10pm. We arrive at the Freshers’ Ball wondering what exactly to expect; the memories of our own are blurry and buried under two years of hard work and revision notes.
Upon entrance, each £25 ticket holder was greeted by a fairground on the SUSU concourse. This included classic funfair game stalls with prizes to be won, cleverly placed food stalls already busily serving customers, and the star attraction of the evening: the Master Blaster. We could only wonder how the combination of rapid spinning, flashing lights and loud chart music would combine with each intoxicated fresher… but we could probably guess. The freshers, including Jody, Molly and Harriet remained more convinced: “Amazing! It’s the best thing ever… the Master Blaster alone makes the Freshers’ Ball worth it!” And so, resolving to return, we headed into the Union to see what else was in store.
10:35pm. As we attempted to move into SUSU, a queue had formed and bouncers were endeavouring to divert traffic from the main building to the The Stags and the room behind it, the West Ref. This was to be expected with a total of 2300 students descending onto campus, and bouncers dealt with the crowds well. Movement recommenced quickly and as we entered the foyer, it was obvious to see that SUSU had made the most of the space. Surge Radio were set up under the big television screens, taking requests and announcing what was going on at each of SUSU’s venues. The cloakroom was not ideally placed it would seem, the queue to get downstairs often mixing with those waiting to check-in their jackets and with those just milling around.
Another society which played a vital part during the evening were SUCU (Southampton University Christian Union) whose ‘Inside Out’ team were at the event until approximately 2am. The CU were as usual handing out free soft drinks and biscuits and spreading good will. Gilly, one of the team explained that they were there ‘to contribute to SUSU’s efforts’ and chat to anybody who was interested. With friendly volunteers, 1000 teabags, over 200 polystyrene cups and 20 packets of biscuits, their contributions were an integral part of many peoples’ evenings.
Before heading downstairs, we popped into The Bridge Bar to see how the refurbished venue would play host to a vestige of comedic talent. It remained constantly busy throughout the night and welcomed those ball-goers looking for a place to sit down to rest their weary stiletto-clad feet. Acting as a substitute for the music-focused venues, the age-old tradition of placing a comedy act within range of a bar proved to be a successful venture.
The main attraction of the evening for many of the freshers was undoubtedly those acts headlining in the Cube; the names on the bill included Chip, The Loveable Rogues and Greg James, and seemed to be the most compelling reason to splash out on a ticket. As was expected, people trying to get in and out of the main dancefloor caused some congestion, especially just before and during sets, however with the music playing outside the Cube, plenty of people took advantage of the bar and smoking area in order to socialise.
Talking to a few of them, we were immediately regaled with tales of stardom: we met Nofil, who estimated he maintained unbroken eye-contact with Chip for at least 5 seconds, while up in Bar 2 Emily informed us that she had managed to snag an interview with The Loveable Rogues, and gained a plectrum for her trouble.
Other freshers’ seemed equally happy with the evening; it certainly seemed that love was in the air. We spied hands being held, arms around waists and passionate embraces by the toilets. Emily went on to comment that the evening was extra special; dresses, heels, tuxedos and ties, the effort put in both by SUSU and the attendees made the evening feel like a suitable conclusion to the freshers’ fortnight. As Greg James began to play to a large and energetic crowd we headed to the West Ref to catch Hadouken! and see how the evening was going elsewhere.
We had visited the Stag’s Head pub on campus at the beginning of our evening and noted that the space was ideal for pre-drinks and a perfect meeting point. On our return, the number of punters had increased dramatically and as you approached the events hall known as the West Ref, it was startlingly obvious how underused the space really was, it appeared exceedingly quiet until approximately 12am. All this changed when the headline act, Hadouken! took to the stage. Speaking to members of the crowd as they left the venue, Chris Beeston, a Glen Eyre fresher, panted ‘suits and Hadouken! don’t mix’ while someone else was overheard saying ‘I’ve never been so moist!’, an understandably awful predicament in formal wear.
While a queue formed to get into the Cube reasonably early on in the evening, it seems that the West Ref was somewhat abandoned by students. Drunk freshers flock to what they know, and as The Cube was a popular venue in Fresher’s fortnight, it was therefore unavoidable that the West Ref would suffer. It is difficult to know whether something more could have been done to advertise the venue, or perhaps the freshers were just too excited to listen.
We returned to SUCU’s stand at the end of our night and over a much appreciated cup of tea and a custard cream they told us their evening had been ‘busy, but alright’. The team stressed to us the fantastic service the safety bus provides, certainly an undeniable fact. We’re sure the team had a busy night ferrying freshers from the event to their front doors.
1:45am. We are ready to leave, we have a 9am tomorrow. We stop briefly by the Master Blaster on our way out to ask the biggest question of the night: Has anyone thrown up yet? Wait.. what do you mean, no? A seemingly impossible feat has been achieved by the University of Southampton class of 2015. It would appear that all we can do as third-year humanities students is to translate this moment into a beautiful and heart-warming metaphor for the success of the Fresher’s Ball itself: Your hair is a mess and your stomach may be churning, but you’re just not ready to get off quite yet…