First Draft Details of 2011 Graduate Ball Released


The first details of the 2011 Graduate Ball have been released, following the last Union Management Board meeting before Christmas.

Dining tickets will cost up to £59 for the event that will take place on Wednesday the 8th of June 2011 at the City Cruise Terminal , which holds a capacity of 3200. This makes a change from last year, when the Ball was spread over two nights at the Guildhall, costing up to £48 for a dining ticket, where Feeder and Radio 1 DJ Scott Mills performed as the headline acts on both nights.

The decision was taken last year to split the Ball due to the high costs and limited venue options that could cater for the thousands of students who attended, but following stark criticism of how the Ball was organised last year, SUSU have actively sought a venue that can accommodate a single-night event, as it “will save on entertainment costs”.

Last year’s split event caused outrage amongst students – many of whom complaining that friends weren’t able to all go on the same night, with tickets for the first night selling out within hours of the Box Office opening.

Students had reportedly queued from as early as 4am to get hold of tickets that were released at the Box Office a few hours before they became available online. With the Box Office website crashing due to demand, many students were left desperately ringing friends in an attempt to get tickets or using Facebook groups to trade days.

Speaking of the improvements SUSU want to make on last year’s issues, SUSU President Billy Fitzjohn said, “SUSU will be paying great attention to the Graduate Ball and we will make sure we learn from the experiences of last year. The Grad Ball is a special event and one that graduates will remember for a long time after their University life, we want these memories to be the very best and we want to put on an amazing show for all of those graduating this Summer.

“SUSU will make sure that all those wanting to attend the event will be informed of how they can get tickets, when they can get them and what they are entitled to. We will be working very hard to make sure that they have a good experience when purchasing their tickets and when they attend the event, communication will be key to having a successful event. We have decided to hold the Ball on just one night this year, which already creates less confusion as people will now not have to chose between two different nights, and the venue this year will have a larger capacity than that at the Guildhall.”

Another complaint last year was that final year students were not given priority over other students, meaning that not enough tickets were available for all final year students to attend. Fitzjohn responded by saying SUSU “will be working on a system to make sure that final year students get priority but as we are still in the early planning stage we have not explored the possible ways of doing this or the possible problems that may come from doing it. By the end of January we will have a more confirmed idea of how we will be undertaking this.”

Last year saw Burlesque acts and SUSU performing arts groups take to the stage throughout the night, with Feeder and former SURGE DJ and now a Radio 1 presenter, Scott Mills performing. This year, however, SUSU are looking to “make the event bigger because of the venue capacity, and it is proposed to have fireworks and fairground attractions on top of other entertainment arranged”.

Non-dining tickets will cost £45, compared to £35 last year. The date tickets go on general sale is yet to be released, but if the timetabling is the same last year, the Wessex Scene predicts tickets will be available at the start of March.

What acts do you want to see perform this year? Is the price too much? Are you worried about the date of the ball? Are you just excited? Give your opinion and comments below.


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Discussion21 Comments

  1. avatar

    The tickets are pricey, but necessary if the ball is to be as good as it will be with all of these positive changes. Personally I think it already sounds much better than last year, and the ball’s failures have been picked up on and considered this time around.

    Acts wise – hard trying to please everyone, particularly on a budget.. Ruth Flowers (the granny dj) would be amazing.

  2. avatar
    Sasha Watson

    By the way – the 8th is a Wednesday. Exams will not be over by then for all 3rd years. Some students will still have exams on Thursday/ Friday. I’ve raised this with Billy and he’s going to talk to Venues about it, but last year some people couldn’t go, or risked having to blag an exam with a hangover.

    That said, Friday is generally undoable for venues, and doing the grad ball the week later runs the risk that many students will have/ want to have gone home by then. Catch 22. What are people’s thoughts?

    • avatar
      Sasha Watson

      Price of having one venue that is MASSIVE. its “only” £10 more for a non-dining ticket… and it sounds like BIG plans, last year there was a few decor and a fake casino, but nothing with a wowowow factor.

          • avatar
            Sasha Watson

            Last year I know a fair few people who had exams the Thursday and Friday, and couldnt fully enjoy the ball as a result, or even not go. Basically – it being in exam time is the issue which needs to be discussed at length although I understand the question “when else then” (see comment above). Basically I dont want to see the ball on the 8th just because last year the ball was on a Wednesday. It needs more thinking than that.

          • avatar

            Most third year exams are usually held at the beginning of the exam period during the summer in order to get the results back as soon as possible as far as i was aware?

