JONNY SINGER enjoys a slick and varied Pembroke May Ball, with bags to do and no queues in sight.
The Secret Gardens
22nd June 2011, £110
Pembroke’s May Ball attempted to give a little bit of everything; something for everyone: there was no huge standout attraction, the food was immensely varied, the theme completely unnoticeable.
It might sound unspectacular, but it wasn’t. The effect, of a well-spread ball full of variety and low on queues was perpetually excellent.
The food and drink was plentiful (even though the chocolate based attractions seemed to leave a bit early), and tasty. Drink particularly was never far away, and I didn’t notice any of the tents running dry at any point.
On the music side, variety was the key. Cloud Control, supposedly the the next big thing from Australia, left me rather cold from a somewhat static performance.
But what followed on the main stage was fantastic all night. The Futureheads were a top choice for a headline act. Well known hits mixed with bundles of star quality, and a fair bit of audience banter which culminated in a rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’ for a guy down the front. It was clear from the moment they walked on stage just how much of an attraction they were, and very few people seemed disappointed.
And the energy didn’t let up, with The Other Tribe playing an excellent set that kept everyone bouncing.
The ‘fringe’ stages had some gems out too. The comedy was up and down (although I particularly enjoyed Jamie Mathieson).
A particular mention here has to go to Peter Dudfield, whose ‘Laughter Therapy’, basically a mosh pit of fake laughter, was one of the most uncomfortable things I have endured this year, yet somehow hilarious at the same time. I had to leave before its conclusion, but I appreciated the effort to do something so odd.
The standard of music around the college however was continually high. I can think of few better ways to bring in the morning than with the excellent ‘Funk Nuggets’, a huge ball of glorious Motown who played around dawn and drew a pretty sizeable crowd.
Back on the main stage ‘DJ Seddon’ rounded off the night with what was basically Cindies on speed in black tie. By this stage we’d done our indie, and our dubstep, and everyone was more than up for S Club and Angels.
There were of course downsides. Falconry as the guests arrive is a lot cooler sounding than it is in reality. By far the most entertaining bit was when one of the birds decided to fly off, thinking the Pembroke scenery more interesting than the scraps of meat his trainer was providing.
The oxygen tent also left me pretty cold, I’m usually quite good at seeking out my own, and flavouring it did very little for me, but the constant queue for the room demonstrates that I was in the minority.
That was, however, the only noticeable queue of the night. The whole thing was brilliantly spaced, and there was always enough to do, eat and drink to prevent any mass build up of people. A slight paella disaster at the beginning of the night aside, I never waited more than two or three minutes for anything.
In terms of attractions, dodgems, laserquest and swings may not sound that incredible. They weren’t. But they were additions, fun here and there, rather than a centrepiece. This ball was built around the music and the drink, and didn’t suffer for it at all. Pembroke showed last night that a huge variety of high quality negates the need for a single showpiece.
Food and Drink:
Biggest turn-off: Lack of pre-ball queue entertainment