Big Bang branded ‘Big Con’

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”

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”
Florence Zappa
First-year Student

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 logo for the ‘Big Bang Big Con’ Facebook Group by Zappa

“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”
Dan Walker
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.


  1. 26 Oct ’10 at 3:00 pm

    Common sense...

    If YUSU want to put on events for a band, Roger Kirk is better. The stage and the capacity just far outclass… The only problem would be dealing with having a completely overrun bar, although it’s better than not having one at all.

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  2. 26 Oct ’10 at 3:18 pm

    Actual common sense

    The Roger Kirk capacity is smaller and, judging by the events there last week, it’s simply not a suitable venue.

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  3. 26 Oct ’10 at 3:26 pm

    at least they turned up

    get over it freshers, you will quickly learn this is how YUSU operates, at least the act turned up. As someone who paid £55 for the grad ball with the act N-Dubz not even showing up and having no refund. The £26 you paid is nothing.

    YUSU just seem to be out to make as much money as possible, take roses for example in 2007 a ticket to lancaster for athletes was £6 there and back. However last year it was £15 how come there was such a large increase. Answer YUSU fleeces its students.

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  4. ‘Second and third years warned us not to go’ is a really depressing attitude about an event that had never even been run before. It’s like that negativity is infectious. Honestly, unless you’re an ENORMOUS fan of the headliners, you’d surely queue for a bit, maybe be disappointed, but then go and have a good time elsewhere? It’s like loads of people here love convincing themselves something’s crap. I heard people on Viking Raid and at Big Bang talking about leaving really early in the evening, justifying it with excuses like ‘oh, second and third years say that YUSU events suck’. Seriously, what are we doing? Make the most of things. YUSU put a huge effort into doing something different, and whilst it wasn’t a complete success, give them some credit for trying to improve things. Pretty depressing to get home and see (a small handful of) freshers making complaining groups.

    If you go to a festival, you can’t guarantee you’ll see the acts you want to unless you’re at the stage early. And, as rightly pointed out, the racecourse only had 400 capacity…

    Maybe one less venue would have been better (none of them were especially busy), and Central Hall could have done with a bar but these are relatively minor quibbles.

    I’m nothing to do with YUSU, by the way, just think a lot of this is pretty unfair.

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  5. Dear Nouse,

    This is stupid.

    Firstly, there were well over 900 people in Central Hall. The number was definitely into four figures, as anyone who was in there could confirm (it was rammed), though the ‘capacity’ could well have been 900. Secondly, the number of people who could see the stage at the Racecourse was approximately 400-600 (depending on who you ask), which was greatly reduced. The capacity of Central Hall is usually 1250, after all, and it looked to be above that amount, to be honest.

    And, more importantly, tickets are usually £40+ and were nowhere near that this time around. The first years who were quoted have no clue of comparison. And saying that people didn’t know what they were paying for is just not true; it was very well explained in advance. Nobody thinks that the capacity of Central Hall is 3000 so it’s just a lack of thinking to suggest otherwise – every year people can’t see the headline act because of capacity limitations and at least over double the number could see Marina this year. Not only that but she was a better act, the sound was better quality and there were people enjoying themselves in Vanbrugh, Langwith, the Silent Disco and elsewhere; the fireworks were great, too, and I have heard no second or third years complaining about it.

    One girl sets up a facebook group and you quote her for seven paragraphs? Of course those people in the queue would have been disgruntled at not getting in – but there was a maximum of 200 people in that queue at any given time (it stretched up to the junction between the Vanbrugh-Langwith path; as anyone attending events in the past knows, the queue usually reaches Vanbrugh’s doorway) and the queue *did* move.

    Yes, I have my gripes: I don’t think Derwent should have been used, I think that Marina was great but that a bigger band is still possible and preferable, I’m not particularly happy that YUSU got a third party to sort out booking for them and the fact that drinks were normal price irritates me too – BUT using lots of colleges made the event bigger and cheaper per ticket, the third party ensured the headline act turned up(!) and the drinks were hardly Racecourse price* – plus profits go to the Uni and SU, who put it into paying for welfare provisions, etc – so frankly this entire situation is stupid.

