Review: St John's May Ball

Image credit: Ed Miles

St. John’s college May Ball is renowned for spectacular luxury, impeccable attention to detail and elusive tickets, but walking through the transformed college for the first time, it’s safe to say the event itself more than lives up to its own hype. The ‘tempus fugit’ or ‘time flies’ theme was vague enough to allow the committee to envisage an entirely unique world in each court and every new time zone was executed to the same high standard.

The design elements of the ball were particularly strong and for this the scene team for the ball must be commended. There were magnificent centrepieces such as a huge gramophone with rotating turntable in the ‘Puttin’ on the Ritz’ court and an elegant fountain in the ‘Renaissance’ themed Chapel court. But what was most impressive was the way every detailed combined to give each court a rounded, classy feel. There were none of the odd gimmicks or inconsistencies I have sometimes noticed at other balls; everything was well-conceived and well-executed, right down to the table centrepieces, my favourite of which were tiny glowing fires on the tables of the ‘Eireann’ court which evoked Celtic Ireland.

Other highlights were the beautifully crafted 60s decorations for the ‘Flower Power’ New Court and an astonishing projection in the ‘Victoriana’ First Court, which was designed using a trace of the architecture of the chapel and made the whole structure appear as if it were actually moving.

Food and drink were in the most plentiful supply I have seen at a ball and the variety was almost overwhelming. Particular culinary favourites of mine were fish finger sandwiches and chocolate coated churros, but I didn’t have nearly enough time or appetite to try everything on offer. Drinks were well themed to each area with dry ice and candyfloss cocktails a particular highlight on the futuristic ‘Backs to the Future’.

The entertainment on offer was also vast in quantity and variety. I must confess I didn’t see enough of the diverse acts performing across six stages but this is because the sheer scale of what is on offer greatly exceeds what is needed to fill your ten hours of time in the ball. Interestingly, I found much less compulsion to visit the main stage as I have at other balls and this is because the truly magical part of the ball lies not in big names from the charts but in the atmosphere that is created.

Add to this the mesmerising fireworks and laser display as well as all your may ball staples such as dodgems and fairground games and you have yourself an unforgettable evening. St John’s May Ball is billed as the seventh best party in the world. I’m not sure I could ever substantiate that claim, but I can definitely say it is the best party I’ve ever been to!

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