The warden of Merton College has apologised for noise caused by Merton Winter Ball.
The ball, which took place on 30th November, may have been a resounding success among attendees, but complaints by local residents about noise levels have dampened the mood of its organisers.
On the night of the ball, residents of Divinity Road, over a mile away from the college, complained of loud music disturbing their sleep. Several complaints were made to St Clement’s Liberal Democrat councillor Dr. Graham Jones, who wrote to Sir Martin Taylor, the Warden of Merton College. Jones explained, “I told him about the noise we get from thoughtless students in East Oxford and asked him to make sure his college gave a good example.”
Sir Martin promptly apologised on behalf of his college. Writing to Dr Jones, he said “It is certainly not my intention to allow Merton College to disrupt by noise or indeed any other fashion, the life of the citizens of Oxford. Certainly for the future we will be looking very carefully at the arrangements for the evening, in particular, sound levels and programming.”
“I do again apologise for the disturbance that the ball caused on this occasion and do hope that this reply will give you the confidence that the college approached the question of the potential sound pollution in a responsible manner.”
The Merton Winter Ball Committee also issued a statement, saying they were very sympathetic to those disturbed, but that they had taken a number of council-approved measures to minimise disruption.
“It is our belief that we took all reasonable steps to avoid such concerns,” said Chairman Tim Foot, though he admitted that there were “forces at work beyond our control”.
Dr. Jones did acknowledge that the noise levels were not entirely down to the college, commenting, “Part of the problem was low cloud – but sound engineers should be experienced enough to realise this and turn down the amps. People a mile away who lost their sleep will welcome Sir Martin’s apology – and hope his promise is heeded when Merton has its 750th anniversary ball later this year.”
However, The director of the production company employed by Merton insisted that, “the sound levels were monitored throughout the night and we worked to our usual levels for Oxford: 85 decibel average”. Sir Martin also claimed that the power output was significantly less than the Trinity and Magdalen summer balls.
Students and members of the college seemed surprised by the complaints. “I don’t remember it being excessively loud, although I don’t remember that much of the ball, to be honest,” said one first year attendee.
Another guest appeared more sympathetic saying, “I’m sure everyone regrets that people were disturbed. It definitely wasn’t anything any of us set out to do”.
One student who lives on Divinity Road questioned Dr Jones’s complaint commenting, “Living on Divinity Road and having to walk into college every day, I can tell you that it’s a bloody mile away and I just can’t believe you could hear the Ball from that far away.”
This is hardly the first time noise levels from student activities have drawn criticism from residents. Oxford City Council promised to investigate Oxford Brookes University after complaints were made in November last year. Oxford student clubs and pubs are also a regular source of noise problems for inhabitants of the city centre. Reports suggest that the elderly are the most likely to ring the police complaining of disturbed sleep.
In the light of its upcoming 750th anniversary and a filled programme of events this year, Merton has vowed to become more conscious of its neighbours. Sir Martin explained that noise pollution policy, telling Dr Jones, “You have my assurance that this will be reviewed very carefully when arrangements are being considered for our next Winter Ball in 2016, as well as for our 750th Anniversary ball in 2014”.
A Merton undergraduate was similarly keen to console those affected. “I’m sorry some families in East Oxford didn’t get much sleep that night, but if it makes them feel any better, I’m not sure any of us did either.”