    Zappa, you can’t step from UCL to York and assume that the events are the same. Do some research first. And besides; if you go to any event with a headline act, you must queue up early! As it was, I was DJing, photographing and videoing bits of the evening so wasn’t one of the masses queueing – but I’m not someone who usually sides with YUSU and frankly the event was brilliant. People who complain about things that go really well have a tendency to annoy me; people who complain about things that go badly have my full support.

    As for “Common sense”: Roger Kirk has an inappropriate stage for that size, a lower capacity and a number of other problems attached to it. It’s good for balls and the like – and good for smaller gigs – but it’s not good for something of this magnitude.

    Seriously. No problem with picking out the faults – but compare it to any of the other balls and it’s a massive success. At the very least GIVE SOME CONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISM – say how they could improve it. Think that only 900 freshers should be allowed to buy tickets? Think that the gig should be on Central Hall roof so that the capacity is unlimited? Think that they should replace the fireworks with Marina standing on a raft in the middle of the lake? How would you *actually solve the problem*?! I’ve seen no hint of helpful comments regarding any of it.

    Better £26 for five venues, fireworks, Marina and the Diamonds, relatively cheap drinks and 1000 people seeing the stage than £45 for one venue, overpriced candy floss, no headline act/N Dubz, massively overpriced drinks and 400 people seeing the stage.

    I’m going to stop writing now.


    * Drinks prices at the Racecourse start at around £5-6 for a glass of wine.

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  6. @at least they turned up

    Or alternatively it’s because YUSU subsidised buses heavily 3 years ago and chose not to subsidise last year? Remember, there’s no commercial overlord raking in millions and millions of pounds in YUSU – all money gets spent on students! Yes, there are problems – and £15 was steep just as the cost of grad ball plus dinner is usually insane – but there are bigger problems in the world than “oh no, my Carling is £2″…. and it’s not exactly “fleecing” either!

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  7. 26 Oct ’10 at 5:11 pm

    A concerned citizen

    Anyone who paid £26 to see Marina and the Diamonds (I mean yeah, she’s fit, but is that really considered music?) needs shooting anyway.

    As for Miss Zappa, judging by her name I’m gonna guess that she can take the financial hit.

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  8. Let’s not be too harsh on Dan Walker here. He took a brave move to completely change the freshers ball from what it was a year ago. Although I didn’t go to the big bang this year, it still sounds a lot better than the freshers ball last year. On that basis, the decision to not hold the ball at the racecourse was a good one.

    However, the lessons must be learnt from the failures of the big bang. Zappa does have a point in that a better idea would have been to sell a base ticket, and then an ‘upgrade’ to allow people to see the headline act. Another thing is that the publicity prior to the event was weighted far too heavily towards Marina and the Diamonds, people should have been made more aware of what entertainment the other bars were providing on the night.

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  9. As someone who was waiting in the queue with Florence, I can say that it was not just us personally who were angry with what has happened. Many students around us were very disappointed with the situation, and have very similar sentiments to what have been expressed above.

    As other people have said, I think this upset could have been avoided by selling two types of ticket, one for the general event, and one for the headliners, as nowhere on the ticket or any of the information received in the run up to the ‘Big Bang’ were we warned that we risked not seeing Marina; the main reason the ticket price was justified, (I don’t see why anyone would have paid for the ticket if they didn’t want to see the main attraction). I am not a York University student myself, I was visiting with a friend, but I am a student none-the-less, a student who can not afford £26 for the entry to a bar, which is all I felt I got out of my ticket.

    The other way this could have been avoided was to have an open air concert, surely York University would have been big enough to accommodate something like this, more tickets could have probably been sold and more revenue made for the University, whilst also upping student satisfaction ten fold. If people didn’t want to stand in the cold and watch, at least then they would have had the choice, rather than everyone who waited in the cold watching the queue disperse as we were told there was no chance of us seeing what we originally paid for.

    Yes, maybe I am another disappointed student who feels a bit let down. But at the end of the day, money is money, and when it’s in short supply, which it is for most students, you always want to feel you got the most out of it, which in this situation, I do not.

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  10. Nobody going to the event bought tickets for Marina and the Diamonds.

    It was made explicitly clear it was a five venue event. Tickets went on sale (and many were sold) before any acts were announced.

