The van was kitted out with a bed in the back: 2 duvets, 5 pillows, a big bottle of rum, a lantern, 4 cameras and some ginger beer. The parking pass was attached haphazardly on the windscreen and it was time to leave, heading west to the Portleven Masked Ball. Wearing a sequin dress, flowers in my hair (and having spent about an hour gluing sequins to my face in the shape of a mask), I drove my fellow suited Gorilla photographer along winding roads hemmed by campions, bluebells and wild garlic with the sun shining high in the sky.
My little rust bucket of a van made it up the hill and into the car park where fairies, tigers, cavemen and a number of dapper young chaps with stripes on their faces were strolling about with beers clutched safely in their hands. This year was bigger than normal, the stages had moved around and there was more of a focus on live music as well as DJ’s. If you’ve previously been to a summer Masked Ball then you know the main focus is about the experience, allowing a weekend of hedonism.
This year tickets were needed to enter the camping area, rather than the usual set up of whacking on a wristband before arriving at the ‘arena’. It gave the whole thing more of a festival feel, with a DJ set up by the Hollywood style Masked Ball sign, a beautiful seascape behind it and everyone relaxing near their tents or getting ready for the night ahead. Streams of people were arriving as dusk started setting in, carrying tents (pop-up tents seemed the most practical) and the unusual hats & headdresses. People started dancing around the sign and the Sir Vinyl tent was already beginning to kick off. One last trip to the van was in order for a tad more rum and to gather the troops (a task which is always very hard at The Masked Ball).
Upon hearing the sound of American Dread by Dreadzone, I instantly ran off to find where the noise was coming from. I was amazed at the size of the marquee they were in – having seen them previously at other festivals – it was a much smaller venue than I was used to. Yet they had the audience going and I was bopping around at the front, watching the crowd as they writhed around joyously. It was a brilliant start to the night.
There were a fair few stages this year; the two I’ve already mentioned and a third tent, which had sofas and played 80’s music until the sun rose. This is where I spent the early hours dancing to Blondie and other 80’s classics whilst watching the bar staff play human buckaroo on those who had crashed out on the sofas. Then there was the main marquee, which was a bit like being in a sardine can, and it wasn’t playing the best music.
Esmerelda’s was my favourite stage, as you had to crawl through a tunnel to get in to the dome (it was the Alice in Wonderland stage last year). Once in the dome it was like a bubble of magic: scantily clad ladies were dancing on the stages wearing big blue wigs with clown makeup, joined by men in suits with the same hair and makeup – all of which refused to smile making it even better. There was a lady strolling through the crowd with a hula hoop trapping people in it and making them dance, adding a brilliant touch to the stage. A podium in the middle was full of mismatched mask wearers with their hands in the air as they danced to 50s/60s remixes.
Groove Armada were doing a DJ set, which I wasn’t a fan of – it sounded like the generic club music that I might hear in my local Penzance nightclub. Sir Vinyl’s tent and Esmerelda’s were definitely the places to be. As the night went on there were numerous changes as to how you could enter each tent – instigated by the security – depending on the capacity of the different settings. These changes of pathway meant people were leaping like lemmings over the Cornish dry stone wall and into a patch of brambles to get to the tents they wanted to (that’s dedication). As it got closer and closer to sunrise, the crowds started dwindling and eventually at 5.30ish we decided it was time to head to bed – skipping in the blue of the sky to the car park.
This year The Masked Ball introduced the Sunday Service and waking up on Sunday morning I could instantly see why – there were a number of people still dancing around. Then there were those who had crashed and burned onto bales of hay which they proceeded to bury themselves in. The queue for bacon sandwiches and tea was insane, longer than the line to get in maybe, and as people left the event more people came. Unfortunately I couldn’t stay for the Sunday but general feedback seemed positive. This year’s Masked Ball was the best ball yet and I’m already looking forward to the next.