  3. avatar

    Clearly the priority shouldn’t be third year students, the ball should simply be exclusively for final year students, so both third or fourth years. Granted it means masters students could potentially attend two grad balls, with different friends, but surely that concession makes more sense than allowing first and second years to come. They will have their shot when they are in their final year. They should check student numbers when people order. I also believe allowing people to order 4 tickets was a mistake, granted it makes buying for friends who can’t queue all day easier but I know several people last year who took 3 friends from outside Southampton uni to our graduation ball, surely thats a little wrong.

    Also the ordering online system crashing wasn’t so much of a problem as the fact that the SU box office went against the statement they released announcing when online tickets would be available and that you could only purchase non dinning online. Instead tickets online went on sale earlier than previously stated and included dinning tickets. This caused many problems as people who had queued reached the box office and were told it was shutting and they were unable to purchase tickets at all because the ones left were reserved for online, again something that wasn’t properly explained. The whole thing was totally ridiculous and caused if im honest much outrage. Who ever was in charge should have just held their hands up admitted a mistake was made, cancelled all online ordering and let those who had bothered to queue since 4am get the tickets they were promised.

    I’ve heard of other universities simply hiring a field or two, setting up huge marquees, with multiple entertainment stages, a full fun fair and fireworks and allowing for as many final years to come as possible, has anybody looked at the logistics of this? Granted it means no sit down dinner, but surely that cuts a lot of hassle anyway, especially with people wanting to sit with friends. And other balls for courses and societies offer plenty of chances for this type of night throughout the year. The graduation ball should dare to be different, it is after all the biggest reason to celebrate something during your time at university.

    • avatar
      Sasha Watson

      Hi Louise, thanks for your comment; myself and Billy have always spoken of availability of tickets being for final years – otherwise – as you say, it would mean final year Medics and those who came to Southampton for Masters, or do 4 year courses etc were discounted. Dave (above) is the only one to mention third year, but hes doing a 3 year course. These details are drafts, so things can still be changed and this is the sort of feedback they need. I’ve forwarded your comment to the VP Media/ Comms and hopefully she will reply to your concerns as well, but here’s my immediate thoughts on what you’ve said:

      I think the problem with checking ID numbers is that I dont know if the Box Office has the University database software to check what year the student is – I think at the moment the University allows the Union just one copy to be installed on one machine in the admin office. If it could be extended to the Box Office though, which Id like to think is likely, that would be a solution – but then there isnt a similar method to do online…

      This is where opening the Box Office before putting them online would come into play, but then you would have queues at 4am again; maybe if they were at the Box Office a whole day before online, it would mean final years had a greater chance to get tickets, plus it would put less stress on the website. I think one suggestion last year was to have a big ticket sales company host the sale on their site, where they can handle the traffic.

      Re wrong tickets going on sale early – that was a “staffing error”, I think thats the sort of things BIlly definitely will try to stop (I was just as frustrated dont you worry!).

      Re your field idea – yes. It was done 2 years ago, and cost up to £106 I think it was. It looked amazing in the photos, with proper fairground rides and the Streets performing, but the price was HUGE. If youre hiring a field, its like hiring for a festival capacity event – not THAT many people will go.

      Again, thanks for your comments!

      • avatar

        I was there in the field 2 years ago, it was pretty epic but certainly wasn’t as expensive as you make out. I’m thinking it was more like £50-£60 a dining ticket which did include transport there and back. The massive problem (and the only real one we had with it) was the lack of toilets. There was something ridiculous like 20 porta-loos for 4000 people… Yeah good one events! Having one ball does have it’s negatives though, it was really hard to find people once you lost them. It’s a lot easier to find people in a 2000 person crowd compared to a 4-6000 crowd!

        As for the age of guests, it obviously should be made so it is for final year students, however it is obviously unfair for other students not to attend, for example boy/girl friends and in some cases housemates. I think the way to solve this would be to say every final year student has to buy their ticket, and you are allowed a “plus one” if necessary.

        Onto getting tickets. The way it is done is terrible. The box office has one card machine and it takes ages. Why do we not have a row of desks (say 10 tills) that are cash only and leave the box office for card transactions only? This would rapidly speed up proceedings. Obviously some people may be worried about carrying that much cash on them at once, but I’m sure people would rather get £60 cash out at uni to pay rather than queue for 10 hours?!

        Sorry about the long post, but having been to a grad ball before I’d like to think my suggestions might help improve the next one!

        • avatar

          The price is a steep. Enough to make me unsure as to if i’ll be able to afford it. However I appreciate that this sort of event is expensive to put on.

