REVIEW: Pembroke May Ball 2017

Absolutely worth it

Adelaide black tie Cambridge College Loyle Carner May Ball Pembroke posh Tequila the tab

Pembroke is a slightly unusual college, in that each year it alternates between running a May Ball and a June event.

As a jaded second year, I’d already attended the 2016 June event and had a fairly good time. While the headliner had been a bit underwhelming and queues for food and drink fairly constant throughout the night, it came close to justifying the £80 price tag. The question around this year’s May Ball was whether the massively increased cost would justify itself in a much improved night.

On entering the Ball, the answer was quite clearly yes.

Photo Credit: Lafayette

Stepping into the Old Court, it was clear a lot had changed (and not just an upgrade from Prosecco to Champagne). Tasteful decorations pertaining to the theme, “Bienalle”, were hung from almost every edifice, with the human figures made entirely of wire suspended high across the court in superb fashion. Clearly additional effort had gone into ensuring the May Ball looked the part, but whether the things that make a May Ball truly great were in place I was yet to find out.

Queues, the bane of any May Ball, were almost non-existent, in part because of the proliferation of stalls from almost every Cambridge food outlet, including Aromi and The Wandering Yak. Perhaps most of this can be attributed to the fact that a significant amount of the food was pre-prepared for attendees to simply take and move on, an ethos that could improve every event held in May Week. Fellow students often complained of over-eating fairly early in the night, which is surely a sign the culinary infrastructure was working excellently.

And what would a May Ball be without booze? Separate stands existed for almost every type of drink imaginable, from the most basic lagers and VKs to extravagant cocktails and alcoholic milkshakes. A particular favourite was the stand dedicated purely to tequila, complete with salt and lemon, alongside the Jaegerbomb stand, which ensured a massive proportion of ball goers made it to the survivors photo. It seemed that by maximising on the basics, the committee provided a plethora of ways to get drunk, enough to suit any picky drinker, while also ensuring waiting times were either minimal or zero.

The ball even featured a ferris wheel (Photo Credit: Lafayette)

Perhaps the greatest improvement from last year was in music. Armed with a bigger budget, the committee had secured upcoming UK hip hop star Loyle Carner services in a major coup. While initially some doubted the melancholic rappers suitability to the party atmosphere, it rapidly became clear Carner fit the bill, as he laid down a chilled and enjoyable set of tracks, including a well thought out Tribe Called Quest cover. One has to respect him for sounding magnanimous among a crowd of Black Tied Cambridge students, which hugely added to his set.

Among others, Adelaide provided an energetic set at 5:15am that went down well with the more rock-orientated students, while Kieran Daly’s group provided a gentler, more indie focused start to the night.

Even the Will Pitt statue became part of the Ball (Photo Credit: Lafayette)

The only major criticism I’d have of the Ball in general was the breakfast provision, which only really consisted of bacon rolls and a pain-au-chocolats, although I daresay by 6:00am no one was really in a state to care. Additionally it appeared that lager ran out at around 3:00am, probably down to the committee over-estimating the sophistication the their clientele.  Nevertheless tequila, VKs and jaegerbombs amply filled the resulting gap.

All in all, the incredible efforts of the committee must be applauded. The night perfectly toed the line between volume and sophistication, with not a single penny of the ticket price feeling wasted. This alongside a solid music line up provided the perfect round off to Pembroke’s year.