Having envisioned scenes not dissimilar to those of the closing musical numbers of Grease, it’s safe to say that my expectations of the Summer Ball were pretty off the mark. Had my friends and I not spent the majority of the night trying to rescue various people from getting lost forever in the serpentine queues throughout the colossal venue, I have no doubt that any spontaneous song and dance routine we could have offered would have rivalled that of the crew from Rydell High, and without question wiped the floor with the Ball’s headline acts…
That is not to say that the evening was a complete let down, and if I could re-do the event I would go about the whole experience very differently, as there was certainly potential for it to be an enjoyable night if you played your cards right. First and foremost, while the combined meal and Ball ticket is rather pricey, from what I can gather, the entertainment before heading to the Race Course was in fact what made the night most memorable, and is what gave the Ball the more refined element you’d expect from what for many is their final university event. The set-up at the Race Course itself was difficult to conquer: laid out across so many different floors and areas it didn’t feel as intimate as other YUSU events, and was an absolute nightmare for keeping track of everybody, especially those friends who rival Houdini with their intoxicated escape acts. If you want an evening spent in its entirety with a large group of people then you’re wasting your time, but if you’re happy to stick with a couple of close pals for the night then there’s more of a chance you’ll be able to make the most of what’s on offer.
On this note, we made the mistake of hitting the fairground rides later in the evening, meaning we had to queue for up to 45 minutes for a shot at getting on any of the main attractions, which was a real disappointment. People who came from the meal beforehand and those who got the earliest shuttle buses managed to give everything a go without spending hours waiting around, so it’s worth bearing this in mind if you’re planning on attending in the future. As the fairground was the focus of the Ball aside from the live acts, it was easy to miss the other, smaller elements of the evening, which in hindsight were probably worth far more attention. Face painting, balloon modelling, candy floss and popcorn stands, and the saving grace that was the silent disco were fun, free features spread throughout the venue, and were definitely the aspects where you felt you were getting more of your money’s worth. While the queues were shorter for these things, it still remains that if you wanted to benefit from anything on offer at the Ball it required significant waiting in line, which raises the question as to whether there were sufficient distractions, or whether there were simply just too many people there.
While it was super unlucky that Jess Glynne’s agent accidentally forgot that she was promoting her first solo album this week until about fortnight ago, this was probably a blessing in disguise as it avoided the widespread discontent that would have been caused by the stage area being so small. The musical highlights of the evening were without a doubt the smaller bands that played earlier in the line up, whose audiences were far more engaged than that of Wilkinson’s who decided to turn the boxy area into a mosh pit to pass the time spent waiting around inevitably for ‘Afterglow’ to play. Saying all this, kudos to YUSU who managed to secure a replacement act at such short notice.
As a finalist attending the Ball for the first time this year, the evening wasn’t the nostalgia fuelled rite of passage I had hoped it would be: whether this was because we skipped the more intimate meal beforehand or because the Ball isn’t aimed solely at leavers like it is at many other universities is hard to say. Would I recommend giving the Summer Ball a go? If you can get over the fact that it’s going to be an overpriced night, and you make the most of what’s on offer by planning it cleverly, then the undeniably buzzing atmosphere from start to finish and the chance to have a last chat with some of the people you’ve spent your degree with might just make it worth the time. If nothing else, the Summer Ball remains one of the few occasions you get at university to scrub up, get your glad rags on and pretend for the night that you’re a sophisticated young adult.