Should May Balls be banned?
Every year the local Cambridge paper runs a story about local residents complaining about May Balls -- the conspicuous consumption, the binge drinking and, most of all, the noise. May Balls were presumably (like most other things in Cambridge) a nineteenth-century invention, though they now come in various more or less politically correct forms.... those where you can buy a single ticket, for example, or those that call themselves a "June Event" not a "May Ball".
But the basic principle remains the same. A lot to drink, a lot of noise, and a very late (or alternatively 'early') finish.
The campaign against this style of jollification has been led this year by the esteemed Professor of Palaeography at King's College London (who happens to live in Cambridge -- who would like all May Balls to end by 1.00 am).
There are some arguments against May Balls. Sure, this is after the end of our students' exams -- but there are still school students struggling with GCSEs etc. Why should they be kept awake by the uni students having fun? And it is also true that the DJ style (as pictured above) doesn't do much for out non-socially-elitist image.
But hang on. Can't the middle aged get a bit too curmudgeonly about the whole thing?
In general, it has to be said that Cambridge students are pretty quiet. They work very hard for months and months, and then they make a lot of noise for about 5 days a year. I think that that is getting off lightly if you live in a university town.
And they work especially hard in (what we call) the Easter Term. They may let their hair down riotously for one short week, but for most of the term they are queuing (yes, queuing) to get into the University Library at 9.00 am. As one student said to me: May Balls (and other May Week fun) may be expensive, but as we have spent nothing on any kind of pleasure for weeks and weeks, even as students,we probably have a little bit of money for a party.
Anyway -- I rather like seeing the remnants of the balls, the morning after, Today I went to London first thing, around 7.00 am (to do a Woman's Hour Balloon debate about who has done most to put women on the UK political map:I was speaking for Mary Wollstonecraft, and came second which was not a bad score....last time I did a balloon debate, I came second, with Homer... but that's another story).Actually I found it rather a pleasure to bike through a town littered with dozy drunken couples in their best outfits looking rather charmingly the worse for wear. This wasn't the Bullingdon Club (or the Cambridge equivalent) at its worst. t was clever young people in the aftermath of some deserved hair-letting-down.
So we should let them have their fun, I think.
Meanwhile, can I remind you that this blog is NOT BEHIND A PAY WALL. If you have any trouble accessing it, go to the TLS site, and start from there.