Grad Ball: it's good to talk

Just so you know: this page was imported from my old blog. Some pages were rather mangled in the process; my apologies if things don't quite look right.

This entry was written around the time the Union first issued the Grad Ball statement. To make sure I wasn't about to get myself sacked, I withheld publishing this entry until it had been checked to make sure it didn't contain anything it shouldn't, and to make sure - as far as possible - that the facts in the article are as accurate as possible.

That all said, these - like everything in this blog - are my personal ramblings, based on my opinion. Like everything else I think I know, you should probably take everything said here with a fairly generous pinch of salt. A lorry-load should just about do it...

I'm glad to see the UPSU Management have taken the unprecedented step of issuing a statement to explain how the ticket sales for the Graduation Ball - which have divided opinion as they do each year - have been conducted.

It's never easy to find a balance between investing a lot of the Union's - and therefore your membership, clubs' and societies' - money into a ball, and ensuring there are as many tickets available as there are people that want to go.

In fact, it's pretty much an impossible situation: the potential to damage the Union's future strength by gambling a huge amount of money on an expensive ball just to make sure there are enough tickets for everyone who can go, in the hope that it will sell enough tickets to break even, is a risk the Union's management and directors - your Sabbatical officers - face each year.

It's also one I honestly think they've got just right for the last few years, too, with the last two balls held at the Union breaking even, showcasing some great acts and a beautiful venue (yes, I'm still talking about the Union!), and receiving positive feedback from almost everyone who attended.

Since 2005 - the last year the Union held a ball at a green field site with a high capacity - the Union has been through bankruptcy and, as a result, been split into two companies; UPSU - the independent Union charity - and UPEL, a subsidiary company of the University. You can find out more about the differences between the two companies here, but what's important for you to be aware of here is that UPSU - the charity that runs clubs and societies, takes your membership money, and re-invests every penny into student services - organises the Graduation Ball, while UPEL organises and runs the regular entertainments, such as Purple Wednesdays and Orange Fridays.

Your Sabbs are the directors and trustees of UPSU, and it's ultimately down to them to make sure that your Union, and its accounts, don't suffer financially from the worst-case scenario - a Graduation Ball that blows a lot of cash. We even have a point of reference: the 2005 Graduation Ball, which lost a significant amount of money despite being well attended (and well organised). This was due to the unavoidable cost overheads associated with holding a ball at a green field site - the money wasn't "lost" due to bad management, and a green field site is realistically the only way to hold an event with a higher capacity than the Union can provide.

In Portsmouth, no other venue comes close to having the capacity of the
Union. Even the Guildhall and the new Liquid and Envy actually have
lower capacities than the Union, because licensed capacity is governed
more by the number and size of fire exits than actual floor space.

For now, the 2007 Grad Ball is looking to be an unrivalled success. Surprisingly, despite the vocal efforts of some concerned students, the tickets waiting list is less than 150 people as I write this, so it's not beyond the realms of possibility that all the graduating students who have returned the forms from their graduation packs will be able to go if enough people drop out of the ball. That, of course, is a fairly uncomfortable "wait-and-see" situation for everyone on the reserve list, and I wish it wasn't like that, but such is life =(

Reading the Facebook groups (linked in the last para.) about this, there are some interesting comments and suggestions which I think can and will definitely be borne in mind during the planning of next year's ball. I've spoken to our entertainments chap who reports the Union does indeed have the largest capacity of any indoor, licensed venue in Portsmouth. It's fairly clear that there are a lot of rumours flying around - something that's inevitable when as many people are hearing bad things from peer groups, and while a lot of what's being said is true, there are some big factual inaccuracies being reported too (I don't think the Union's ever held a Grad Ball at the Guildhall, has it?).

The old saying that "you can't please all the people all of the time" springs to mind here; the Union is a great venue to hold a ball in - when it's thoroughly draped and filled with all sorts of interesting and fun things to do and drink - but it can only hold so many people before it gets uncomfortable or - worse - dangerous. Because of this, both UPSU and UPEL's management team have a tough juggling act to face to make the most of the venue without infringing on space, not to mention the fact that it doesn't matter how much space is available outside, because it's the internal capacity of the building that limits how many people can be present.

Granted, the Graduation Ball is the end-of-University event for a vast majority of people, and for this reason, not being able to get a ticket after three years' work is undoubtedly one of the biggest frustrations to have to come to terms with at this time of year. Frankly, it sucks, and I wish this didn't have to happen, but the alternatives are limited - to say the least - and in the short-term at least, there really are no alternatives.

Longer-term, it might be possible to have another ball at a green field site, maybe along the lines of Bournemouth's massive - and excellent-looking - summer ball. Maybe it can happen in the future, but for now the cautious approach UPSU have shown for the last couple of years is probably going to stay until a way of holding a large ball with less financial risk can be found.

For those of you reading this that can't attend the ball this year, please make sure you have your names on the reserve list, and if you don't get a ticket, I do hope you'll have an opportunity in coming years to experience one of our balls instead.

For everyone coming to the ball, I hope you have a great night and really enjoy yourselves.

And of course, for everyone regardless of whether or not you're going to the ball, I wish you the best of luck with your studies and graduation, and spare a thought for those of us - like me - who will be re-sitting a swathe of exams and coursework to scrape a degree because we've spent too much time faffing about, being drunk, or just didn't quite get it right the first time round ;o)

A disclaimer, of sorts: this is, like everything on my blog, personal opinion based mainly on heresay and - usually - with very little in the way of factual accuracies. Likewise, this blog post, although my bosses have checked it to make sure I'm not libelling anyone or telling outright lies, is my own posting. I'm not - and (hopefully) never will be - anyone's mouth-piece, so what you read here is all my own work, and my own opinion. And, of course, if you don't like it, please shout at me (here).



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