Tom Fox: Why we should ditch Grad Ball (unless Lemar’s involved)

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Apparently people are upset about the price of this year’s Grad Ball, with students describing it as “a party for rich kids” and “the worst thing to happen since they found out about Ralph.” It’s probably the most active I’ve seen the student community for a while, which pisses me off as much as it entertains me.

I’m not supporting LUSU (for once). It is an expensive event, and the Union needs to ask whether it’s been gathering feedback from the right people, i.e. those who have gone in the past. There are a couple thousand students who, for whatever reason, fail to attend the Ball year on year, and I bet that price plays an important role in their decision – but as with everything, the Union relies on those with the loudest voices to dictate their plans. Bigger acts and better locations are the main goals this year, and obviously that can’t be achieved without higher ticket prices (unless the Union starts firing staff or the University does something unforgivable and increases the block grant). It’s no surprise, but I’d be mighty happy if it was just held in the Bobbin with Lemar headlining and the Marties supporting. £2.50 doubles, “If There’s any Justice in the World”, and a raging saxophone sounds like a winning combination to me.

So the answer? Well, you could start actually campaigning. A few years ago, students just vented on Facebook and the Ball was eventually held in Sugarhouse and Elements with a huge marquee in between. They got one member from East 17 and an Abba tribute band and, as a result, it was a lot cheaper. But it was also really shit. I know, I know, students have started campaigning, creating alternative events, and that’s great if they actually amount to anything – but in my opinion, Extravs are the answer if you can’t afford Grad Ball. There are three of them and you get to dress up as a dinosaur (big up Pendle). They’re cheap, cheerful, and completely student-led. You won’t get Lemar (you do have to pay for quality), but you’ll get some cracking student bands in the campus bars you’ve grown to love.

Is it right that some students who won’t get to attend the Ball, then? Probably not, but we don’t live in an ideal world. The University increases rent every year while Stagecoach increases bus prices, the Loans Company verges on collapse, and some students rely on food banks to feed themselves every day. The Union, its officers, and all you bloody students should focus your time on complaining to people about that instead of whining about your individualistic right to dress up, get drunk, and watch someone famous sing. At the end of the day, it’s a privilege. I’d be happy if LUSU sacked off the whole thing and used the £50,000 to support an event or campaign that actively helped those in need. But alas, that won’t happen. People will go to the circus, they’ll tweet their utter enjoyment, and then in a year’s time, people will complain all over again but do nothing to actually change the situation. We’re a cyclical bunch, us students.

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