A load of old balls

marjon may ballFirst of all, to all those new to the University it has to be said that the Marjon Student Union (MSU) ball is unlike any other social event; the sheer variety of entertainment, size of the event, smart dress and new haircuts make it stand out way above other events. I’ve been asked to reminisce over the highlights and, indeed some of the lowlights, of the past 27 years of Marjon’s famous balls…

In 1991 MSU decided for the first time ever they would hold the ball under canvas in a marquee. After discussions with the then Principal, we were given permission to pitch an enormous tent on the quad. The Marquee was erected on the Wednesday, with the ball on the Saturday night. When the marquee men were finished we went in and started to build bars ourselves and decorate. You may have noticed that these days the marquees we hire have aluminium frames resembling aircraft hangers, but back then our tents were held up by ropes with two huge poles in the middle. By Friday night we were about finished. 34 exams tables were neatly disguised as the bar, the stage was in place, even if it was obscured by one of the poles, and we had hired a mammoth dance floor.

Steve Boulter volunteered to sleep in the marquee to guard our handiwork. It was on the Saturday morning, the day of the ball, that the President received a phone call from the porters lodge “ello, that Nick,?” said the early morning duty porter.  “Yes” came the reply.  “You know your tent?” “Yes what about it?” “It’s been let down.”  And so, on the day of the ball we had to have the marquee hire company back in.  When we arrived at the site the quad was covered in canvas and, much to our amazement, under it all was a completely disorientated Steve Boulter shaped bulge wandering around.

The ball however was a great success and the marquee became a feature of the ball until the present day.  There was one ball, though, that reeked controversy. It got me on the local news, interviewed live on Southampton Radio and splashed all over the Herald, all because one bright spark had come up with the idea of the ball themed on the Titanic.  We were to have painted chandeliers; cocktails and casinos, oh and the bit that caused the problem, a 20 foot papier-mâché iceberg.

All this was in 1996 way before Kate Winslett had got her feet wet. We were slated by the British Titanic Society and accused of making a mockery of the 1200 that had lost their lives. Radio Southampton phoned me and I told them that this was not our intention, we were comparing the grandeur of the Titanic with our premier event and “it was all being blown out of proportion by one, self-promoting member of the British Titanic Society”.  I was happily telling the researcher what I thought of this member when it was then that he told me that we were on the radio live at that moment.

Our saviour however came in the guise of Fred Banfield.  Fred had lost his Father on the Titanic but he was fully supportive of our ball, stating that it does not mater how we remember, just as long as we remember.  The Titanic Ball still holds the record for most ever tickets sold, over 1700.

Other highlights include melting electrical cables as the band played, the bars that had been painted in a substance that once mixed with alcohol dissolved, mostly over men’s best jackets, and the giant inflatable Mr Blobby that was too big to go in the marquee. But most of all, the memories of amazing summer nights that have an indescribable atmosphere.

In the end, it’s not about what acts or themes are on, it’s about sharing this special occasion with your friends and adding to your university  memories that will stay with you forever.

The balls have always been special.  Many couples, some who have gone on to marry, met at a May Ball.  This year, as we always say, will be the best ball ever, and for those that attend we hope it definitely is.

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