild, who organised a pleasant start to the celebrations before May Week all in all.

This was a post-exam jamboree which, though evidently not flawless, seems to have been blessed with good weather and good planning – and all for a good cause.