Interviews

All about Christ’s May Ball: An Interview with the committee

Here in Cambridge, May Ball season has come to a close. An age-old tradition specific to the university, it is one that students look forward to attending - and organising - every year. We chatted with two committee members of Christ’s May Ball, Pippa and Christina, to find out more about the event, which The Cambridge Satchel Co. was proud to sponsor.

 

The Cambridge Satchel Co. 

Please could you introduce yourselves briefly?


Pippa  

I'm Pippa. I'm the president of Christ’s May Ball, and I’ve just finished my third year - my final year - studying English.


Christina  

I'm Christina, I'm a first year biological natural sciences student, and I'm the sponsorship officer for Christ’s May Ball. 


CSC

What do your roles entail?


Pippa

I'm one of two presidents of the ball; Sam and I worked on it together. We managed a committee of about 25 people to run the ball. Essentially, we made sure that all of the departments were on track with the different things that they needed to be thinking about. We also made sure that we checked in with people regularly, met up with them, made sure the work was divided evenly, and ensured that we could pick up the slack when people had other things to do, like exams!


Christina

My role was quite self contained. I sent out emails and tried to get engagement from sponsors. Once we'd formed a foundational partnership, I then made sure that we carried out every part of our side of the deal throughout the year. I made a timeline so that we knew when we had to  send out posts online for social media, when leaflets needed to be sent out to students, etc.

 

CSC

Could you explain the inspiration behind this year’s theme and how you made it come to life? Where did the idea come from?


Pippa 

The art and design department were the people who were responsible for the theme. They started brainstorming in May 2021. For me, the theme is the most important thing because it drives everything else that we do. Our A&D department mocked up some developments of each theme and brainstormed how we could go about chipping into the different elements of them, because it's actually quite hard to find something that allows you to have enough freedom to keep it entertaining and fresh throughout the ball, but also while staying on theme and having a united overall approach. Our theme, Mythos, was selected from these different options that were thrown around. As for the way we brought it to life, each court in the college had a different theme to it. Each one drew on different gods and the iconography around different people to make sure that each court had something really interesting and new to do with it. 


Christina  

When I joined the team, the theme had already been decided. I was very excited when I was told what it was, because it was a secret at the time, and because I could imagine the different ways in which you could draw on it in terms of both the event itself and in terms of sponsorship. You might not think that the theme was very much related to sponsorship, but even with things like food and drinks and vendors that we had a sponsorship deal with, we managed to theme the food around it. 


CSC  

What was your biggest challenge with this ball?


Pippa  

Well, unlike past committees, none of us have actually been to a ball, due to Covid. So we were kind of going in blind! However, it was also this that allowed us the freedom to carve our own path. A little bit of guidance might have been nice at points, it has also been great to be able to make decisions according to how we want it to be, particularly with things like the sustainable Initiative and the accessible initiative. Being able to incorporate those into our plans from the getgo has been really helpful. 


Christina  

The great thing about Christ’s is, because of all of our separate courts, we worked out the direction that guests could walk through the college, so we were really able to tailor the experience to build up as they went from one court to the next.


CSC  

And, for both of you, what was the most exciting part of the ball? 


Pippa

Well, I'm big into the food and drink side of things, so I was very excited for those. But I think for me, what it's really all about is just having everyone together. Friends of mine came to the ball from different places around the country, and it was great to have them there all together. It was a particularly unique opportunity to make sure that a lot of people had a really good time all at once, which was really nice. 


Christina  

It's one of those special Cambridge experiences that you appreciate being here even more, because you can get so caught up in your workload and the general chaos of Cambridge that it's nice to have a day where everyone's celebrating at one time.

CSC  

Why did you want to join the committee?


Pippa

Well, I was on the committee in my first year for the ball that never was, and I inherited the President role from the previous presidents. I really wanted to have a ball, and I wanted to see through a lot of the cool ideas that the last committee had in our own ball.


Christina

I wanted to join because I've done similar roles beforehand, such as planning charity murder mystery dinner evenings, so I really wanted to be a part of the entertainment side of things. Sponsorship is never an angle I've come at before, because the events I've been involved with before haven’t been big enough to warrant this, and so that really intrigued me. It's been incredible because Pippa and Sam are brilliant; they give you all the support that you need, and they're always there, but equally you can have your own role and you can make it all that you want.


CSC

Why is the tradition of Cambridge May Balls so important, in your opinion?


Pippa  

I think that Cambridge has a lot of very old, slightly stuffy traditions in many ways, but I think this is a really nice one because it's organised by students and it always has been. Christ’s, in particular, is a fantastic college. All of the college staff completely go out of their way to help us out, and that's really special. I also think that it’s quite nice to do something that's a little bit more fun and a little bit less regulated, in some senses. 


Christina

I also think that the sizing of Christ’s is important, because we're a medium sized college, so you tend to know not only everyone in your year, but in all the other years. So, having one set day where everyone's celebrating at the same time, you can ensure that you're there with all of your friends and even maybe people in the year above that you're not as close to, but who would still want to celebrate with you. I think it's such a great way of bringing everyone together for that.

 

CSC  

Could you tell me a bit about your sponsors and partners?


Christina  

The main role of sponsorship is about getting deals and benefits for our guests to make their experience even better. Examples of those we’re working with include Hirestreet, who have sustainable dresses online that you can rent for the evening. They’re affordable dresses, so that everyone can afford to come to a black tie event, but they’re also great from an eco-friendly side of things. Things like food and drink are also very important; Red Bull is one of our sponsors and we’re really excited to partner with them as well. They were actually one of our very first deals because they wanted to be a sponsor for the ball that didn't happen in 2020. 


CSC  

And finally, why did you want to partner with us?


Pippa

Well, I met Julie at a Women in Fashion event with Cambridge Women in Business society event fairly recently. I came to the reception at The Cambridge Satchel Co.’s Cambridge shop and I really enjoyed talking to her and just listening to what she had to say. I also love the bags. I'm a sucker for a satchel. 


Christina  

As Sponsorship Officer, I really wanted to partner with some local Cambridge businesses. But obviously The Cambridge Satchel Co. has got extra appeal in that it's worked its way up to being a national, well-known brand. So it had both sides of what we were looking for, in that sense. When I met the team, I also just had a feeling that we would get along well and that the partnership really was for our guests. In particular, the discount code that we have for our guests to get a bag is great; they’re perfect accessories for a May Ball.

You can find out more about Christ’s May Ball on their website and Instagram page. All photography is by Yvonne Tsai, @jpegs_by_y.