Over the next couple of weeks, if they haven’t already, tickets will go on sale for this year’s May Balls. But what is this ‘May Week’? What does it entail that can possibly justify the price tag – puppies and unicorns? And why, oh why, are they called May Balls if they happen in June?
Imagine the end of term banquet in the first Harry Potter book, when Harry’s still relatively carefree and innocent, but has just totes vanquished Voldemort and won the House Cup. Then add more Firewhisky than is appropriate for an educational setting, lots of your favourite songs, your best friends and a bouncy castle. That is what a May Ball is like. It’s usually worth the price tag.
But having decided that you want to make the most of your May Week, what next? Getting your hands on tickets is infamously a jungle of schmoozing and FOMO; so if you’ve got your heart set on an event outside your own college, here are some tips on how to play the game.
Coordinate with your friends
It’s always awkward when you, peppy and keen, get up at 8:55 a.m. on a Sunday to bagsy a ticket the moment general release starts, only to find out at brunch that none of your friends followed suit. Nobody wants to spend £135 to pop across town to an unfamiliar college and get tragically drunk surrounded by strangers.
People start hinting in October; November hails the pointed comments; by December, people are outright asking. You shouldn’t leave it much later to get in touch with friends at other colleges to ask if they can find you a ticket to their ball. Bat your eyelids, and, if you can, offer them a ticket in exchange.
Don’t be disheartened
So you’ve missed the boat on John’s and Trinity? It really is no biggie. The only difference is the price – which is exorbitant – and the fireworks – which can be seen from most places in Cambridge anyway. Even if the whole ticket thing completely passes you by, there’s plenty of fun to be had. Any week when friends and food are plentiful, and work is conspicuously absent – even Cambridge wouldn’t dare give you a reading list the week after exams – is going to be great. A lot of events, such as Girton Garden Party and the Cardboard Boat Race, are completely free. So you needn’t extensively splash out to have a good time.
Here’s some of the best May Week has to offer:
Jesus May Ball
Jesus is popular with Freshers because Jesuans used to be able to buy four guest tickets. Though it’s been reduced to two, Jesus will probably keep its Fresher reputation; so if this is your first May Week it’s a good choice.
Murray Edwards Garden Party
Basically a June Event for under £30, Medwardians can usually buy three guest tickets for their garden party, so it’s not too hard to come by a ticket.
If black tie isn’t your idea of fun, you can let your hair down at King’s Affair. The only fancy dress June Event, there’s no need for painful heels or tight collars. General release is usually around week seven.
Clare May Ball
Clare gets consistently good reviews, so if you’re splashing out on a May Ball, it’s a safe bet. Tickets are like gold dust though – so start texting your friends at Clare now.
A popular option for those desperate to infiltrate John’s – if you work the ball you’re guaranteed the opportunity to buy a ticket the following year. The main drawback is that those doing clear-up can’t have been to a ball the night before, so you’ll have to miss out on Downing and Queens’.