I attended my first official Oxbridge ball at Keble College, Oxford last weekend. This massive college transformed itself to Gaia Machina – a rebirth of the earth through a machine that rebuilds the ecosystems after humans destroyed it. A very new-age, green theme to fit the growth of the sustainability movement. It was very edgy and different. Overall, I had a blast with Conor, but it some areas it was underwhelming. As a ball planner myself, it was hard to turn off the critical part of my brain and just enjoy the event. Below I will give an overview of everything Keble had to offer, what I partook in, and some final thoughts.
All of this information could be found on their app. The app was available for download a few days in advance but none of the information was released until around 5pm on Saturday evening. Their app was informational and easy to use. There were different tabs, such as Ents, Music, Food and Drinks, that could be sorted by location or time. There was an overall map, though it wasn’t very functional or interactive, but worked. I was able to favorite certain things, which then showed up in the My Ball tab which I liked. There were also push notifications which were helpful throughout the night. There was a menu that had additional tabs for How to Use the App, About the Ball, Committee, Sponsors, Charities, and Settings.
- Yubba Yubba Doughnuts
- These doughnuts were to die for! They were freshly made in front of me, with a choice of chocolate sauce or cinnamon. I chose the chocolate sauce and Conor chose the cinnamon – there was not a wrong choice, both were an incredible, delectable treat.
- Bittenclub Gyoza
- These gyoza were absolutley worth the hassle of a line. People streamlined for these when they first arrived, pushing and rubbing up against one another. It was basically a gyoza moshpit. But it was so so worth it! These were delicious bite sized portions, which I went back for later during the main headliner when there was no line! (pro-tip here from a beginner)
- Alfonso Gelato
- Dough and Deer Wood-Fired Pizza
- This line was one-hundred people long the entire night. Waiting thirty minutes to an hour in line for one slice of pizza was not a priority for me, so I skipped this stall, but it smelled delicious. It did have an awkward placement, right next to the toilets.
- The Missing Bean
- This cute little stand was placed at the front of the college where the champagne reception was. It was run by the kindest humans! I ordered two Earl Grey’s, which were delicious and the wait was about five minutes!
- Piadina Project
- Taste Tibet
- Mac to the Future
- Los Churros Amigos
- Kelly’s Occasions Fondue
- I was so excited for fondue! But by 10pm it was ravished and turned off. Unfortunate for people who wanted to miss the crazy rush in the beginning of the ball to avoid any chocolate spills on dresses and suits.
- Sipsmith Gin Bar
- This was my favorite bar! It had really nice gin (according to Conor because I am still learning) and Fever Tree tonic! The drinks were delicious and pretty! Waited less than five minutes every time.
- Cocktails in Tunnel of Light
- Cocktails in Mechanical Meadow
- Tap Social Movement
- Gaia Bar
- This bar had the typical mixer drinks- rum and coke, vodka and lemonade. It had a bunch of seating with music. A nice bar to sit and enjoy the atmosphere.
- Nectar Valley
- This was the main stage bar with really nice cocktails. I had a Sex on the Beach, which was incredible! They also offered Uptown Spritz, Black Russian, Passionfruit Mojito, Virgin Moscow, and Virgin Sex on the Beach. As well, there were shooters- Baby Guiness, Skittles Bomb, and Jager and Apple. The staff kept the drinks flowing throughout the night so there was never a wait!
- Wine Bar
- The wine bar was next to the Shisha which had a bunch a space heaters around. It was a chilly night, so Conor and I spent a lot of time at the wine bar, soaking up the heat waves, and watching the light show projected onto one of the buildings.
- Alc-au-Lait Milkshakes
- These were my favorite drinks of the whole night! I had a Bailey’s chocolate milkshake and it was so good! There were four different kinds of alcoholic milkshakes – the bottles were out next to each section so you knew what you were grabbing. I thought the presentation of the milkshakes was great and they came in small cups, which was the perfect portion for a dessert drink.
- Kate Lomas
- Isobel Hambleton
- Green Bean Machine
- Sigma was the headliner for the ball and did not disappoint! I wasn’t sure if I would recognize any of the songs, and I didn’t, but the beats were pretty standard for that EDM/pop vibe so it was super fun to dance along too! Conor and I got pretty far into the center of the moshpit, which was fun for a little bit, but then people actually started moshing and I am not a fan of that (my friend tore her ACL in a moshpit once).
- Stir Fry Dons
- Deep Cover
- Early Hours
- Silent Noize
- ABBA Gold Tribute Band
- Everyone loves an ABBA tribute band! People came rushing back to the main stage to sing and dance along with ABBA! It was definitely a highlight of the night!
- Tunnel of Light
- This was a hallway connecting two bars that was covered in light bulbs that changed colors! It was a cool feature wall where a lot of people stopped to take pictures.
- Caricature Artist
- I was really excited for this until I actually got to it. There was always a long line because the artist was spending about twenty minutes on each drawing. Her mistake was using colors to paint the drawing. It was a drag because obviously it was really popular but the wait was up to an hour or more, which was ridiculous for something that could’ve been 3-5 minutes per drawing.
- Planetarium – Nature Dome
- This was also underwhelming. The wait was about 15-20 minutes to enter a blow up dome with a planetarium show inside. The show lasted about 5 minutes and wasn’t that memorable. Apparently in the past, the dome was twice the size so wait times were shorter, but this year they went with a smaller dome.
- Light Show
- Double Take Projections put on an amazing light show on one of the main faces of the college. It was a story about the theme of the ball- Gaia Machina, lasting about eight minutes. Then there were cool projections that played off the architecture of the building, staggered at various intervals for the rest of the night.
- While I didn’t partake in the Shisha, this was the only area of the ball with outdoor heaters, so I spent time here, eating the doughnuts and gyoza and drinking wine and tea. This was also the area from which I viewed the light show.
- Stilt Walkers
- The stilt walkers were dressed as giant tree people – it was like having a bunch of Groots walking around. They were another fun photo opportunity.
- Jingo Glitter
From above, its clear that my priorities at the event were more non-music entertainments focused, food/drinks, and then music focused. I was underwhelmed by the offering of non-music entertainments. There really wasn’t much to do besides music and queuing. I think Keble spent a lot of their budget on music acts, without accounting for what the guests would want to be doing besides listening to music. Additionally, it was quite cold so most guests wanted to be inside or doing things that didn’t involve standing in the cold. By 2am, the only offerings were the Silent Disco and the food and drinks that were left. The ball ended at 4:00am. So for 2 hours, they only had one entertainment option for a limited number of people. Granted by 2am, a significant portion of the guests had left. Conor and I left around 2:30am because of the lack of things to do. By that time, we were had been drinking for awhile and were also full, so I would’ve liked a chill non-music offering.
For my black tie outfit, I bought the black jumpsuit at New Look for about 25 pounds and my black booties are from Francesca’s (I’ve had them for a few years). I did see some girls wearing sneakers, which by 2am I was quite jealous of. Most of the men wore typical black tie, while being a little playful with ties and pocket squares.
Overall, I really enjoyed my night. Conor ended up running into a lot of people he knew from his undergrad in Oxford, so I met a lot of people and had a good social time. The food and drink offerings were great! More non-music ents would’ve made the ball incredible. But definitely would give it a solid 7/10.