To sum the 2015 grad ball up; the word ‘overpriced’ would come to mind.
For £50, one would expect something markedly different to what was essentially a club night at Oceana; however, this was certainly not the case. Sure, there were fairground attractions and the promise of decent acts (indeed, over £78,000 was spent on the hiring of these acts), however, the quality of performances certainly did not warrant the extortionate fee charged. It seems clear that the impression is that SUSU did not have the priorities of its students at the heart of its planning, which isn’t surprising given the lack of student involvement in organising the event.
Despite the high price, the atmosphere of the night was jovial and lively (much like a normal night at Oceana) with many students determined to finish their university careers in style. A lot of students I spoke to seemed to be having a great night, despite raising concerns over the lineup and the extortionate cost.
— Emily Sherry (@e_sherry) June 9, 2015
Labrinth was pretty sick! #SUSUGradBall
— Cameron Meldrum (@c_meldrum) June 8, 2015
— Alex Wilson (@alexwilson30) June 8, 2015
— Ben Hicks (@benhicks93) June 9, 2015
Moving onto the night itself, the generally popular fairground attractions were filling out nicely; with favourable reviews (aside from the pathetically tragic ghost train) from most involved. As well as this, the ever-popular photo booth was witnessing a huge influx of people at the start of the night. Certainly, the atmosphere was one of anticipation for the performances of the announced acts, as well as having the aura of a massive end-of-term party.
The initial acts themselves witnessed a distinct lack of people appreciating their ‘star quality’. Performances such as the ABBA tribute were witness to perhaps a maximum of 30 people, and both the disco room and the Iceroom in Oceana took a long time to fill. However, once the graduating students began flowing in around 10:30pm, the atmosphere certainly developed.
That is not to say, however, that the quality of the performing acts improved in the same way as the crowd level. Katy B was certainly one of the better acts of the night, however B*Witched in the disco room certainly looked like they were going through the motions. Unfortunately for them, any song post-C’est la Vie was always going to be relatively ignored – the impact of their set was certainly compromised, and towards the end of the set the atmosphere started to fall flat. Certainly, by the time that both acts had finished, there was no evidence that the money spent represented anything like the value that SUSU should be getting for an event like this.
Moving onto later in the evening, the general consensus is that Labrinth was undoubtedly the best act of the night, with an engaging setlist coupled with a performance which encourage crowd participation. The same cannot be said, however, for S Club (incidentally comprised of Jo, Tina & Bradley). They were undoubtedly the most disappointing act of the night. As if playing for 30-minutes instead of for their allotted 1-hour wasn’t enough, half of their songs were not written/sang by them. Considering the number of hits written by the septet, the lack of original content was disappointing. The songs that were credited to S Club were essentially performed as glorified karaoke sessions, with minimal effort going in to increasing the quality of their set. The thrusting of a bottle of Jaeger down various throats sums up how seriously S Club were taking their performance – indeed, seemingly they were just there to scoop their cheque from SUSU and run, whilst lavishing themselves on free food & drink whilst they do so.
The next major act was Basshunter, who was seemingly more interested in playing with his phone than playing to the crowd. Sure, there were a couple of crowd-pleasers thrown into his set to appease his sceptics, however even his most ardent fans must concede that his levels of interest with the crowd were minimal – a theme which runs through many of the performing acts. Post-Basshunter, Oceana was depopulating rapidly, with many people leaving at around the 3am mark.
Ironically, some of the more well-received performances on the night came from our very own students. Special mention must go out to the volunteers on Surge Radio, whose set mixed modern classics & crowd pleasers. The fact that there was not much difference in the reception given to the Surge DJ’s and many of the paid acts is a damning indictment of the lack of quality on show, whilst also being a testament to the professional quality of Surge’s DJ’s. The set performed by Scarlett May was professional in its delivery, who did a fantastic job in her one of her first-ever live DJ sets.
I should be clear at this point that the Grad Ball was by no means an event where everyone stood around looking depressed – clearly many people enjoyed themselves. However you would certainly expect this when a club is full of partying students. Credit has to be given to the Oceana staff, and those within SUSU who ordered the decorations; the drinks prices were not too extortionate and the ambiance was absolutely fantastic.
The fairground rides, of course, were extremely popular and thrilling. There is nothing quite like revisiting your childhood self whilst ramming different people in the dodgems. The face that the rides were all free was both welcome and necessary; it provided a fantastic respite from the ‘clubbing’ aspect of the night.
The general consensus around the grad ball event was that the tickets for it should have been around half the price of the £50 quote; or that a meal and perhaps a superior venue was included in the price charged. Indeed, with many people stating that the price of the ball was a rip-off, and, not worth it, the idea that there should be a grad-ball committee needs to come in for next year. Certainly SUSU needs to introduce this to ensure that students are not further alienated by the union due to its secrecy & extortionate ticket prices for events like this (which are essentially glorified club nights).
For next year’s grad ball, SUSU needs to increase the influence of its students and ensure that the core events team collaborate with students in ensuring that the best possible event can be held – one would only need to pay small attention to the number of complaints raised previous to the night to conclude that this step needs to be taken. Hopefully the idea of a grad ball committee comes to fruition, so actual students have a real and influential say in the arrangements for this event, rather than internal determination.