    Marina wasn’t mentioned on the tickets anywhere – this is a pretty baseless article – not surprising it made the front page of this paper.

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  11. 28 Oct ’10 at 9:27 pm

    do something useful

    Turn up to ents committee or union council and help Dan and the team to make the next one better if you feel so strongly. Frankly, someone about to cry over this makes me feel quite angry. Grow up, you’re not at primary school anymore and throwing your toys out of the pram won’t make you any friends. Get involved- that’s what we does.

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  12. I have to be honest of all the yusu events from the last 2 and a half odd years of uni, the big bang was the best one. But it was still a distinctly average night that was not worth the asking price. £26 for 2 good but not incredible bands, not being able to even have a drink while you were watching was pretty lame as well. As for the other areas they were neglected. For £26 there should have been bigger names and more of them. The other areas were not well publicised and were empty most of the time. I personally will not be going to a yusu event again unless they want to make the next one value for money.

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  13. 29 Oct ’10 at 9:49 am

    Chris Etheridge

    This was the fourth Freshers’ ‘Ball’ that has occurred while I have been at the University and I can honestly say that it was the best one I’ve seen.

    YUSU can justifiably be criticised for some issues, but this is not one of them. Dan and the ents team put hours of preparation into this and, to be fair on them, the result was pretty spectacular compared to the Freshers’ Ball that I attended in my first year in 2007. So congratulations guys!

    A few points to anyone who believes otherwise:

    -In 2007 I paid around £40 to attend the Ball at the Racecourse and had to pay £4 to £5 per drink.

    -We had no fireworks.

    -We had to wait around for a bus back to campus for ages.

    -The Ball in 2007 was held on the Monday of Freshers’ Week meaning that I barely knew anyone. At least this time YUSU gave people a week to get to know a few more people.

    -When you attend any event it is obvious that the main act will draw the most attention; and it is obvious that you cannot fit all 3000 Freshers into Central Hall. Thus, I do not believe YUSU to be guilty of any false advertising; indeed, it is the responsibility of those attending the event to get into the queue as quickly as possible.

    -Lastly, I should point out that I am not saying that there is no room for improvement and that the event does not deserve some positive criticism. Of course there are things that can be improved; but I think it’s important we consider the bigger picture; this event was significantly better than those that have gone before it.

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  14. Perfect solution:

    If you put Marina on a raft in the lake, then people can stand round the outside.
    Also, If headline act is really bad, then drown / light fireworks as appropriate.

    The ladders union approves of this message: no-one needs to trample on helpless ladders for this idea to work.

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  15. “The other way this could have been avoided was to have an open air concert, surely York University would have been big enough to accommodate something like this”

    Lucy, I’m going to assume you’re a Fresher because we have Woodstock every summer, an open air gig that raises money for charity… but anyone who has attended will know that the capacity isn’t going to be any bigger. Where do you suggest hosting it? 22 acres (massive playing fields near Halifax) are the only place I can think of and, frankly, it’s not going to be Glastonbury for the price we’re paying. You’ll get a stage suitable for a live lounge session, £20 tickets and a headline act that doesn’t match this one.

    And regarding the two ticket option; what should the price difference be? If tickets are £15 and £25, for example, most people would prefer the cheaper one as it’s not the headline act but the “ambience” they’re after – usually people don’t care too much about the headline act… There’s no way that 1,000 people attending loved Marina that much! So you either get nobody bothering to pay to see her or you get 20% of people who paid not bothering to queue and just going to the other events, ending in a more spacious Central Hall that looks a little empty.

    Maybe the event needs some clearer signposting but with 4 years at the Uni I can say that most years people have considered most options – and the choice seems to be what we had this year vs what we had last year. I’ve always been keen on having a big Freshers Ball on campus whilst a number of people were massively against it: I, personally, think that the event was a massive success compared to previous years and would love to see it again. Shame Access All Areas had to go – but hopefully we’ll see Access 2 in January again anyway :)

    And one final thing: people criticise every event run by every group on campus. Viking Raid is criticised because was rubbish and the tickets sold out for the other places or because wasn’t on any route and is amazing or was on two routes and the overlap caused problems or was rubbish and shouldn’t have been there or charged too much for their drinks or students caused damage or the t-shirts weren’t ethical enough or the t-shirts were too expensive or some of the bars were too far away or advertising didn’t make it clear that you couldn’t just wander into random places at any time and ignore the route on your t-shirt (people complained about that last year. It says “Salvation” so why are you trying to get into Gallery?)… Or people criticise a Derwent event because too many people were drunk or drinks were too pricey or the theme was in poor taste or the theme was boring or not many people turned up or not enough tickets were available or asbestos falling from the ceiling forced the venue to change or whatever… Some people prefer the first band of the evening, others think they’re rubbish. EVERY event receives criticism, so it’s worth toning down the attacks until an event is REALLY bad; not just that some people couldn’t get in!

