Alice Udale-Smith

Two years ago at Trinity May Ball I had one of the most surreal and wonderful experiences in my time at Cambridge: standing in a beautiful ornately decorated court, whilst champagne was opened nearby by sword, screaming along with 500 other people dressed in black tie to the Vengaboys’ surprisingly deep selection of hits. Cambridge May Balls are a unique institution and, amongst them, Trinity stands tall as one of the most glamorous, the most opulent and the most likely to force Daily Mail photographers to be at work before dawn. This year’s ball had much to live up to, both for me personally and in terms of the history of the event itself. What a shame that it missed the mark.

There were no early warning signs early - the fireworks were, as ever, fantastic. An exhilarating display with a soundtrack that skilfully blended the classical with the modern, I was thrilled, moved and awed. The lightshow that followed, projected onto the beautiful Wren library was calmer, but in many ways just as impressive.

As the evening wore on, the cracks began to emerge. The ENTs were mostly forgettable. On the mainstage, Lawson were so lacking in personality that they were forced to cover dull pop hits, as though this combination would somehow become interesting. It didn’t. Big Brovaz performed well, but their set list was basically a single cover of a Sound of Music song. The one highlight was Chloe Howl: spunky, exciting and with songs that were instantly danceable to, it was just a shame that more guests didn’t join the few of us having a fantastic time during her set.

Elsewhere, things were also lacklustre. Comedy headliner Russell Kane’s set was fun, but fell slightly flat – possibly because of the 2pm timing. With his constant pirouetting, he had ten times the energy of the entire hot, sleepy audience. A remark about the ENTs manager getting a third raised a laugh, perhaps because it was a bit near the mark.

The food was very average - the paella, hot dog, hog roast, chocolate fountain that I managed to stuff into my mouth throughout the night were all perfectly fine, but nothing was particularly special. Furthermore, this was exacerbated by the queuing. I am perfectly happy queuing during a May Ball, but when people are constantly pushing in front because there isn’t even a half-hearted attempt at queue management it’s easy to lose patience and be disappointed with the eventual reward.

Considering you can get a Michelin starred meal at many London restaurants for little more that £30, I confess I was somewhat disappointed. In terms of drinks, things fared little better – I loved the La Raza cocktails, and the Innocent smoothies kept me going towards the end – but everything else lacked imagination. Pimms, Champagne, G&Ts: Trinity can do (and has done) better.
That was really the theme of the night, other than the fireworks. Overall I had a really enjoyable time, but it was hardly the spellbinding experience it should have been. With John’s and Caius following eagerly on Tuesday, perhaps Trinity’s crown needs passing on to someone else.