YUSU have been strongly criticised by a number of University of York students after only 900 of approximately 2300 scanned ticket holders gained entry to see headline act Marina and the Diamonds at the fresher’s week event “The Big Bang.”
Queues started to form around 10pm, when Central Hall’s first act, The Sunshine Underground, began to perform, with the headliner due at 23.30. Students were slowly permitted entry until around 23.45, at which point Central Hall had reached full capacity.
A ‘one-in-one-out’ system was operated from that time onwards.
YUSU has been accused of “misrepresentative” advertising by numerous students, including Florence Zappa, a first year student, who has also written a letter to YUSU President, Tim Ngwena, and set up a Facebook event in response to her experience of the event: ‘The Big Bang = Big Con’.
Asking for a refund for her £26 ticket, Zappa feels the organisation of the event proves that “YUSU is working in its own interests and not its own students at all. I feel I’ve been taken advantage of, and I’m just surprised – they were aware of the capacity in the first place.
“The only explanation I can see is that they were just trying to raise the amount of revenue to host Marina and the Diamonds.
“I don’t know if I’ll get my money back, but I’m not going down without a fight.”
Dan Walker, YUSU Democracy and Services Sabbatical Officer, was in charge of organising The Big Bang. He has revealed “the overall standing capacity was (finally) set by the university at 900 maximum. This figure is approximate due to the presence of seated areas required from a safety standpoint, which alter the cap. To be frank the number set by the university was arbitrary.”
Students were stopped, however, from entering as soon as Central Hall reached its pre-agreed limit, while smaller alternative stages in Vanbrugh, Langwith and Derwent Colleges hosted acts such as student DJ sets and tribute band Fake That.
“I don’t know if I’ll get my money back but I’m not going down without a fight”
With regards to accusations about misleading advertising, Walker has argued that “the entire event ran as one major event with a greater spend on lighting, sound and entertainment across all venues than ever before at the University. The event was advertised from its inception as multi-venue, and all venues must legally run to a capacity”.
Zappa describes in her letter: “By 23.20 we had only moved several paces, at which point somebody had half the decency to inform us that it was very unlikely that we would get in…We decided enough was enough and headed back home, bitter and angry at what appears to be a complete con.”
Dissatisfied students will not be receiving a refund from YUSU. “As in all previous years, the Union operates a no-refund policy as clearly stated in terms and conditions of ticket purchase,” explained Walker.
Elliot Ragan, a Business Management first-year, said: “We all paid a ridiculous amount anyway, to go to a bar which is normally free and drink at non-reduced prices. It was a complete scam that got us to pay purely because no one really knew what we were, or evidently weren’t, paying for.
“We were told plenty of times that night that there would be zero per cent chance of a refund. So I guess I would take it as a lesson learned and heavily discourage any freshers from going next year.”
Zappa joined the “inordinately large” queue 45 minutes in advance of Marina and the Diamonds’ performance, but was still unable to enter Central Hall. Walker continued: “We can only apologise to those who did not get into Central Hall before capacity was reached, however they must note that capacity was upped by a large degree this year when compared to the racecourse’s 400 cap in the main stage area.
“The hall can safely fit many more individuals (while being safe to vacate in the case of a fire) however the University had no idea how to deal with the building as a gig venue, was terrified of damage (of which there was, to my knowledge, none) and were in my opinion overly harsh with the capacity figure.”
Zappa’s complaint directly attacks YUSU’s attempts to justify their prior knowledge of the venue’s capacity. “It is clear that over 1,200 people will have purchased tickets with no hope of seeing the headline act which raises the question, what have they paid for?
“I feel that the tickets and the advertising leading up to the event were grossly unrepresentative.”
She told Nouse: “I can’t afford to spend that much on an event, and at no point did they say that ‘half of you wouldn’t get in’. Second and third-years warned us not to go, but I really wanted to see Marina so waited outside in the freezing cold. People were getting quite angry that they didn’t know what was going on. One girl was so upset that she almost broke into tears.”
Zappa had also invited a friend, travelling to and from London on the day specifically to see Marina and the Diamonds, who was also unable to see her performance.
Ed Farrar, a first-year Medicine student, was also left unsatisfied with the event. “I’m not really a big fan of Marina, but I don’t think it was worth £26 quid,” he said. “It wasn’t very well described, I didn’t really know where to go, I was just walking round with my friends looking for somewhere to go.”
In light of restrictions on capacity, Zappa holds the opinion that tickets should have been charged at around £20 specifically to see the headline act, with a lower ticket price for the acts in other colleges. This year’s ‘mega event’ was planned by Walker to combine the Freshers’ Ball previously held at York Racecourse, and the cross-campus Access All Areas events. The change was implemented due to high levels of dissatisfaction voiced by students in previous years, due to headline acts cancelling and criticism that the York Racecourse venue was too large.
“We can only apologise to those who did not get into Central Hall… The details and expenses of the event are commercially sensitive and therefore can’t be disclosed”
Democracy and Services Officer
When questioned by Nouse on the expenditures of The Big Bang, Walker responded: “The details and expenses of the event are commercially sensitive and therefore can’t be disclosed.
“However any profits from the event go directly towards funding our societies and sports, as well as the supporting events such as Woodstock in the Summer term, a free event in partnership with RAG.”
The seven minute firework display at the start of the event was branded a success by many, as it was the first of its kind to be launched over the lake. Despite the cost of the firework display, it was able to be viewed by those without tickets for the event as barred gates around the college venues were left open for students needing to walk through campus.
Wristbands which had been exchanged for tickets were only required to enter Central Hall and the other smaller college-based stages.