This year's theme of 'Biennale' transformed the college grounds into a world full of artistic creativityLafayette

Pembroke students make no secret of their college’s beauty. On Wednesday night their boasts were entirely justified. The decor team of the ‘Biennale’ May Ball committee deserves the highest praise: every court dazzled with intricate and subtle references to a variety of artists and their works. From Van Gogh to Kandinsky to Banksy, each court’s unique style transitioned seamlessly into the next and produced an overall effect of enchanting splendour wholly consistent with the theme.

It is difficult to conclude which was more spectacular: the collection of neon pink, airborne human net figures influenced by the likes of Rodin and Antony Gormley that transfixed guests entering the ball, or the utterly charming transformation of Ivy Court into a recreation of Monet’s garden in Giverny. Both inspired the same reaction either way: that of jaws falling to the floor. Guests were told to ‘expect a masterpiece’. In terms of decor alone, the committee gave them one.

“The popularity of the glitter artist meant that not only the college shone, but many guests did too”

The effectiveness of the ball’s overall appearance was greatly aided by the considerable thought put into the layout of the site. Marquees and ents were positioned such that queues remained short and nothing felt packed in. The decision to place the Silent Disco in a woodland area overlooking the neon Ferris wheel (itself a wonderful addition to the ball) was genius. Overall, ents were very strong, with the exception of a rather lacklustre caricaturist (a shame, given the theme). The popularity of the glitter artist meant that not only the college shone, but many guests did too. Old favourites like dodgems and swing boats failed to disappoint.

The highlight of the night must, however, have been the headline performance of Loyle Carner. His 40-minute set came at just the right moment, and the energy he evoked in the crowd was undeniable. Carner charmed the audience at all times, and his upbeat songs were articulate and memorable. The blend of jazz ensembles and tribute acts that followed him was spot-on, and the vibrancy they engendered never deserted the crowds surrounding the main stage until the very end of the night.

Such energy was doubtless sustained by the impressive offering of food and drink throughout the ball. The gastronomical diversity ensured that basically every taste was catered for, with minimal waiting times. May Ball staples such as Mac & Cheese, hot dogs and burgers were all available but subtle additions such as ‘Pie Club’ and ‘The Wandering Yak’ kept things interesting. Some lamented the lack of waffles – it is true the ball was somewhat lacking in sweet sustenance, though the appearance of the seemingly ubiquitous ‘Jack’s Gelato’ stand did serve somewhat to counteract this disappointment.

The range of drinks on offer certainly did not justify any such complaints. In fact, it was outstanding. It is hard to imagine what else could have been added to the concoction of spirits, cocktails, shots, wines and beers, most of which, impressively, lasted all night. The addition of Jägerbombs and VKs was a most welcome one, sadly lacking at some other balls, and kept many guests on their feet (or not) until the survivors’ photo. As the morning drew in, the crowd naturally fizzled out and the ambience dampened a little, but the consistently excellent range of food and drink kept the mood alive and more animated than it might otherwise have been.

Nevertheless, in conversation with fellow guests, comparison to other colleges’ balls became inevitable. I heard some grumbling about how there ‘wasn’t as much to do as there was at Trinity’ or how ‘you might as well have gone to John’s given the tiny price difference.’ Value for money is one issue – I personally never felt I didn’t get my full money’s worth, though it’s a personal thing – but the essence of the ball is another.

Direct comparisons to the likes of Trinity and John’s are unhelpful because Pembroke never made out to be them. Its offering was a wholly different one, and it pulled it off in its own way. Decadence and extravagance didn’t shine through here, but they weren’t meant to. A distinct and unique charm, beauty, sense of community even, all prevailed. The ritualistic singing of ‘Angels’ (with ‘angels’ replaced with ‘Pembroke’) and spontaneous, euphoric chanting of ‘Pembroke’s going up’ at the very end typified this sanguine, triumphant ball.

The pride of Pembroke students in their college was therefore clear to see. The May Ball committee deserves to be equally proud of their stunning event. They showed off Pembroke at its best; its most creative; its most beautiful. It was a masterpiece

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