          It would be interesting to draw some comparisons with other graduation balls, and find out what their prices were. I think it would be safe to assume they would face the same sorts of challenges as we do.

          RE: the Q problem:

          Assuming I’m right in thinking that the main bottle neck is when you book the ticket, with booking a dining space taking even longer.

          A slightly different, but I think effective solution would possibly be the following. If you have the regular box office set up to check union cards, and with knowledge of the number of tickets available. The student at the boxoffice then reserves a ticket, and is given a voucher.

          They then walk past the box office where you’d have 4-5 cashiers desks set up (one with card payment), and one dealing with the seating plan. These desks will then take payment (based on the voucher the person has been given), and give them their actual grad ball ticket, whilst confirming their name on the database to confirm that they’ve payed.

  4. avatar

    Thank you all for extremely valuable comments and please do keep them coming, this is a great space for you to also put what you’d like to see at the Grad ball in terms of acts and types of performers, themes, activities at the ball etc.

    As Charlotte stated earlier, the pricing and the date of the Venue are not absolutely set in stone yet.

    One debate to be had is what do people think of the dining option at the Ball? If you have been to a previous Graduate Ball and have dined, what did you think of it? Do you think it is worthwhile? Do you think we could move away from the sit down 3 course meal to an alternative form of dining? Did you and your mates feel the dining part was the highlight of the night? Or perhaps the dining option doesn’t need to be there at all? These are all things to think about!

    The Sabbaticals all experience the Graduate Ball last year and graduating is still very much fresh in our memory so we know how special it is to so many people. We want to make it the best experience possible.

    Please keep posting!

    • avatar
      Sasha Watson

      Different strokes for different folks I think re: dining. I personally did a house meal so that we could talk – but then you get a lot of people wanting to make a big event of everything by having the sit down meal. You’re likely to get the societies and SUSU groups like RAG, WS, Surge, PAU etc all wanting to do a meal, like a Graduate Social almost. Degrading this to something like a finger buffet would be trying to cater for everyone when it’s not necessary, and it’l just displease more people. Keep the formal sit down meal, but if the venue can hold 4000 people – perhaps somehow split the dining rooms? Otherwise itl be CHAOS getting food to all the tables on time AND itl feel like the venue is empty if there are only a few hundred eating.

  5. avatar

    Doesn’t SUSU have a good relationship with oceana? they have a capacity of 4200 right? I know it seems a little common, but turning a non-night for them into our grad ball could be relatively cheap to hire right? – you never know; bringing them custom for a full venue, (which is getting rare for them) they might let us have the venue for free.

    I know the guy who runs wednesday nights (hes external from the club) i think he gets the venue for free, and takes a proportion of the door money. I was just thinking – cheap fully fitted venue means a LOT of money on everything else which actually makes it good right?

    And if they (said club) are any good at hosting events, they might even have all the contacts and experience we need already to transform it into a ball! The times i have been there on student nights, it feels like a low grade ball. Some people there certainly know what they are doing!

    How long ago did this idea get declined lol?

    I also like the outdoor/tents/stages idea above ^^

    And £60 is fine, its the bloody GRAD BALL!!

    And why doesn’t SUSU hold a summer ball? – most other uni’s do and they are pretty good

    • avatar

      With regards to it being on a Wednesday, what’s the reason we can’t book a Friday or Saturday venue? I’m guessing there is a good reason this can’t be negotiated, which I’m not aware of since I don’t book venues, but it’s a shame because it seems like the easiest way to keep everyone happy. I hopefully won’t have exams too close to that Wednesday, but I’m still pretty uncomfortable with it being midweek.

      I’m glad it will be on one night, I ended up attending both nights last year so that I could go with all my friends that were graduating, which was rather expensive. I also really dislike the field venue idea, from what I’ve heard of it from other people it wasn’t good, so I think an indoor venue is great :). With regards to the Oceana comment made above, I had wondered about that myself, or the QE2, I couldn’t understand why they didn’t try those last year! If this venue can hold everyone though, sounds good to me. As for dining, I have no objections to paying for dining if the meal is nice enough, but then I’m one of those pesky vegetarians and the meals for us tend to be pretty unimaginative at this sort of event so I can’t imagine I will!

      As for tickets, I really hope we don’t end up with a repeat of last years absolute disaster, I had to get tickets off facebook (which I was lucky to get) as they were sold out (especially after the website crashing) and some of my graduating friends couldn’t get them. Also, a plus 1 or 2 option sounds good regarding tickets, 4 is too many if you cannot accommodate that many people.

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