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The 2013 Gradudation Ball is expected to be held at the Tower Ballroom in Blackpool following a review of the event by LUSU. The event is to be dramatically overhauled, including the option of a sit down meal for the first time in recent memory.
In a presentation given to LUSU Council towards the end of last term, Jason Brindle, LUSU Commercial Services Director, stated that the Union have been looking at historical concerns with the event – specifically the price to students, the cost to the Union, and the entertainment on offer. He said that, in its current form, the event could be seen as just “a big extrav”. The proposal, which LUSU Council voted to show its backing for, is for the event to take place at Blackpool Tower on Sunday 23rd June. Reasons given by Libby Martin, LUSU Vice President (Events & Democracy), for the move included creating a “wow factor”, gaining special status on the University calendar, and enabling a variety of add ons for students to tailor their experience.
It was noted that ticket prices could become more affordable as decorations would no longer be necessary. It is expected that the base ticket price will be in the region of £35 to £40 for Purple
Card holders, with an additional £10 charge for people without the card. However, the ticket price does rise dramatically if students wish to have the sit down meal which will be offered earlier in the evening; SCAN understands this could cost an additional £36 per head. Transport was also quoted as £7 per head. This means that the overall price including ticket, meal, and transport could come to as much as £84 with a Purple Card.
Martin told SCAN: “The decision to move the event from the Great Hall is largely based on feedback from last year and is a conclusion we came to after months of extensive conversations and research, specifically looking at previous Grad Balls that we have held, as well as looking at what happens in other Unions. We decided that people want an amazing, unique experience and unforgettable memories, something I think it’s safe to say that it’s difficult to get that from spending an evening in the place where you’ve spent the past few months sitting exams.
She added: “The main differences this year will be the focus on the event being a Ball, rather than a ‘gig’. The [entertainment] provision is still very high, so that wont be taken away from the event, but I felt, after attending Grad Ball last year, that more focus should go on making it a fabulous send off for our graduates that matches the way in which people like to dress for the occasion. The venue we have chosen lends itself perfectly to this kind of event and makes it possible for us to offer the option of a meal, something which has been impossible in the past when using the Great Hall and something that attendees of previous Grad Balls have expressed huge interest in.”
The venue can hold around 500 people for a sit down meal. This means that, as 1500 are expected to attend 1000 people will be unable to dine.
Martin explained: “There are only a maximum of 500 eating places so not everyone will be able to eat. The system will work on a first come, first served basis. I’m not sure how many people I’m expecting to choose the food option. Previously, either food has been included in the standard ticket or there hasn’t been a provision of food so all I can do is work hard to make sure that the food provision is excellent value for money and give people the option. Only time will tell how many people want to take advantage of this food option.”
A concern raised at LUSU Council was the transport duration; a coach journey from the University to Blackpool Tower would take around 45 minutes. It is understood that LUSU are exploring the possibility of entertainment on the coaches to reduce the negative impact of this.
Martin also revealed that there would be a different approach to entertainment at the event this year, stating that there would be focus on “other sorts” of entertainment. James Marenghi, Deputy Activities Manager, added that the plan is to create an event that does not rely on the lineup as heavily. Previously, the Ball saw two stages in the Great Hall Complex; last year’s acts included Maximo Park, pictured right, and Jaguar Skills.
A revelation from the presentation was that last year’s Ball lost £15,500 that had to be financed from other areas of LUSU. Ticket sales were the lowest they had been for a number of years.
Marenghi explained that several options had been looked into before reaching the decision to move to Blackpool. These included using the Great Hall in the form of a revised event and also the possibility of a big top marquee on the sports fields.