Although Aetheria was described as bringing the full May Ball experience in Spring, the decision to move to May Week after just two years was a bold one indeed. While it solved the chief complaint of the cold, it also brought with it many new challenges. However I can state with ease that, aided as it may have been in being surrounded by friends, Wednesday night was the best May Ball experience I have had in my time here — Dave, Angie and Lucy E have excelled themselves and surpassed everyone’s expectations. Although I was certainly biased with regard to Aetheria, I view Danu as very much their Ball (despite my name appearing in the programme) since my involvement was really limited to the website and miscellaneous help in the run-up to the Ball. True to their word, I was asked to do nothing on the night, which allowed me to enjoy it to the fullest.
Downing looked stunning. Die Hard improve year on year in their ability to light college in a beautiful soft glow of coloured lights, while aesthetic touches were evident everywhere, including beautiful standing stones to match the celtic theme. Food was varied, plentiful and staggered well throughout the night which prevented any long queues. Everything had a little flourish to make it that little bit better. The cheeseburgers, for example, were not simply cheeseburgers but bacon cheeseburgers. Last year’s Thai Green Curry made a welcome return, while cakes from Fitzbillies nearly caused a crush in the SCR as a horde of girls dived upon them. I was initially sceptical of the decision not to include the staple doughnuts which are almost synonymous with Cambridge Balls. However their waffle replacement instantly won me over, and not just for variation — I simply cannot stress just how good they tasted. This was accompanied by the usual plethora of drinks including excellent cocktails mixed by River Bar, and various whiskeys that unfortunately ran out a little early.
The entertainment was varied with cover band Stingray proving popular, a fantastic (but too short) magic show, a stroke of insane genius in the crazy golf course, and a hypnotist that left many amused and others a little traumatised by an act that was perhaps a little too sexual in nature (though I did not witness it firsthand so will refrain from commenting). For some reason comedy and Downing Balls has historically been appalling and I am not sure this year was any different. Yet while most Balls tail off from around 3am, becoming a struggle to hold out for the survivors photo for the last few hours, as the sun rose Danu laid out a truly incredible final two hours with the stunning Oxford male a capella group Out of the Blue performing such varied pop hits as Robbie Williams, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Tom Jones and the Postman Pat theme, followed by a Queen tribute band to close the night with a bang. Indeed it is this that makes we wonder about the somewhat lukewarm review that appeared suspiciously early in the following day’s TCS. It describes the Ball as winding down from 2am (and indeed there was a distinct lull from 2-4) but makes no mention at all of the final hours. One cannot help but wonder whether the reviewer, who admits to being tired from her previous night out, decided to slip home early in order to pen her review.
A hearty congratulations to all involved in putting on such a memorable night. Their true success is evident in what has been established as a result. Although the next Downing Ball will be in two years time, it has now become an established fixture of May Week. That alone is testament enough, and I feel privileged to have attended all three Balls which brought this to fruition.