May 16th, 1987


FROM THE ARCHIVES:The emergence of Aids in the 1980s cast a dark shadow for many years, including at the Trinity Ball in 1987, where the main charity and the messages about safe sex made it difficult to ignore. Nevertheless, neither it nor the headline on Kathryn Holmquist’s report managed to spoil the party. – JOE JOYCE

'ROMANCE IS dead in flash at Trinity Ball.’

Amid the romance of the Trinity Ball last night, a flashing sign implored the guests to “play safe” – use a condom . . . condoms available in the Student Union shop now open”.

So while the young women in their ballgowns and the young men in their tuxedos played out the enduring Trinity ritual of promenading arm-in-arm through the arch, they were being disabused of any notions they might have had of “being carried away”.

And for those who had no notions of being carried away in the first place, the vital issue was the etiquette of the situation. Does one ignore the sign or comment politely upon it? Could this be viewed by one’s escort as a leading question? For those of us old enough to remember romance before AIDS, there was no use in feeling sentimental.

The Ball has survived the onslaught of rock ’n’ roll, mini-skirts, punk, the Pogues and the almost annual rain over the last 30 years – it will survive condoms. And clearly the Trinity Week Committee was determined that as many as possible of the 5,000 young people who were having the times of their lives last night will survive the AIDS epidemic.

What more appropriate setting could there be, after all, than the legendary Ball to show that flights of the heart and safe sex can go hand-in-hand? Although, as the starry-eyed couples strolled elegantly beneath the flashing AIDS message board, not one of them seemed that slightest bit interested in consummating their relationship there within the quadrangle.

Not only was it too cold, but there was just too much old-fashioned fun to be had.

In fact, the students’ first lesson in how to bring the issue of AIDS and condoms into the open without social embarrassment was only one of the hundreds of attractions on offer. The traditional madness was as irresistible as the romance was indestructible.

It’s not called the social event of the year for nothing. As usual, there was hectic dancing to 33 bands. Meanwhile, thousands of hangovers were created, dresses became ever more bedraggled, tuxedos ever more creased and facial expressions ever more enthusiastic.

And, as usual, there were the heroic but futile efforts to jump the wall and crash the party. But security was tight and only holders of the £35 per couple tickets (£75 on the black market) were allowed in.

Except, that is, for the 50 who paid £80 a ticket for the charity reception in the Atrium in aid of the Trinity AIDS Concern Trust, helping to bring the total funds raised for the charity during Trinity Week to £6,000.