MAY BALL REVIEW: Trinity v John’s

Spoiler alert: Trinity was better*

Coasts comparison drinks ents Fireworks food johns May Ball review sigma Trinity

*In the opinion of the in-no-way-biased reviewer, who just happens to be at Trinity.

We’ve decided to shamelessly use the completely non-existent rivalry between Trinity and John’s and compare the two biggest events of the week to crown The Tab’s Ultimate May Ball.


The star of the entire Trinity show had to be the Moet. This lasted well into the early hours of the morning and was replaced by sparkling white wine, meaning that guests didn’t really feel the difference. Delicious cocktails in the jazz tent were also a definite hit. On the non-alcoholic drinks side, Trinity’s fast-moving queue for coffee was very much appreciated at 4am and kept me going until the Survivor’s photo.

Essential accessory: champagne glass

Fortunately, at John’s, queues for drinks were significantly shorter than those for food. There was wine in hall, punts filled with beer, huge pints of Pimms available on the backs, a vodka luge right near the main stage and, best of all, a Jaegerbomb stall conveniently located right outside the dance tent – which did give the very posh May Ball an impressive slightly Sunday-Life-esque feel.

But, like the food, the drinks ran out quickly. I only got one glass of champagne (shock! horror! is this even Cambridge?) and the choice of mixed drinks available narrowed significantly as the evening wore on.

Trinity – 5/5
John’s – 4/5


I didn’t understand just how much food it was possible to consume in one night until I attended Trinity’s Ball. From the pulled pork, to the fabulous sweet potato fries, the exceptional Philly Cheesesteak and much much much more, I think I spent more time eating during the night than anything else. Special mention has to go to the Chorizo and Halloumi Rolls and the dessert tent.

Trinity definitely lived up to its reputation

I was hoping to repeat my food experience at John’s the next night but unfortunately, long queues got in the way. What I did get to eat – the dosas, pizza and pulled pork – were all great, but the experience was somewhat diminished by the amount of time I had to spend waiting for them. The food ran out quite quickly as well, meaning those who were unwilling to while away the first few hours of the  ball in queues, missed out completely.

Trinity – 5/5
John’s – 4/5


Trinity’s ents were good but not great. Sigma was enjoyable, but played slightly too fast to be dance-able. Night punting was delightfully relaxing and the jazz tent was a perfectly appropriate sight of ’20’s-esque luxury. My favourite, though, were the dodgems, which definitely brought out my competitive side in an intense Tab-TCS showdown (we won, of course).

Can you see the pre-Taylor enthusiasm in our eyes?

It was in ents though, that John’s definitely shone. While headliners Basement Jaxx were disappointing, Coasts, the supporting act, were completely amazing. The dance tent was great all night and located centrally enough to be a definite draw. The Taylor Swift Experience, a tribute act at 4am was the biggest hit for me. I never knew how much I needed to scream my heart out to Blank Space at 4am in black tie until that night and the adrenaline from the performance was exactly what we needed.

Trinity – 4/5
John’s – 5/5

Wow Factor

Unsurprisingly, both balls definitely brought their A-game when it comes to wow factor and lived up to their respective reputations as the second and seventh best parties in the world. They took advantage of the beautiful Cambridge setting and the lighting in the courts was simply spectacular. John’s had the slight advantage on Trinity here, as by using all their courts, there was more scope for variety in lighting, assisted by the different themes in each court.

Spectators in the punts definitely had the best view

The fireworks were great in such a surreal way that they left me questioning whether I’d just imagined the whole night. Trinity’s fireworks were my personal favourite. They were synchronised perfectly with some absolutely amazing music choices. John’s fireworks were bigger and more spectacular but lacked the precision and emotional punch of Trinity’s.

Trinity – 5/5
John’s – 5/5

The Experience

In the end, though, Trinity was my favourite because of all the little organisational things that really make or break a night. Queuing in Great Court not only gives you a great view, it means that the queue is more efficiently organised and you can see how much longer you have to wait. Endless, repetitive, unnecessary checking of tickets in the John’s queue, which wound around and around and around the Scholars’ Garden set the tone for the evening – too many queues.

At least Trinity’s queue was great for photos

The one-way flow of traffic across the Bridge of Sighs, which meant you had to loop around if you wanted to move across the river, the overly-officious checking of wristbands at every stop and the complete lack of any kind of provision for rain meant that I enjoyed the night at Trinity much much more. Perhaps as a result of all that checking, John’s was a much more pushy ball and we were not infrequently caught in large crushes of people.

In addition to the ridiculous amount of shoving at John’s, Trinity’s ball was contained on the backs and in one court and so it was far easier to find people and, as a girl in heels, significantly less painful. Trinity was just incredibly well organised, down to every tiny detail and it was these little things that really made my experience there the one to remember.

Trinity – 5/5
John’s – 3/5

While both balls were great, beg, borrow or steal your way into Trinity next year. I’ll probably be giving John’s a pass, though.