What’s really going into your ball?


Often seen as the epitome of Oxford grandeur, the lavish summer balls are an event that every student should experience at least once. But most attendees know little about the work that actually has to go into them from fellow students.

Before matriculation, interviews for our ball committee were advertised. I  eagerly signed up because of my niche set of skills, including obsessive punctuality, and a passion for overloading myself with a to-do list as long as the walk to St Hugh’s. Each role in the committee was given a brief description, and during the ten minute interview we had to have a stab at selling ourselves and our skills to the co-Presidents and Secretary. Admittedly, I didn’t think I’d done a good job of convincing them that my future lay in  marketing and advertising… or that my summer job as a cocktail waitress would greatly enhance my contribution to the planning. However, I made it and within the first meeting we threw ourselves headlong into theme selection. Despite sugar laden sustenance, our creativity often seemed to fail us. After at least two hours, the suggestions had well passed appropriateness and had entered the realm of farce, including a 50 Shades of Grey theme and, my personal favourite, ‘Disco: The Ball’.

After two meetings, we had boiled it down to one idea, which had started to take on a somewhat focused form. The creative team were hard at work on Photoshop designing logos, and marketing were already ‘hot on social media’ and obsessively tracking the most effective techy ‘buzzwords’ to sell the idea of an eerie, yet decadent event amongst some of Oxford’s most divisive architecture.

Our first major tasks were keeping the theme secret and selling the premise to college, tasks which we somehow managed. We accomplished this through a launch party which managed to clash with both what is arguably our college’s biggest social event of the term, the aptly named World’s Biggest Crew Date, and the St Hugh’s ball launch in Bridge. It didn’t seem to matter. Arzoo fuelled our college pride, and the lingering taste of curry was a sickly reminder the next day of this special occasion.

The next hurdle was our first release of tickets to college students, and we were impressively backed by IT skills that I will never understand (Google ‘html’ and ‘coding’ and you’ll soon see why). Over the Christmas break, each team was then tasked with actually getting our collective organisation into gear, making plans, and schmoozing businesses. This included an online battle with a printing firm that shall not be named, which lasted over two days, and included an impressive level of headless-chicken-panic at my inability to format a PDF file.

Now, how many of you have thought about how ball trailers are filmed? Well, it actually takes an awful lot of work, some reasonably professional student directors and some not-so-professional student extras. The efforts behind our trailer included a traumatic trip to Botley for equipment (never going that far past the train station again), a day of freezing in summer ball gowns and a co-
President losing most of his dignity by spending half an hour as a glorified door stop. In a tragic twist of fate, the ball trailer never made it out in time to entice ticket customers. We made it to ticket day in one piece. Expecting to spend my entire session of morning lectures unsubtly replying to queries on my phone, I was pleasantly surprised (read: astounded) when we sold out in nine minutes and 20 seconds. Most likely due to last year’s reputation, and least likely due to my fitting the word ‘hype’ in every Facebook post about the subject.

That allowed us approximately half an hour of ‘pat on the back’ time before returning to the meetings to start actually finalising vaguely important things like entertainment and food. The next weeks of Hilary and the Easter vacation may become a totally confusing blur of caterers, diva DJs and missing marquees, but I can tell that the night will be worth it. 


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