Girton Spring Ball

Girton Spring Ball has gathered a reputation in recent years as being a bit of a hidden gem on the Cambridge ball scene. And anticipation for this year’s Les Annés Folles-themed event, quick to sell out, was similarly high. It promised an evening of decadence, extravagance and opulence, and – once you eventually made it inside – it largely delivered. As a college, Girton really does lend itself well to a ball; with countless rooms and courtyards leading from long corridors, the gothic building adds an element of curiosity and excitement, leaving you eager to explore upon arrival.

And the committee didn’t disappoint in terms of surprises; the attention to detail really was exceptional. From the start, with a vintage car and lavish water fountain on entrance, and spotlights beaming across the sky from Girton’s main tower, you really did get the impression – clichéd as it may sound – that you were arriving at one of Gatsby’s parties. It would be easy to criticise the theme for a lack of originality, but the lengths taken by the committee – with intricately hung butterfly drapery, a glorious waterfall of flowers down a spiral staircase, and a drawing room garlanded with bowler hats – really did justify the decision.

Food and drink, almost without exception, flowed all night. The variety on offer was a real highlight. From tapas to kangaroo burgers, clearly a great deal of thought had gone into the catering. Even the doughnut stall – standard at any Cambridge black tie event – had been brought in especially from Penzance, and was a cut above your average sweet treat. The drinks on offer also added to the sense of occasion. Freshly made elderberry collins, Midori sours, alcoholic slushies and a Hendrick's gin and tonic bar (served in dainty mugs with a slice of cucumber) all went down a treat. A nice touch, though, was that alongside these plusher choices, various ice troughs were laid out and stocked all night, while a sambuca bar in the dance and main tent meant that inebriation was never far away. For non-drinkers too, the options were relatively varied and equally high quality, with posh pressés, smoothies and soft drinks.

If there was one aspect of the ball that didn’t live up to the boldness of the theme, the headline acts lacked the wow factor of some more established balls. King Charles seemed to go down well with his safe brand of inoffensive, ‘quirky’ folk-pop that generally pleases the Cambridge masses, and The Other Tribe surpassed expectations with an upbeat, energetic set. With Childhood’s early performance also thrown into the mix, it did feel a slightly thinly spread – perhaps quality over quantity would have been a more apt approach, given the otherwise excellent spread of acoustic, jazz and classical live music on offer.

It feels odd to end on a negative given that, in many ways, Girton Spring Ball truly was an outstanding night. But attention must be paid to the issue of queuing, which really did dampen the experience of many guests. Food and drink were generally readily available (though the queue for the exotic burger stall at times bordered on ridiculous, and the cocktail stand seemed forever under siege). The real problem was on entering in the first place. The £35 extra we chose to spend on dining – which was also excellent – was probably the wisest decision we’ve made since we’ve been in Cambridge. Those with regular tickets were met with queues of up to two and a half hours, leaving some from Girton saying they might as well have worked the first half of their own college ball. It’s been rumoured that the ball is to become an annual event. If this is true, it can’t be stressed enough how urgently this problem needs addressing – for many, their whole ball experience was a case of making up for lost time, a real shame given how enjoyable it was to sit back and take it all in.