The quote above probably sums up the reactions to me attending both balls, but with my sister at Pembroke College Oxford, and friends at Pembroke College Cambridge, I just HAD to go. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity, a tale to regale people with in years to come, and with me not attending either of the universities, I can give an unbiased review.
So without further ado, I’ll start.
First of all, the dates of the balls. Pembroke Oxford’s ball was on the 17th of May and during the middle of term, so some people were unable to go because of exams. Pembroke Cambridge on the other hand, had theirs on the 19th of June, which, like all Cambridge May Balls, was at the end of term and after exams. I’ll give this round to Pembroke Oxford though, because it’s always irked me that Cambridge May Balls are called “May” balls, when they actually happen in June.
Next, theme. Pembroke Cambridge’s one was “Elemental,” which I found a bit pretentious to be honest. Different areas of the college were air, fire, earth and water, which reminded me of Avatar: The Legend of Aang, and my long forgotten dreams of being an airbender… but I digress.
The Oxford one was “Indian Summer,” which was very controversial due to the colonial connotations around it, and accusations of cultural appropriation. I personally found it educative and tastefully done, as I got to experience aspects of a culture that I hadn’t been exposed to much in the past. I must emphasise how this is my PERSONAL opinion though, as I am not of Indian descent, so ofcourse I’m not the best person to say whether or not it was offensive.
So with all this in mind, none of the Pembrokes get points for their theme.
Moving on, headliners. Pembroke Oxford had Radio 1 DJ, Chris Stark, the one from the Mila Kunis interview, and Pembroke Cambridge had Becky Hill, who is known for appearing on the first series of The Voice, and the top 10 singles Afterglow and Overdrive. Becky was great and all, but she kept bringing up how she’d been in Amsterdam a couple of days earlier (so #edgy), and sang her two well known songs quite early on in her set, so I didn’t stay for long after that…
So Pembroke Oxford wins this one because Chris Stark really brought the house down. Maybe I just felt a deeper connection with him because he’s from Grotty Watty too and I went to his school, but there was just something special about seeing this Hobbit sized guy jumping around the stage, in the college’s pink panther costume, that made me think, “Wow I’m so happy to be here at Pembroke College Oxford!!!” throughout his set.
Also got a selfie with him so winning tbh:
On to food, Pembroke Cambridge really brought their A game with a wide range of options from ‘Sausage Fest’ to Thai curry to seafood (oysters, anyone?) and much more. Pembroke Oxford stuck with the Indian theme with curries and delicious wraps as well as cookies and ice-cream. This one’s tough, but Pembroke Cambridge’s Yubba Yubba doughnuts won me over. SO GOOD. I was also a fan of their breakfast selection- miniature croissants, Danish pastries, bagels and fruit, including watermelons, my faves. I ♥ watermelons.
Pembroke Cambridge also won when it came to drinks because the champagne was flowing all night, I tried the Pembroke Blue, which was quite nice; there was also much cider, very cocktails, and I had my first ever Jägerbombs. Note to self: Never again. Special mention to the Greek cocktails at the Pembroke Oxford ball though, I really liked those.
Finally, entertainment. My main concern was running out of things to do, because with the Oxford ball lasting 8 hours and the Cambridge one being 2 hours longer, I was sure I’d get bored of partying after a while. Turns out I was wrong because there was so much to do! The Cambridge ball was actually quite overwhelming- I felt like a little kid in a candy store thinking, “I want to try EVERYTHING!” From classic dodgems, dancing lessons (Ceilidh, Waltz, Salsa), laser tag, a Ferris wheel to caricature drawing, silent disco and live comedy acts, there was something for everyone. A lot of the queues were long though, and I left the ball a bit disappointed that I didn’t get to do as much as I’d wanted.
The Oxford ball was a different story because it was smaller and shorter, so I did all I wanted to do without having to queue for long. Highlights were the classical Indian dancers, DFO (the best funk band EVER), the screening of Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham (a classic Bollywood film that I highly recommend), and ofcourse the karaoke. I LOVE karaoke. Like, seriously- my sister and I tend to not give up the microphone unless forced. So after rousing performances of #choons like Mysterious Girl, Sexyback, Shaggy’s It Wasn’t Me, and Dancing Queen by ABBA, we eventually had to give other people a chance.
So this round is a tie- Pembroke Cambridge had more things to do, and an event planner was given to guests (which I really regret not using), but Pembroke Oxford wasn’t as overwhelming, was cosier, and had karaoke, so kudos for that.
Overall winner? Both had great WOW factor in different ways, and if you’d asked me straight after the Cambridge ball, I would have said Pembroke College Cambridge was the best. However a week on, all I kept thinking was how much I regret not doing certain activities. I feel a bit disappointed that I missed out on stuff, as even though I made it to the survivors photo at 6am, I wish I’d had more time to do things.
And it is because of this that Pembroke College Oxford wins. The ball was over a month ago and I have no regrets because I feel like I really got my money’s worth. I also didn’t like how we had to queue for over an hour before being let into the Cambridge ball- the Pembroke Oxford system of collecting tickets and wristbands the week before the ball was way more efficient.
So… yeah, that concludes my Oxbridge May Ball experience. I balled so hard and that shizz was cray. Here’s hoping I can talk my way into future balls because fun fact: I wasn’t actually invited to the Pembroke College Cambridge ball lol. Shout out to Louis a.k.a The Little Engine(er) That Could, and The Keen One a.k.a. Kenny for putting up with me; you guys are the real MVPs x