    I reiterate: I feel bad for people who really wanted to see Marina, especially those that travelled a long distance. But those who didn’t get in were those who queued for the least time and I’m not aware of anyone claiming that they thought Central Hall could hold 3,000 people – so as unfortunate as the situation is, anyone who was desperate to get in simply had to queue earlier, as many of us have done for years on end :)

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  16. I HATE YUSU…useless waste of uni money and resources run by a complete bunch of idiots and a president who needs to clear off and get a real job as opposed to staying in the ‘comfort’ of his position>>>what student union president runs for a second year? Just go away and get a real job.

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  17. Sage words from the man who organised the gig that paved the way for the ‘Big Bang’. If only a balance could have been struck between the 2000 folks who wished to see Marina and the 13 folks who wanted to see 13:3.

    Maybe if that balance had been struck, Mr Rose, with his couple of grand in his back pocket, wouldn’t need to serve sloppy joes in the Roger Kirk centre.

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  18. Just because this was the best campus event in years still doesnt make it that good! Look at what Leeds uni had for their freshers ball…They had a range of acts in many different genres and tickets were £18 rather than £26. YUSU needs to actually offer value for money. The fact that 2 or 3 years ago the freshers ball was much worse isnt an excuse. End of the day it wasnt a great event and YUSU is accountable for that. For £26 we should expect alot more.

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  19. “They had a range of acts in many different genres and tickets were £18 rather than £26. ”

    Leeds have massive venues and are well established on the music scene for acts anyway – don’t make unfeasible comparisons fool.

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  20. unfeasible comparisons? what just because we re york students doesn’t mean that we should get ripped off with shit events! They had about 5-6 good acts and payed £8 less. We had 2 acts, only 1 of which was a big name. Couldn’t drink in the main venue and the rest of the areas were largely dead. Plus the acts were both indie bands. No variety, poor value for money and unorganized. With 3000 odd students paying £26 a ticket they could have booked way bigger and way more names.

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  21. @Fred: No, it doesn’t mean we should get ripped off, but it doesn mean that we have nearly a quarter the amount of students and no venues that would be big enought to attract lots of big name acts. Also, as far as I’m aware, the restriction on drink in the main venue was the uni being awkward (YUSU tried as hard as it could to get this overturned).

    In terms of costs….You’re right, YUSU could have spent huge amounts more on tonnes of massive big names. Unfortunately it would be very likely that funding for societies, sports clubs and the campus media would have to fall, something that I doubt many people would want to see. Now I don’t know this for sure, but I would hazard a guess that YUSU tried to stretch its budget as far as possible to make this event as good as possible. I look forward to seeing you at Ents Committee to provide some useful ideas for next year.

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  22. Marina was indie? According to wiki she’s “new age” and she classifies herself as “alternative pop” though there is a hint in there… Nonetheless, they’re not exactly identical!

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  23. either way your defending the undefendable. It was a very distinctly average event and definately not worth £26… case closed.

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  24. I think it’s absolutely ridiculous how people can sit and moan over this. I’d love to see the people complaining pull an event like this off, I’m sure you’d find it is incredibly hard to organise. You could at least give YUSU a bit of credit.

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  25. credit for what? taking our money? YUSU deserves no credit for putting on such a poor event. Better that they put on nothing rather than something so dissapointing. They knew that they would have problems with the capacity of central hall and didnt even publicise any of the other events going on around the rest of campus. 26 pounds is a lot of money for most students and for that kind of a price students are entitled to ask for more than what we were delivered.

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  26. I think you’ll find that Logo is copyrighted and not ‘Zappa’s’ logo…pah!

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