When it comes to their May balls, Oxford colleges go the whole hog. As someone who thinks engagement parties are borderline excessive (and kitchen teas just bizarre…how much fanfare and Royal Doulton tableware do you want?) I was amused to discover that all the balls have their own launch parties. And websites. And newsletters.
But in this case, I think the hype was warranted. Brasenose’s ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’ Ball was pretty stellar. Inspired by Shakespeare’s enchanted forest (and, I don’t know, maybe Disney’s Neverland?), the sandstone quads were filled out with giant teepees, wooden swingboats, themed bars, food stands and a palatial DJ marquee.
(All photos: JRDunbar Photography)
I went with my friend Johannes, who is great company and also an excellent wingman; he knows just how to foster conversation, and how to take down ‘that guy with the pimp cane’ with a single withering glance (I, on the other hand, am the worst. My attempt to ‘introduce people with thoughtful details’ always becomes some awkward, “So, you both own labradors. Discuss.” before I bail).
From the college formals and Law balls I’ve been to, I’ve come to expect the following food-wise: mini hamburgers, cherry tomato and bocconcini bites, and tepid spinach quiche. Free-flowing champagne is always a plus. Cupcakes seem fairly non-negotiable.
What I don’t expect is all of these things: wood-fired pizza, various canapés, Brazilian cheeseballs (what even? Though according to the First Dates intro, apparently a solid blind date conversation starter), bespoke crêpes, pulled pork rolls, candy floss, grilled chicken and halloumi dinner boxes, doughnuts, popcorn…in addition to a prosecco bar, regular bar, themed cocktail bar, champagne cocktail bar and spirit bar.
It’s a gross understatement to say that I have a sweet tooth (all 28 of them are, and I’ve got no wisdom teeth to tell me when to stop), so I Augustus Glooped at the sight of the dessert room which had platter upon platter of cakes, sweets and alcoholic milkshakes. I’m still not sure if the piles of students littering the lawns at 2am were boozed beyond measure or in deep sugar crash.
Entertainment-wise, it’s always nice to have a DJ. And maybe some really earnest bellydancers who cajoled their cousin on the organising committee to get them the gig.
It’s really nice to have: 6 DJs, a silent disco, string quartets, a jazz orchestra, cabaret, a photo booth, caricature artist, henna artists, fortune tellers, shisha, flower garland-making studio, and arcade room. I suppose at some point these entertainments become a bit gratuitous; the point is probably somewhere between Brasenose’s Laserquest Arena and the live shark which Somerville tried to get a couple of years ago.
I’ve been at a party with a Sprite ice luge before, in the sense of a roughly-hacked block of ice channeling rivulets of Mishka vodka so terrible it required an immediate Sprite chaser. I’d never been at an event with a sprite ice luge before.
Overall verdict: expectations exceeded.