This year's theme of 'Uncanny Valley' was as unusual as it was inspiring Johannes Hjorth

The police banned King’s May Ball in the 1970s, following an incident involving The Stranglers, the Cam, and a lot of waterlogged students. From disaster the King’s June Event was born.

King’s Affair is the night where the theme matters most. The committee had a lot to live up to from 2016’s Psyche, but Uncanny Valley stands out as particularly niche. The arts and music teams realised a pretty coherent vision for the event, and guests (mostly) ran with it – there were some brilliant outfits. Despite the heat, and the fact that May Week was careering to a close, the crowd seemed high on life, or something similar.

The KA committee enjoys the use of one of the grandest spaces in the city, and the design was successfully geared towards delivering a sense of the uncanny. Hats off to KA’s arts committee for some stunning installations in the Chapel and elsewhere. Limbs were an odd but repeated motif, with fleshy chunks hanging over attendees in Chetwynd Court, and silvery appendages dangling from the vaulted ceiling in the Hall. Special mention has to be made for those responsible for the bunker’s decoration. The space, usually a clammy hole, was transformed with amazing phosphorescent designs of distorted bodies, well conceived of and executed. Though at times the theme seemed a little stretched, the skill of the arts team made up for it.

“The committee had a lot to live up to from 2016’s Psyche, but Uncanny Valley stands out as particularly niche”

Musically, this was a marmite year for King’s. Fans of drag will have needed no introduction to Conchita Wurst or Courtney Act, but the acts managed to give performances that were accessible to both initiates and die-hards. Whilst these two didn’t quite deliver the buzz that came from Omar Souleyman’s anthemic set last year, they offered something at least refreshing, and King’s definitely stood out from the pack this year with its headliners.

French ‘glitch hop’ act CloZee, in the Chetwynd Room, was one of the highlights, and will certainly have gained some fans from her performance. The same goes for Blond:ish on the main stage, though they might have been a little disappointed with the size of the crowd by that point in the evening. Chilean group Dënver, oddly billed as ‘Latinx indie pop meets PC music’, went well with the theme, but was one of the more divisive performances.

Each year, regardless of the theme, KA sees the front court transform into a hedonistic fairground, complete with bumper cars, bouncy slides, and rodeo. Laser quest was ridiculously good fun. Although there wasn’t much by way of entertainment to rival the likes of Trinity or John’s, there was nothing not to like. For those overwhelmed by it all, the Chapel took on a role as avant-garde hospital wing. Here again the skill of the arts committee was evident, with some really unsettling projections that really made the most of the space. Good use was also made of the bar, and the Hall with its silent disco, for more mainstream musical alternatives to the night’s live offerings.

The epicures will have shelled out £460 for dining tickets at Magdalene. No one goes to KA for a gastronomic experience. It was fine. Queues for paella, falafel, grilled cheese, doughnuts and popcorn were all fairly manageable, and good use was made of the coffee shop as a pop-up Aromi. Spirits ran short a little early on when doubles were stopped, not that the crowd seemed to mind at all. Water stations were a neat touch, and well-stocked for the tired and emotional. Programs might have been nice.

Thankfully the committee didn’t team up again with Wistla, the app that caused something of a hassle last year, and overall the event seemed to run smoothly. Until the bunker flooded. Though even that was well handled. KA may be a bit rough around the edges sometimes – making the most out of disaster is how it came to be – but it’s still one of May Week’s wildest nights and, at £80, something of a steal. Comparatively

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