Wolfson's theme this year is 'Valhalla'Louis Ashworth

Four months away from May Week, the events have already been thrown into tumult, with Wolfson’s inaugural May Ball set to benefit from a series of event cancellations.

Wolfson’s Ball, to be held on 22nd June, has also become the second college to offer a 20% discount on tickets for students on full bursaries, following Hughes Hall’s decision to offer a discounted price last month.

Meanwhile, both Caius and Trinity Hall have cancelled their planned May Week events. While Caius attributed their decision to “unforeseen changes to the committee amidst plans for major kitchen refurbishment at College”, Trinity Hall was forced to call off their ‘Solstice’-themed June event after insufficient ticket sales.

This year will mark Wolfson’s first ever May Ball, although the college has previously held smaller-scale June events. This year’s offering, which is called Valhalla after the “Norse paradise of unending feast,” has been organised over a relatively short time frame. While most May Balls are subject to months of meticulous planning, with some committees in place more than one year before the ball, applications for Wolfson’s committee opened only last term.

However, Wolfson is set to gain considerable advantage from the cancellation of other events scheduled for May Week, with which it would otherwise have been in competition. Wolfson has established a ticketing partnership on Caius students who have missed out on a ball at their own college this year, through which they are entitled to “special promotions’ on tickets at the mature college’s events. Caius students had originally been offered discounted tickets at the Trinity Hall June event, before that also folded.

Max Mulvany, this year’s president of Wolfson’s May Ball, has told Varsity that the ticketing partnership with Caius “has been amazing so far”, adding that the ball had already sold tickets to many Trinity Hall and Caius students.

Mulvany also said that Wolfson is “discussing ticketing partnerships with other colleges,” with further announcements to be made shortly. He continued to say that the ticketing partnership model “has definitely paid off for Wolfson this year.”

He added, however, that Wolfson students still held priority for ticket allocation.

Besides trying to draw students from colleges that do not have their own May Ball, Wolfson has attempted to make its Ball more inclusive by offering discounted tickets to students on Cambridge bursaries. The discounted tickets are £76, 20% cheaper than the full price of £95.

Besides offering the discount to students on Cambridge bursaries, which are only available to UK/EU undergraduates, Wolfson has extended the ticket discount to students on other types of hardship funding provided by the college. At present, this additional measure only applies to Wolfson students because of the difficulty of verifying the funding through each college’s tutorial office. However, the committee is currently in discussion with its governing body with the aim of eventually extending the discount to students from other colleges who are also in receipt of bursaries.

In explaining Wolfson’s decision to offer the discount, Mulvany told Varsity: “Receiving a 20% discount can be the difference between a poorer student attending or not attending, but the actual effect upon the ball’s budget is insubstantial.

“In my role as President I’m very keen to send a message to anyone experiencing hardship that this year you have two prestigious May Balls to choose from. But two is not enough. Ideally all May Ball committees should investigate how they can offer wide-ranging hardship discounts if the stereotype of exclusivity for the well-off is to be worn down. The Wolfson May Ball committee is certainly prepared to assist in sharing knowledge of our experience of this initiative.”

He said that the decision to offer the discount was inspired by that of Hughes Hall, but added that the College’s effort had not extended far enough: “We really felt that it should go further than Hughes Hall’s current offer of just the undergraduates who receive the Cambridge Bursary.”

Mulvany said that the discounted tickets had met with considerable success already, making up 25% of the ball’s sales thus far. He also said that the ball had achieved “record 3 day ticket sales to colleges as diverse as Trinity and Murray Edwards.”

Although Wolfson has held a popular June Event in the past, Mulvany told Varsity that this year’s May Ball is set to be much bigger: “There are some key areas we’re spending 100% more on this year. We’ve got both a Dining Ticket and a massive outdoor stage for the first time.

“Many students have spoken to me about their relief that Wolfson’s inaugural May Ball remains affordable to them.”

Cancellations are not the only controversy to have struck May Balls this year. The Hughes Hall May Ball, with a 'Forest of Sin' theme, recently made headlines when its committee was forced to take down a promotional trailer over concerns that it was overly sexualised.

The decision to release discounted tickets comes during a year in which colleges are facing increased backlash for what are seen as elitist practices. Trinity and St John’s, for example, recently became the first balls in history to charge more than £200 per head, significantly more than the typical price of between £100 and £150.


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Furthermore, Trinity faced criticism for classing its employees as “volunteers” who were not paid a wage, but were instead entitled to the chance to purchase a ticket to a future Trinity May Ball. Usually, such an opportunity is only available to Trinity students. In the face of criticism over its remuneration policy, Trinity announced on Tuesday that it had decided to pay all of its workers at least the minimum wage.