You may have seen that we recently fired the display for the Trinity May Ball. You might also be aware that the fireworks at St John’s College May Ball as depicted in the film, The Theory of Everything, were fired by us. In fact in the last month we have also fired displays for Robinson College and Trinity Hall (which was also enjoyed by members of Clare and King’s Colleges). Unless you went to Cambridge University, you may not know much about the May Balls.
In Cambridge, the week after exams is known as May week, though it is actually held in June. The week involves boat races, May Balls, garden parties and college events to celebrate the end of exams. Originally the festivities were held in May but in 1882 the boat races were moved to June and the rest of the celebrations soon followed suit.
Clive James refers to this and other quirks of this most famous University in his very amusing memoires “May Week was in June”. Cambridge is rated as the Second Best University in the World (after MIT) according to www.topuniversities.com.
The May Balls take place on either the second or fourth week of June during May Week, which includes the charmingly named Suicide Sunday (the Sunday after all exams have finished but results have not yet been posted so students are feeling agitated and stressed). They are held by the various colleges of the University of Cambridge; some annually (Clare, Darwin, Hughes Hall, Jesus, St Edmund’s, Robinson, Trinity and St John’s) and others biannually (Magdalene, Pembroke, Emmanuel, Corpus Christi, Christ’s, Downing, Girton, Gonville and Caius, Homerton, Newnham, Queens’, Sidney Sussex and St Catharine’s). May Balls operate a strict dress code with Magdalene and Peterhouse insisting on white tie and the other houses requiring at least black tie. Some colleges will only sell tickets in pairs.
King’s college holds the King’s Affair as an alternative to a May Ball. This is an informal version of the May Ball with fancy dress. Rumour has it that in the 1970s the college invited The Stranglers to play. The resulting crush from gatecrashers meant that the police had to be called. According to the story, the police banned the college from hosting a May Ball for the next ten years so King’s responded by creating the King’s Affair. Past performers for this event include Noah and the Whale, Fatboy Slim and Clean Bandit.