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You shall go to the ball – The Trinity tale of breaking and entering

Sophie Lord writes about the Oxford 'tradition' of crashing balls.

Dodgems, towering marquees, a sea of prosecco glasses, and Boney M. Being confronted by these four things whilst scrolling through Instagram Stories at the end of Trinity term could only mean one thing – Commemoration Ball season. 

Commemoration Balls are larger and fancier than your average Oxford Ball, often with famous headliners and beautiful scenery, with tickets selling for over two hundred pounds. That’s without considering additional costs like renting white tie, the required dress for Commemoration Balls, which isn’t a wardrobe staple for the average person. There is no doubt that for one night, a ticket that expensive would put many people off – myself included.

Whilst several of my friends danced until the sun rose at Trinity Ball, I went for the classier (and cheaper) option of Reggaeton night at The Bullingdon. As I partied to ‘Danza Kuduro’ and tested my GCSE Spanish skills. I was blissfully unaware that I had another option. I could’ve snuck into Trinity Ball.

I say that – but realistically, I’m painfully bad at lying and the clumsiest person I know. Discussion around ‘ball-crashing’, as it’s known, though, is interesting. People who crash balls have been heralded as Oxford’s revolutionaries, making an attempt to actively rebel against the extortionate pricing. In a sense, to crash a ball can be to affirm that you deserve the same experience as your peers who can afford it. 

However, this isn’t the full picture. Ball-crashing can only be a liberationist act if it has no impact on the people who genuinely paid for their ticket. For example, using up the resources that ticket-holders have paid for, like drinking alcohol, can instead be interpreted as selfish and entitled, especially when both food and alcohol are known to run out at balls regardless. This isn’t fair on behalf of people who have paid however much money for a ticket. Potentially, though, if it doesn’t come to have a real impact on the ticket-holder – perhaps this is justifiable. 

It is less the premise of ball-crashing itself that I take issue with: rather the implications, and the praise that has been previously attributed to those who crash balls. Balls in themselves, as much as I had a great time at my college’s ball last year, are spectacles that have the potential to be viewed as problematic as a show of wealth and splendour – but protesting or taking issue with, the aspects of Oxford like this through ball-crashing will never enact real change.

Image: Oliver Hall

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