“Milo you should probably wear a coat to the snowball or you’ll freeze.”
“Nah, there’s bird sh*t on my coat, my black tie is wool, I’ll be fine.”
It was true that there was bird sh*t on my coat, after an unfortunate incident in the Life smoking area, but unfortunately it was not true that I would be fine. A friend later informed me that it was -4C that night including wind-chill, which goes some way to explaining why I couldn’t feel my extremities, eyes, brain etc by the time I got into the ball but, since it isn’t a valid criticism of the ball to say that it is in December, this is more just a warning to bring a coat. There is a coat check. I froze to death so you don’t have to.
The bitter cold of the queue was mitigated a little by the mulled cider and pigs-in-blankets which were served, the heat of which reminded me of what it might be like to be able to feel my hands again, something which seemed to be a distant memory. The mince pies they handed out were cold though, which is something I cannot advocate as good practice when dealing with people who are freezing to death in a queue.
Once in the ball, my companion and I strolled straight past the coat check, since I didn’t have a coat and she had wisely decided to leave hers on (most of the ball is inside but you often need to go outside to move between rooms or queue for stuff, so keeping your coat handy is an A+ idea). We then came to the reindeer enclosure, which was a nice touch, though not something I could fully enjoy as it was outside and I feared that I may be about to lose a foot to frostbite. They seemed fairly cute, though they had bizarre names like ‘Atlantic’ and I think one of the handler’s overheard me ironically saying ‘Entertain me beast!’. We moved on.
We went to the room next to the hall, where said companion made a half-hearted effort at making me a friendship bracelet, before giving up due to being a Philosophy student, and not at all given to manual labour. The only other things on offer in this room were cordial (I ask you) and vodka which you had to book a ticket in order to drink. Things took a large turn for the better next door in the servery, where we were given onion rings and sweet potato fries, before strolling through the main hall, where a jazz-band who were not Julius and the Handlers were playing (B-), and grabbing some incredibly potent cocktails from the River Bar stand, to add the the Rekorderligs we were already holding. We then immediately went to the marquee and ordered triple rum and cokes, which they were apparently not allowed to serve us, but our charms/belligerence won out.
It may be clear to you at this point that we set out to get drunk. This is a strategy I would advocate for the Snowball for two reasons: 1. It is colder than you can possibly imagine; 2. It’s £74 a ticket and hence there are a lot of rough edges, but hey, it’s £74 a ticket and it’s unlimited free booze, food and entertainment. This isn’t a May Ball and you’re not going to be taking artsy Instagrams of the fireworks, marvelling at how smart everyone looks (some people were wearing clip-on bow-ties, or even regular suits) or sipping refined champagne at 5am - the drunker you get the more you’ll enjoy it.
Sadly it transpired that the stand serving burgers didn’t open until 10pm, despite ostensibly having cooked all their burgers by 9pm, so we continued to crash through spirit and mixer in the college bar and profiteroles in the marquee until it did. Once it opened we weren’t disappointed, despite the fifteen minute queue outside, the food was very good: the elk burger I had was excellent, and the halloumi burger my companion tried was apparently also quite tasty.
Sated, we went to the chapel for a sit down (#thuglife) and enjoyed the musical stylings of Datum Plane, though not as much as a very drunk girl sitting at the front who kept requesting songs we hadn’t heard of, and Jesus, who seemed to be having a fantastic time.
After this, we sampled the silent disco which, as they always are, was for more entertaining if you didn’t wear the headphones and simply listened to the occasional bestial moans emanating from the crowd. If you did put on a pair of the uncomfortable headphones, you found that one channel was music (A+) and the other channel was one of the Creem DJs constantly shouting “Team Red! Team Red! I want everybody listening to Team Red - especially you Team Green lot. Let’s destroy Team Green!” over some bassline garage. I don’t mind bassline garage, though I feel that said DJ had failed to realise that a) ‘Team Green’ couldn’t hear him, that was very much the benefit of being ‘Team Green’, and b) Neither teams ‘Red’ or ‘Green’ identified as such, and nobody really regards silent discos as a competition, since if they were I feel like one would already have lost by being at one.
Bored of that, we went back to the main hall and joined some friends, where we enjoyed the upbeat janglings of The Fabulous Hurricanes, who were moderately fabulous, but not hurricanes, which was probably a good thing. Being ageing undergrads, though, we only stuck it our for about 40mins and decided to call it a night at about 2.10am and make our way home, having had a fair bit of fun with our free tickets and gotten drunk enough to face the sub-zero temperatures of the walk back to our Trumpington Street colleges from Grange Road.
Food and Drink: 3/5
Good for the price but a little lacking in variety in places, especially in terms of dessert options, queues were occasionally long or outside or both.
Vegetarian Rating: 5/5
Most things were vegetarian friendly, and those which weren’t had a good veggie option.
Some good acts in and around the place, especially Datum Plane and The Fabulous Hurricanes, but brought down by the poor silent disco (I’m not seeking to imply that I have ever attended a good silent disco, but this one was bad).
Value for Money: 3/5
For the money it’s a solid night out, especially if you take a calculated approach to sinking as many triples as possible, but it lacks that finesse and luxury of a May Ball, even of a cheapy like Robinson, which is probably only £20 or so more expensive if you’re happy to save your pennies until June.
A decent quality ball for a relatively budget price with a pretty lively atmosphere and nice touches like the hot food in the queue, so long as you don’t mind being surrounded by freshers. So especially good for freshers.