JESS BALLANCE gets swept up in the wake of The King’s Affair: complete with in-depth shisha analysis and her blossoming relationship with the Cambridge Crêpes van man.

A Midsummer Nightmare

22 June 2011, £65

Right from the outset you just knew it was going to be good. More than good. So much gooder than good.

It was certainly one of the most entertaining queues I had ever been in. Amongst games of ‘spot the A Clockwork Orange costume’, people cheerily offered themselves up on the ‘queue chat’ platter with fake blood, body paint and grey-sprayed hair serving as quirky lubricants to the great spirit of The King’s Affair.

The Affair was a fantastic fusion of Festival-cum-Carnival-cum-Awesome, and completely exciting from a whole bag of angles. Pretension was conspicuous only by its absence and everyone was out for a good time. No one was worrying about whether their onesie made them look fat, so the focus was firmly fixed on having an amazing time.

Despite scaremongers who joked that the food would run out within the hour, the spread was varied and delicious. The falafel was a particular highlight and I now have what is fast becoming a life-long friendship with the Cambridge Crêpes van man (and yes, I went back again today). He is a major sweetie. The doughnuts and candyfloss brought elements of a childlike gluttony as people raced around, Augustus Gloop-like, from one stall to the next, multiple drinks artfully clawed in one contorted hand.

Front Court was used well, with a great mix of food and entertainments. Perhaps I was just very very lucky, but I barely had to queue at all. For anything. In the shadow of the Chapel, obstacle courses, inflatable laser quest and giant slides caused glee and friction burns in equal measures, proving a huge success. The entertainments were a thrilling high and the minimal queues meant that there was never long to wait until your next hit.

The drinks flowed and food was always on hand for as long as I remained in a state to want them (which was often). The shisha space in Chet Court was a Mecca for many and was great for taking a little time out to chill and catch a drag of that smoky-sweet night air. Okay, so arguably I have become a little hooked on the hookah, but generally the constant crowds spoke for themselves. My rogue encounter with an aggressively hot coal aside, life was definitely being loved, yet hanging in the air along with the smoke was the oft-repeated, ever-unanswered question: “What the frick was the shisha flavour actually ‘meant’ to be?” Mint? Apple? … Mintple?? Anyway. The universal consensus was a good one.

The King's Affair

The King’s Affair

King’s had a great mix of performance spaces from the Chapel to the giant inflatable Marquee and had a great range that catered to all sorts of tastes, with Leyendecker in the Bar, XXXY and generally the Cellar as a whole proving particular highlights. The Cellar had a fantastic, albeit sweaty, atmosphere and some truly great music; the one way system of entry was effective though hugely confusing, although this may be entirely down to alcohol-related issues on my part (equally all those clear glass doors became increasingly problematic as the night and the drinks wore on). Crashing out in King’s Chapel at a time fast approaching 5am, lying flat on my back and listening to the folksy throb of There And Back Again’s cello bouncing off cavernous masonry was so surreal; and a perfectly serene end to an incredibly fun, intense and (to use what seemed the buzzword for the night) a ‘banging’ June Event.

This has been my first May Week at Cambridge, and on some level I did wonder how evaluative and balanced I could be in any review in which my notions of what constitutes as ‘average’ or ‘good’ for a May Week event are somewhat limited. However, I know this much: I could not have had a better time at King’s. Speaking to a group of finalists – who among them have managed to rack up an average of three balls a year at the big-budgeted likes of the Trinity, John’s, Magdalene and so on – they unanimously concluded that The King’s Affair was by far the most fun May Week event they’d ever been to (and they were at John’s the night before).

Given the minimal ticket cost and the relatively low-key budget the committee did a fantastic job of organising a truly fantastic night – not so much a ‘nightmare’ as a dream come true. To quote an ex-Editor of The Tab, The King’s Affair was ‘so so so so good’. Many found it refreshing to not have to don the dinner jackets and floor-length dresses. Going to a May Week event in flats, face fully painted and dressed in a wardrobe Lady Gaga would probably consider a ‘good call’ really challenged the notion that May Week has to be all about well-tied bow-ties, expensive dresses and copious trips to the salon. It was ecstatic, it was vibrant and it was completely chilled and unpretentious. This was a side of Cambridge that I really loved seeing and I’m definitely going  to try get tickets for next year’s offering.

Food and drink:

Value for money:

Wow factor:


Star Attraction: I loved it all

Biggest turn-off: Decorations were a little lacking, but in light of everything else I didn’t care

  • Cantab

    Absolutely amazing night!!!

    F**kin loved it!!

    • jerh2

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