Students priced out of Grad Ball

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Many students have vented their anger over the recent Grad Ball announcement, causing an anonymous group of five students to hold their own alternative event. With the standard ticket price risen from £54.50 last year to £59.50 numerous have questioned the affordability of the event for numerous students, particularly whilst the Union have been pushing their ‘Cost of Living’ campaign.

The line-up announced last month consists of three main acts, as well as three student acts. The total cost of the artists is over £23,000, or as the union have broken it down: £22.79 per person is spent on acts. The headline act for the event held in Blackpool Tower is a DJ set by drum and bass duo Sigma, best known for their number one singles ‘Nobody to Love’ and ‘Changing’ feat. Paloma Faith.

Many have also criticized the value for money within the ticket price, believing that a DJ set from a new artist does not justify said ticket pricing. The duo are costing £15,000 to play the event, costing almost a third of the total predicted cost for the event.

VP (Activities) Salman Rukhsar defended the pricing policy and event to SCAN, saying that the event has been designed around student feedback: “The event was held at Blackpool Tower for the first time two years ago after our members told us that they weren’t happy with the quality of Grad Ball events at other venues. Over 2,000 students have attended the Grad Ball at Blackpool over the last two years and we’ve had nothing but good feedback after the event – which is why the event continues in its current form.”

“As far as the price is concerned, I do think it’s reasonable”, the VP said. “For the price of a ticket, guests get a full night’s entertainment – including a truly brilliant circus show, performances from top live acts as well as student bands, DJs and more.”

Despite some student discontent, numerous still turned out to queue for tickets on Wednesday morning week 1 to ensure they had a ticket. Rukhsar told SCAN, “ticket sales launch day was a success, with people queuing from 7.40am to get their hands on tickets. All of our early-bird tickets sold very quickly as they always do and tickets continue to sell on a daily basis. Sales have been in line with our expectations.”

Alongside Sigma’s DJ set the event the will see a live performance from Blackpool Singer Songwriter, and BBC Sound of 2015 nominee, Rae Morris, and an acoustic performance by noughties pop band The Hoosiers. The artists alone have cost more than £23,000 combined, thus causing students to question the viability of an alternative whereby students pay a £20 for a ticket, expected to include food.

In a break down of their costs per student, LUSU answered questioning regarding why they do not provide food and expect students to provide it for themselves. They explained that adding food to the cost of a ticket would increase each ticket by around £32. LUSU suggested that the cost of the venue, Blackpool Tower, would however cost only £3.52 per person.

Some students, who have chosen to remain anonymous, have organised an ‘Unofficial Lancaster University Graduation Ball 2015.’ The organisers have stated that the event has not been created purely to oppose Grad Ball, but to provide an affordable Grad Ball that aims not to exclude students.

The price of Grad Ball tickets ranged from £44.50 for Early Bird Tickets, £49.50 for students with purple cards and a standard £59.50. However some key aspects of one’s evening are not priced within the cost of the ticket. The ticket involves no food, drink or transport, all of which must be bought on top.

The £59.50 figure seems particularly expensive when compared to tickets to Sigma perform live. Sigma’s current tour, which would be a live show rather than DJ set, costs around £13 per ticket. LUSU have paid for Sigma’s DJ set at £15,000, and have based their financial figures on an expectation of selling 1150 tickets. Assuming all guests were to pay the same price per ticket, this would average £13.04 being paid towards Sigma alone, excluding venue costs, agent fees or anything else likely to be included in the price of a normal gig ticket. Also, generally the booking price of DJ sets is significantly less than that of live performances.

Rukhsar feels that the pricing is “not extortionate at all”. He said, “It’s important to remember that Sigma are part of a bigger overall package. Our guests get to go to a fantastic venue – Blackpool Tower Ballroom really is amazing and photos don’t really do it justice. It’s a great place to hold a celebration we hope our guests will remember for the rest of their lives and look back upon fondly in years to come. And then there’s the other entertainment. I’m not aware of any other Grad Ball that can offer a world-famous circus as its warm-up act, and there’s loads more live entertainment too.”

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