MOLLIE WINTLE had an absolute affair to remember at King’s.
I type this with one hand from the gloom of my bed, covered in scraps of blood and glitter. Last night’s tights are stuck to my heels, and there’s a little diamante sticker from John Lewis tucked into the corner of my eyelid. All in all, a pretty good reflection of a night which managed to be at once decadent, exhausting and brilliant.
‘Disorganised fun’ was how one friend described the atmosphere, but I have a feeling that this year’s Affair was a tightly-managed one. Queues were bearable, with ten minutes being the maximum wait for any food, while drinks were readily available (early on at least). While the food itself was unambitious – your standard ball fare of crepes, burgers and falafels – it was delicious, and bar workers made up for the rows of strongbow by making liberal doubles. The layout of the ball, with outdoor activities in one huge enclosed space, made you feel as if you were at a funfair – and one where the attractions were manifold. There were dodgems, a comedy tent, strange ball rides, inflatable games and, seemingly, a performance from every student band in Cambridge. ‘Poor Lorelai’, sighed one girl next to me at nine thirty, ‘they’re on now but they’ll be no one there to see them.’ It’s a testament to the excellent provision of entertainment that every choice you made ensured a further two or three lost opportunities.
This year’s theme was ‘subterranean’, and it suited the college well: indoor spaces had a dark, intimate atmosphere even when above ground and the bar alone was a heaving mass the entire night. The real spatial highlight, however, had to be the bunker. The tiny, outrageously hot underground cavern proved to be a brilliant dance hub, where students sweated away to impressive sets from Fantastic Mr Fox and Throwing Snow. Upstairs, the committee were no less committed to fun. The slight paradox that is King’s College – no gowns, much socialism, huge grandeur – is one perfectly exploited by the night: it’s a treat to be able to go into King’s chapel and lie on cold stone next to mumbling strangers before deciding that you can sleep when you’re dead, and that you should go on a dodgem. It’s a treat to be able to run across the best-kept grass in Cambridge in a glittery morph suit. It’s a treat to be able to watch the sun come up over mullion windows and upturned shisha.
Now I like compulsory fun as much as the next person, and Cambridge rose to the challenge of fancy dress challenge well. It’s refreshing to be greeted by onion necklaces, face paint and Egyptian head-pieces after days of Coast dresses. I counted between twenty to thirty miners, one canary, Damien Hirst’s skull and a bollard. The costume ‘Gold’ ranged from some token earrings to full-on morph suits, and my own outfit (graphite) felt like a pretty weak effort when someone walked past as a dinosaur, huge egg and tail in tow.
Weak points, then, were few and far between. A star comes off simply for not quite delivering in areas where they promised most – the main stage was always a bit lacklustre, despite several visits throughout the night, and the event itself ended too early, along, predictably, with the food and alcohol. However, the darkly magical experience which a ticket to King’s Affair bought was, at half the price of other balls, fantastic: this event remains the slightly alternative and absolutely shining gem of May Week.