It’s something of a vogue among party organisers to theme events around the otherworldly. This year’s Clare May Ball plumped for The Imaginarium, and did so to great effect. With a healthy dose of escapism, attractions as diverse as a casino, laser quest and even live owls (yes, really) all found their way into the old courts of Clare College on Monday night.
The attention to detail in the planning was evident from the start of the night. Confronted as soon as we walked through the gates by The Ancestor, a 22-foot steel statue which spends the rest of its year at Stonehenge and Glastonbury, we manoeuvred through the college to find a garden devoted to Salvador Dali, complete with: giant moustache, bowler hats and melted clock; a rust-coloured balloon sculpture suspended over a pond; and a ribbon made of CDs draped around the building.
That said, it wasn’t all wacky surrealist fun: silent disco, shisha and free punt tours are classic May Ball entertainment, and highly popular. The silent disco, in Clare’s Great Hall and hosted by CREEM, was a particular highlight for anyone who liked disco or R&B.
First of the main acts was Raleigh Ritchie, clearly a very talented actor/musician, probably most famous for playing Grey Worm in Game of Thrones, but somehow also an up-and-coming electro-pop-cum-grime artist. His performance was tight and energetically-delivered; the music itself was somewhat middle-of-the-road.
The same could probably be said for the main act of the night, Professor Green. Faced with a contingent of baying fans at the front of the tent, and a scattering of slightly more ambivalent listeners behind, the Prof did well to bring the whole room together, especially when he dropped that one song of his which everyone knows. The rest was a blur: all green floor lights and heartfelt storytelling barked out in Green’s characteristic cockney yap.
Green cut his set a little short, claiming he needed to return to London, which was just as well because the ball started to wind down: the owls were taken back, the Tarot readers went home, and the food vans started to close, much to the dismay of those of us looking for our fourth mac and cheese of the night.
The mac and cheese van rightly saw the longest queues of the night, but the falafel, Indian food and nachos were all equally tasty, if a little uninspiring. Drinks were in abundance, whether you fancied a fruit-laden Pimm’s or a crisp mojito.
Later on, alcohol and snacks made way for coffee and granola, which was as upsetting as it was unwelcome. I don’t know who thought it would be a good idea to serve crunchy, tasteless cereal to cold, sobering students, but I don’t think there was anything in the world I wanted less at that point in time than granola. I mean, I don’t want to labour the point but if someone gave me the choice between eating granola at 5am after a May Ball and having to resit my exams I probably would have chosen the latter.
Granola aside, the organisers at Clare pulled off what seemed to be a roaring success. Many older and wiser students than me commented that this was the best May Ball they’d ever been to, and, as we all gathered in the cold morning light for the survivors’ photo, I couldn’t help but feel that I wouldn’t be the only one desperate to go back next year. I may even eat the granola.
Ents (musical): 9/10
Ents (non-musical): 6.5/10
Value for money: 9/10