The benefits of being a May Ball flower

Do you want to have fun with your friends at the hottest ticket in town? Is a themed piss up in some of Cambridge’s oldest and most beautiful buildings right up your alley? Well then apply to work at the St John’s May ball and you’ll get watch it all from the sidelines!

Lucien Davies-Jones

Tempting, I know.  I can’t think of a better way to pass a summer’s evening in Cambridge than making the same drink for the thousandth time. I was actually being serious there, I can’t think of a better way to pass the evening, but it’s the giving away of the drink for the thousandth time which really hurts.  That’s not to say that working for a May Ball can’t be fun.  In fact, the chance to watch people juggle red wine and food around courageously white dresses and shirts can be quite entertaining.  So if you do end up falling victim to the carefully worded calls for workers, so heavily spun that they have their own gravitational force, fear not: Violet is here to guide you through.

Having heard about the “great opportunities for personal development”, “the high pay”, and “newly legal” employment practices, who could resist opening the google doc of doom and popping your name down.  The difficulty, however, comes in deciding where to apply and what to apply for.  The answer to the first is “anywhere” that will take me, and the answer to the second is “please god not litter picking or clean up”.  For those who chose the fully paid full night of work, I have nothing but respect, and I’m sure their overdrafts will thank them. Plus, they get the added bonus of being the only sober person in the room — a surreal experience which is probably a bigger trip than whatever the rest of the crowd is on.  Personally, I prefer to be paid half-on, half-off: six hours of work to exchange a beige apron of bar work for the tux of the tango. 

Either way, to earn the right to either of these illustrious roles you first have to pass the interview.  That is if you’re lucky enough to have heard back from any of them yet.  I can assure you, as someone who’s been ghosted enough times to appear on Paranormal Activity, even a rejection comes as something of a relief.  But what, quelle horreure, if you actually do get asked to interview? What do you actually say?

Especially when the interview moves on to your “relevant skills and experience”.  Unless you’re Fred from First Dates, you’re unlikely to have enough catering experience to satisfy even your average BOP manager let alone the illustrious May Ball committees.  The only option is to apply so much spin to that one time you ran the school café, or that end of year event which you “organised” in year 7 that it has its own gravitational field.  You have to ham up your strong work ethic (a claim slightly undermined if you’re working half-on, half-off since you are literally throwing in the towel halfway through a shift), devotion to prosecco serving and teamwork ability that it appears that René from Allo Allo is applying.  Might this all not be a bit dishonest, I hear you cry?  Totally. But given the positively centrifugal enticements in the various descriptions of work, “competitive rates of pay” (competitive in that you are competing with all the other workers at the event for the single paycheck), “opportunities to work with friends”, and “newly legal employment practices”, it seems only fair that we can get creative too.  Be as creative as you like, they’ll stop scrolling over clichés when pigs fly.

With any luck, you’ll be shaking cocktails and then playing catch up by 01:00 in order to try and make the Daily Mail front page.  Having said that, this has never worked for me so I have no evidence to support its efficacy, but I guess it doesn’t really matter. You can always earn a bit of cash by snapping a photo of your friend face-down in the Trinity fountain and selling it to The Sun.