The spoilsCarla maloney & Jemima Wickham

It was when we were lying on the dirt-trodden floor of Gatwick airport that we realised two things. One: everything had gone a bit wrong. Two: There was a sliver of hope yet that we would be able to put things right. Missing our flight to Salzburg by three minutes was not exactly what we had in mind when we signed up for RAG Jailbreak 2019 - an annual competition in aid of RAG’s charities, entailing getting as far away from Cambridge as possible using 50% of donations received within a 36 hour period, with a minimum of £300 raised for charity.

There was talk of Rio, even Barbados, but this was not to be. Neither is it for many an unsung Jailbreak warrior. Yet this failure is all too often neglected in the dialogue surrounding Jailbreak. Failure is as much a part of Jailbreak as it is any other pursuit. Not only do we collectively need to address it to prepare our prospective Jailbreak successors, but also to recognise that failure, more often than not, can provide a much needed anecdote to give us perspective.

The fundraising for Jailbreak – the people you meet, the adventures you go on and the bizarre things you end up doing – is often overlooked. For starters, it was at the crack of dawn, with onesies donned as armour against the snowy weather, that the challenging nature of the task was first revealed to us. Standing outside King’s, we were met with a snarky ‘that’s nice’ in response to our efforts, a remark later topped by a Camden salesman’s irritated but fair reply of ‘we’re trying to make money’, along with many a turned cheek and doorstep rejection.

“It was failure that forced us to distinguish between the fundamental conflict inherent to Jailbreak: travel vs charity”

This was not the Jailbreak the vlogs had promised. Camden Town seemed dubious of us. In all fairness, we were in onesies, in the snow, in the dark, vigorously shaking from a combination of the flu and the cold. This was followed by many North Londoners saying ‘you’re mad’, but this remark was often followed by a tenner lobbed our way.

Once we had reached Haringey, the pub crawl began. Still in our onesies and carrying our cardboard donations box, we were largely welcomed with a degree of curiosity. One notable figure was a middle-aged Oxonian who, after mocking our choice of University, donated generously. Others offered us pints and cheered us out in a moment of glory. Walking home, tired but somewhat proud, we bumped into one of the pub-goers and ventured into a hunt for his escaped great dane. Once again, shouting ‘Hugo’ at midnight was not the Jailbreak experience we anticipated. The next day started off on a high note - we were invited into the house of an opera singer during our early-morning door knock. Soon after this, our fundraising drew to a close.

As one door closes, another opens. Whilst we had hoped this would have been a plane door swinging open to the streets of Salzburg, instead our eyes opened to the true value of Jailbreak – and of failure. We narrowly missed our flight to Salzburg, and faced repeated calls trying to get refunded. It was soul crushing to believe that our journey from Cambridge had led us only as far as the floor of Gatwick.


Mountain View

You graduated, now what?

But it was this very failure that forced us to distinguish between the fundamental conflict inherent to Jailbreak: travel vs. charity. Jailbreak is sold on the line of how far can you get away from Cambridge, but at the end of the day this can counterproductively come at the expense of charity, which is what it should be about. We were presented with a choice between getting a flight or bus, but despite the new 50/50 rule, this would have come out of the the pocket of RAG and would have betrayed its ethos.

We had so many unexpected misadventures and memories, met so many people from so many walks of life, and all without taking a step out of the country. It was almost as though we had fallen into a Louis Theroux documentary through the weird and wonderful nature of our experience.Fundraising is the heart and soul of jailbreak. Not only is it key to raising money for RAG but the satisfaction you feel from raising this money through interaction with such a variety of individuals far outweighs the glorified goal of a few hours abroad.

You may expect us to feel pessimistic about Jailbreak, but if done right, it can perhaps be one of the most rewarding and unique experiences of your time at University - even if you make it no further than London.

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