Pembroke May Ball: Elemental, and a little elementary

Grace Murray 21 June 2015

As guests lined the street in preparation for the much-anticipated Pembroke May Ball, the scattered showers were interspersed with flashes of sunshine which prompted hopeful faces to peer out from underneath protective umbrellas. Little were we to know at this point that the inconsistency of the weather would prove to be a surprisingly accurate reflection of the evening ahead, as the bright spells of the music and entertainments would be marred by the dark clouds of queuing and questionable food quality.

Perhaps this opening comparison sounds a little harsh, particularly as there were elements of the night which were an undeniable success. The Long Island Iced Tea I was offered as one of my first drinks of the evening was pleasingly potent and encapsulated the tone for the drinks provision throughout the event; it was plentiful and varied, with shots and early-morning Jägerbombs for the party animals to more refined cocktails, champagne and endless Bellini.

The music was similarly successful, with Little Comets headlining with an impressive main stage set and Berlin-based DJ Wankelmut keeping the party going until the early hours. The location of the silent disco outside beneath an impressively lit canopy of trees also made for an atmospheric scene. The smaller entertainments (which can often feel like an afterthought at May Balls in comparison to the main acts) were also well thought out, including henna and glitter art, a skittles alley and dancing lessons.

However, the first small cloud to overcast this otherwise sunny horizon was a general lack of inspiration. The theme was ‘Elemental’, which I anticipated would manifest itself in earthly delights, conflagrations of fire and fountains of water. However, I could find little which seemed to match the theme at all, beyond the swirling graphics which were projected across the college facade, and some cupcakes decorated with earth, air, fire and water-themed icing. All in all, the theme felt a little disjointed from the proceedings, without a strong underlying idea uniting entertainments, decoration and food.

However, the real storm cloud which brought the mood down was the queuing situation, as long lines developed early on for the most popular entertainments and food. Being left to make the agonising decision as to whether to endure the long wait for the Loch Fyne seafood or cut my losses and head for another round of doughnuts was an experience that no self-respecting food lover should have to go through. It was with great regret that I chose the latter option, and hearing second-hand from others with more patience that the crab was indeed exquisite was not quite the same as experiencing it for myself. Similarly, the fantastic experience of riding above the trees on the ferris wheel was slightly undermined by the fact that waiting out the long queue meant forgoing a chance to go in the laser quest, meaning my inner James Bond will remain undiscovered until another day.

It goes almost without saying that all May Balls are fantastic events unlike anything else in the student calendar. The flaws in the proceedings at Pembroke are undoubtedly secondary to this fact, and can be easily ironed out in future years.

Food: 6/10

Drinks: 8/10

Ents: 8/10

Value for money: 6/10