Preparations for Imperial College Union’s annual Summer Ball, which is set to be held on Saturday 22nd June, recently hit a snag as many of the involved student societies threatened to pull out over changes to this year’s event.
Dance Imperial, A Capella and Big Band societies were amongst the societies to express their dissatisfaction at the changes, which have been brought about by budget constraints. DramSoc, Imperial’s dramatic society which is particularly crucial to the setting up and running of the event, also raised health and safety concerns.
DJ & Production Society’s Sean Davies told Felix: “Previously each year we’d get paid for our slots, drinks vouchers and free entry to the main event and the afterparty. But, this year, they said that we’d have to pay £5 to go to the afterparty and that we’d also only get one free drink each, which would have to be a specific thing. A lot of people that would be playing might end up having to spend more money than they were earning throughout the whole thing.”
Adam Collins, who is involved in multiple societies, including Live Music Society and DramSoc, echoed the sentiment of performers feeling de-prioritised and undervalued by the Union, stating: “I’m performing at an event and I shouldn’t have to pay to get into the event; the ticket should be free and that shouldn’t be a bonus.”
A large source of the dissatisfaction stems from the relative lack of notice given to the clubs and societies, as they were only informed of changes to the Summer Ball in an email sent to them on 3rd May. This was acknowledged by the Union’s Events and Conferences manager, Jess Harrison, who, when asked what should be changed in the organisation of the Summer Ball for future years, told Felix: “Definitely communication with CSPs [Clubs, Societies and Projects] earlier”.
The disenfranchised societies have since held meetings with the Union’s Summer Ball Project Team - Kristie Knapp, Helen Bhandari, Jess Harrison & Claudia Caravello - and a suitable compromise seems to have been reached in the majority of cases.
One such issue that has been resolved is the afterparty, which was described by some as previously having a “very bare schedule”, with Spotify playlists playing in many of the rooms, to the chagrin of many of the student societies performing. There will now be DJs performing at the afterparty.
Although the dispute seems to have been resolved in most cases, it raises the question of whether the Summer Ball is sustainable in its current format. When this question was put to Jess, she told Felix: “No. It’s not fair that there are parts of that student ticket that go toward paying for the fencing, paying for carpet… instead of that going on an artist or more fireworks, more fairground rides, which is honestly what we’d rather put the money on.”
Jess described the prospect of the Summer Ball moving from Imperial’s South Kensington campus to an external venue as a “wonderful idea” and revealed that serious discussions are being held about the possibility of making this change for future years.
Jess added: “If it were my decision, I would have moved us already but it’s all linked in with finance and risk… it’s slightly higher than me.”
After making a loss in previous years, this year’s Summer Ball has seen more pressure to ensure the event breaks even. The additional budget contraints led to many of the changes which caused dissatisfaction amongst the CSPs. Explaining this to Felix, Jess added: “The ticket prices have stayed the same this year but suppliers, who do a lot for us and this event, their costs go up every single year. Carpets, security, bar staff, stewards, the fireworks, the fairground rides, everything goes up a percentage each year”.
The changes to the annual Imperial Festival - as reported by Felix, this year sees the introduction of the larger “Great Exhibition Road Festival 2019” - has also posed a logistical challenge to the Summer Ball Project Team. The festival, which is to be held the weekend after Summer Ball, means that the team had to reschedule many aspects regarding the set-up and clearing up of campus following the ball.