Cambridge University May Ball horror: ‘The best part was the McDonalds at the end of the night’


The May Ball season has well and truly returned with a bang after a two year hiatus. Students have been celebrating the end of exams, soaking up the atmosphere of the long summer evenings, and enjoying a drink (or three) with friends.

The historic, extravagant tradition of the May Ball screams Cambridge University to the bone, and is well known for being the social highlight of the term for students. Tickets can cost anywhere from £ 100- £ 200, and even more for some balls, with students forking out the huge cost for an iconic University of Cambridge experience.

However, not all May Ball’s were made equal according to attendees of the St Edmunds event, which took place last Saturday (June 18). What was billed as a night “to remember for everyone” full of “limitless” food, descended, ostensibly, into a chaotic free for all of epic proportions, according to several attendees. Many attendees had expected to be a magical, even fairy tale-like experience but have now expressed their anger and disappointment at lengthy queues, lack of food and drink, and expensive tickets.

Read more: Photos show Cambridge students heading home after epic night at May Balls

The first May Ball was held in 1866, with the tradition quickly spreading to other colleges, but events were canceled in 2020 and 2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. This year, 2022, sees May Balls returning to Cambridge for the first time in three years.

Gregory Segal and his partner, who would prefer not to be named, told CambridgeshireLive they were “shocked” and “appalled” at the treatment they received last Saturday: “We were just disappointed, it’s something that my fiancé and me built up as something that would be special, a Cambridge ball is something you think is going to be a magical experience. The reality was that we were standing there with a burger van in a field, after queuing for three hours. We started feeling sick to our stomachs when we thought how much we had paid for it all “.

‘There were zero provisions’

Queue for St Edmund’s May Ball
(Image: Gregory Segal)

Rickesh Advani, 32-years-old, had just finished his undergraduate degree in Political Science, having previously worked in finance and charity work. He told CambridgeshireLive about queues, the lack of food, and the poor value for money:

“It was raining that day, it was cold, It was miserable. I have physical disabilities and there was no support for the queuing system, which became really painful to bear at some point. Once you’ve been standing for an hour and a half for each queue it was very difficult to enjoy the Ball. I did manage to get drinks; that took me just under 90 minutes. And then I queued for 90 minutes for food.

Mr Advani added: “I’m Hindu so I can’t eat beef. They had beef burgers and vegan burgers. I was very happy to contend with the vegan burger. I got to the three places before the front of the queue and overheard that the vegan burgers had run out over an hour before. No one had been told “.

‘They’ve gambled with something that is the pinnacle of our experience here’

Dodgems at a May Ball
Dodgems were hired for the May Ball at At Edmund’s
(Image: Gregory Segal)

Mr Advani believes St Edmund’s College needs “to take responsibility” for the Ball’s failings: “In reality, this was managed by third year students who were prioritizing their final year exams, and what they’ve done is they’ve gambled with something that is the pinnacle of our experience here.

Many attendees were outraged at the mismatch between the price of the ball and the disappointing experience they received on the night, Mr Advani said: “A ticket for St Edmund’s is £ 140. What we got for £ 140 was two bars, one with beer and wine, and one was shots. They took ages to make and people were taking like eight shots at a time. We had one ride which was dodgems and one food truck. Apart from that there was a little bit of seating and a place to get a photo. There was supposed to be a casino, but that couldn’t be found and we had no programs “.

In an email sent to the President of the May Ball Committee, Mr Segal also commented on the expensive experience: “In total, our group spent £ 530 on tickets. We understand that sometimes things can go wrong and that not everything will always run perfectly However, for £ 140 per ticket the very minimum we would expect a drink and some food without having to wait over three hours “.

Response from St Edmund’s Committee and College

CambridegshireLive contacted the May Ball Committee for comment on the above complaints, and they released a statement which said: “The 2022 St Edmund’s May Ball on Saturday ran all night providing a variety of music and entertainment. All revenue from the sale of tickets was allocated directly to funding what was provided to our guests.

“The Committee understands some attendees have raised concerns about parts of the Ball, which it will be responding to in due course. Feedback is welcome as this will inform future events, given this is the first large event run by the student body since COVID”

St Edmunds College also replied, saying that they deemed the event a “largely successful” one, and would be “supporting the students in capturing the lessons learned”:

“St Edmund’s, as a mature College, provides opportunities for students and groups of students – such as the May Ball committee – to organize their own events that are for the enjoyment and benefit of the whole College community. The College is aware there have been some concerns about the largely successful event and will be supporting the students in capturing their learned lessons. ”

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