Back in December, when the undergrad students had all left Cambridge and the few grey-faced PhD researchers remained, I designed a Mardi Gras-themed formal dinner for 250 people featuring the Homerton Jazz Orchestra.
Honestly, I wanted a chance to show off the Homerton Jazz Orchestra to the college and thought this would be a creative and original way of doing it. One of the skills that I developed during my PhD was to write convincing proposals between cups of tea. My event proposal included menus, decorations and and entertainment based on the European roots of New Orleans’ famous festival. The president of the Homerton Union of Students supported the idea and took it to his committee. Shortly after, we had a meeting with the heads of catering, in which we were stunned by how they had put a New Orleans-themed menu together. Their interest, creativity and professionalism made us realise that:
1) the event was going to exceed all of our expectations (all 250 tickets sold out before being officially released);
2) we needed to put on an amazing show.
The pre-dinner parade:
We offered the VIPs carnival masks and beads while entertaining them with improvised brass music. This ended with a jazz fanfare and a parade down the long Pauper’s Walk through Homerton College on the way to the dining hall. The guests enjoyed the cajun & creole cuisine, rum drinks and the New Orleans-style piano playing of Cambridge’s Paul Cook.
Photos by Adil Patwary.
The after party:
After the dinner, we cleared away tables to make a dance floor and then HoJO played an lively hour-long concert immediately after the formal in the Great Hall. The swing dancers were notified in advance and led the audience to the lively dance floor. An amazing night was had with many firsts! Fellows of the college wore masks and beads, the rarely-used Cavendish bar was opened, there was swing dancing in the Great Hall, and I had the best meal that I have ever had at a Cambridge College formal dinner.
A few months after this event, I was informed by Homerton College that they wanted to turn my Mardi Gras event into an annual occurrence. I am very appreciative of the teams in Homerton College that worked together to help me realise the big vision that I had designed swiftly between cups of tea in December. I look forward to returning to Homerton in years to come to enjoy the annual Homerton Jazz Mardi Gras Formal from the audience.