UKC SUMMER BALL 2017: AVERAGE, AT BEST
InQuire takes an extensive look at this year’s Summer Ball, as editors Sunny Singh and Jack Hsuan work their way through the festival and share their experience. Being held across the campus, rather than the usual venue of the car park, this year’s event was more scattered; artists were further apart, and it was difficult to know which artists were on when – and on what stage. The attractions filling in the gaps between the venues were, overall, quite enjoyable. A combination of rides and fairground games paved the way to the headliners and support acts dotted around the area between Venue and Eliot. As guests began to enter the event, there were two major things on their mind. The first of these was the rudeness of the bouncers. One of the guests screamed:
“THEY DIDN’T LET MY FRIEND IN BECAUSE HE HAD A BOTTLE OF LEMONADE AND IT WAS JUST LEMONADE WITH MAYBE A LITTLE BIT OF VODKA BUT THE VODKA DOESN’T COUNT”
The second was a question even we were positing: where are the bumper cars? Last year’s event revolved around them, as guests revolved around each other venting the frustration they harboured from waiting forty-five minutes to get in. This year, that frustration went unquenched. It was, however, swiftly morphed to adrenaline as guests were spun and flung high into the air expecting cathedral views. We didn’t see it, but we saw the faces of everyone below getting drunk and weaving their way through the crowd to one of the many food vans and bars distributed across the campus, or one of the three stages buzzing with acts whom, some of which, we’d even heard of.
Of the two rides featured, both with names like exotic dancers, “Body Heat” was the fan favourite with queues exceeding that of the other one. We trialled both rides extensively and came to the conclusion that, yes, “Body Heat” really gets your juices flowing. Apart from the fact that each person had to go and sit on the ride one at a time (going through a pseudo-catwalk where everyone was leering on you, waiting for you to screw up) the entire experience was really quite enjoyable.
Regarding the other ride, I recall extensive spinning; so extensive that it felt like every inch of you was going to be crushed. I went on it three times. I had the pleasure of interviewing someone whilst the ride was spinning. Below, I transcribe their overall experience:
“EEHHH AAAAAHHHH EHHHH IT’S ALRIGHAAAAT AHHEEEHH QUEUE WAS LONG-TING”
Interviewing people on rides will, now, be a regular addition to InQuire’s extensive online content.
The music was surely one of the main attractions of the event. At last year’s Summer Ball, the students were treated to the sounds of Everything Everything, Wretch 32, and Labrinth. This year, Tinie Tempah headlined on the main stage – and if it were the Summer Ball of 2012, that might have meant something. Still, people flocked to the stage, undoubtedly reminiscing on awkward secondary school discos.
There were other acts of note, too. Big Narstie appeared in Venue, although his music seemed to differ little from the standard Venue playlist. His toplessness got the crowd more excited than his set, as he couldn’t help but take his clothes off. WSTRN were on the main stage, and their London rooted music earned them a big crowd. Albeit, this was partially due to drunk students believing they were hearing Tinie – with screams of “Tinie, we love you!” swiftly being hushed, and illusions dispelled, by the designated drivers.
The Killerz added an alternative sound to the night. Credit to them, they managed to get the audience putting their hands up and jumping without even having to ask them. Probably the best act of the night, and so, justifiably, were put on the smallest stage: in the corner.
There were other acts of note, probably. Maybe we could have known, but there was no clear way of knowing who would be playing, and where – a complete lack of schedule being advertised, with no leaflets or posters displaying the actual times the acts would be performing. Word of mouth seemed to be the only way of knowing who to flock to, unfortunately leading people to get to places too late. There were three stages; a large tent, a small tent, and Venue. To everyone’s horror, nearer to the end of the night, Venue was shut down – reason being the tampering of a fire alarm by a student.
A statement was later published on their Facebook page.
”We apologise for the sudden evacuation of the Venue tonight – we can confirm it was a false alarm by a guest who caused significant damage to the fire alarm system.”
With the club out of the fight, a sad scene could be witnessed as the sweaty Venue crowd, disheartened but not defeated, moved on to seek their next fix of drum and bass. Sadly, it could not be found, as, like with Mary and Joseph on Christmas Eve, ‘there was no room’.
Though they rushed to the main stage, they were turned down by the bouncers at the entrance. Reasons for this are unclear; perhaps the tent was at capacity, although this would seem a little too cautious, since the tent appeared only half full. A more reasonable interpretation of the blockade was a symbolic protest of Trump’s travel ban; the citizens of Venue fought the good fight, but were eventually deported from both their homes, and the midst of Tinie.
In terms of the food on offer, if you’re a student of the University of Kent, familiar faces greeted the Ball. The Thai stand was as popular as ever, but awkward to eat when being charged at by the hundreds of students hoping to get on the neighbouring ride. A burger van, of course, graced the premises and was overloaded as the night came to an end, students queuing to get their post-Venue burger. Being only £3, it was a bargain – and pretty good, too. Street Kitchen offered a kebab, with Kaspas taking dessert by storm.
To get drunk, Bud Light took centre stage. I never thought I’d be saying those words. A pop-up bar opposite Essentials served the flavoured water, alongside a number of other spirits. Being busy the entire night, the outdoor shots bar was often trekked to instead, next to the main stage. Two Jagerbombs for £5 matched Venue prices. I was pleased.
It was the general consensus that the attractions outweighed the headliners this year, through no fault of the acts themselves – but the organisation and logistics of crowd control. A section of the Ball was dedicated to amusement park games, and themed very well. Prizes were awarded to those gifted enough to succeed at the games.
Perhaps the most telling moment of the night came at the end, when we were approached by an individual asking if we were with Kent Union. When we told him we were with InQuire, he told us that we should tell the Union that the Ball was a vast disappointment (though he made his argument known with far more colourful language). Indeed, it seemed to be the general consensus from most students we talked to. Asking one of the visitors about the event, we gained the following response:
“This was my first Summer Ball, although I am in my final year of university. I had very high expectations. Unfortunately, Kent Union made sure it would be otherwise. I bought my ticket mostly because of Tinie Tempah. Security kept pushing us back although the tent was half empty, and whilst trying to enjoy the show from the back of tent, they were being very aggressive and shouting at us. For paying £29.50 I think it was a total fiasco. And they should stay away from organising events in the future which they can’t control.”
There was a lot of hype this year, but ultimately the night was a let down. Still, with the year Kent Union has had, the Ball can definitely be considered one of their finer moments.