St. Annes ‘Carnival’ themed ball, set to take place this February, has been postponed due to ticket sale problems.
After a week of impassioned debate about the ball’s viability, St. Anne’s JCR Committee and Ball Committee released a joint statement that the ball would be postponed for a year. St. Anne’s ball is triennial, so finalists were particularly dismayed to hear that they would miss out on having a ball in college.
On Saturday of 5th Week, the 10th November, the JCR Committee decided by 12 votes to 3 to withdraw financial support for the ball. The JCR committee had voted the day before, but repeated the meeting due to a lack of Ball Committee representation and the absence of minutes for the first meeting. The announcement of the decision at a JCR meeting resulted in a call for a referendum to be held on Thursday of 6th week, calling for the JCR to again underwrite the ball. The referendum was withdrawn on Tuesday.
Concerns about the financial viability of the ball first arose in 3rd week of Michaelmas. A statement from the JCR Committee listed reasons for the decision including, “Tickets had not been put on sale, increasing the risk of having to underwrite the ball … A number of missed opportunities to combine active marketing with ticket sales … A lack of significant contact with St. Anne’s MCR.” The statement draws attention to the fact that tickets could not be sold at Freshers’ Fair or the ball launch, explaining, “This was due to the fact that an entertainment license for both guests and music was received only last Wednesday.”
The financial risk of underselling was highlighted by the statement, “Underselling by 100 tickets would require the JCR to underwrite £8,500 in payments; equivalent to its budget for this year.” The cost of postponing the ball was predicted to be £700.
Helen Robb, a finalist at St. Anne’s, said, “Our JCR budget is notoriously tight, and if there was a potential cost to the JCR which could have damaged budgets for welfare, charities, events, or any of the other JCR provisions, then it’s right that the ball was postponed. I think there was a divide over whether or not the JCR should have backed the ball, with some third year finalists annoyed not to be having a college ball during their time here.”
Though there was noticeably more outcry amongst finalists, there were mixed opinions within year groups as well. Cai Wilshaw observed that “Our JCR meeting last Sunday descended into essentially what was a shouting match between the 2nd and 3rd years. Most freshers at the meeting had no opinion either for or against the ball being deferred. I had a few heated discussions with others in my year about the issue, and there were quite a few outspoken first years who wanted the ball to remain this year. However, in general I felt there was a prevailing desire for sensible discussion on the issue and on the ball’s viability this year.”
JCR Secretary Xin Fan announced on Tuesday that the referendum on financially supporting the ball had been withdrawn. “As well as the proposer’s retraction, it is recognised that without the full support of the Ball Committee, the ball would be unable to proceed should the referendum pass. As voting for the referendum would be on faith that it could proceed, all parties considered it unwise to present the JCR with an undeliverable option.”
Ball President Libby Derbyshire also issued a statement. “We are disappointed to have to cancel the ball, but given the damage of the last week’s events, vital elements are under threat and we believe it is no longer the event it once was. At this stage we are in agreement with the JCR Committee and wholly support the 2014 ball.”
The decision to withdraw the referendum left some students feeling that the wider JCR had not been consulted on the issue. The motion for the referendum received 46 votes in favour and 15 votes against. Helen Robb said, “I think a lot of people were angry because they felt side-lined, and they probably would have agreed with the argument put forward by the JCR if they were given the opportunity to vote; but I think it could have descended into a lot of anger and crowded out some of the reasoning. Either way, by the point that a referendum was called it was too late to return to plans of a 2013 ball.” Ball President Libby Derbyshire agreed that the referendum had potential to be, “more divisive than decisive.”
One 2nd year who attended the meeting said, “With everything in place and some amazing entertainment, food and drink lined up, all the Ball needed was the JCR’s seal of approval and their commitment to financially underwriting it. The decision to postpone the ball is very conservative, especially considering the majority of those present at the meeting were strongly in favour of a ball this year.”
Another 2nd year added, “The ball arrangements sounded amazing, I think the JCR Committee were just too scared to back it.”