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    Cambridge college refuses to drop “Orient Express” Ball theme

    Clare College Cambridge maintain their theme following criticism of cultural appropriation

    CLARE COLLEGE’S MAY Ball committee will maintain its ‘Orient Express’ theme despite criticism from students of cultural appropriation. This follows Trinity Hall College’s decision to drop the ‘Tokyo to Koto’ theme for ‘Metropolis’.

    In a statement to Varsity, Posey Mehta, Clare May Ball PR Officer, said, “Both our main committee and our design sub-committee are ethnically diverse; and the members of the design committee working on culturally sensitive aspects of the ball are ethnically representative.

    “Since the Ball’s conception, we have made every decision regarding the Ball’s theme with a proactive stance against cultural appropriation.

    “We aim, through our May Ball, to celebrate – not denigrate – the cultural richness of the amazing cities that are the stops of The Orient Express; we are using the title ‘Orient Express’ solely as a reference to the famed train and as a way of representing the theme of travel, and in no way intend for our Ball to focus on ‘the Orient’ as a cultural concept.”

    “We made all decisions with a proactive stance against cultural appropriation”

    Posey Mehta

    The recent controversy at Cambridge follows similar controversy around Oxford Ball themes. Lincoln Ball, which took place in 2nd week, attracted criticism for its New Orleans Jazz Age theme.

    Queen’s College Ball has the same ‘Orient Express’ theme as Clare College, but it is unclear whether they have considered changing their theme.


    Trinity Hall’s committee said, in an email to ticket-holders, that they are “pleased to announced a change of theme…in making this change the Committee are mindful that the June Event should not be divisive and we hope that this change will enable all students to enjoy the event.”

    Trinity Hall’s decision to change came after criticism, and a formal complaint, from Japanese students.

    Ploy Kingchatchaval, a third-year English student, told the Sunday Times, “The vibe they are going for with the Orient Express is white people travelling in first class on a train, visiting ‘exotic’ places with the inherent sense of privilege that comes from ent sense of privilege that comes from being a rich tourist . . . it’s going to be a white presentation of these places they’re trying to represent, full of stereotypes, which is erasing and gross.”

    Speaking to Varsity, Sophie Birkin, President of the Trinity Hall June Event 2016 said, “We hope to show that appreciation need not be equated with fetishisation. We do not pretend to be able to perfectly represent Tokyo or Kyoto but we hope that our efforts will bring we hope that our eff orts will bring light to some amazing aspects of these light to some amazing aspects of these places that may otherwise be lost in generalisations about Japanese culture at large.”

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