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A Quick Guide to Oxford Balls


One of the things that makes the social life at Oxford different to that of other universities is the balls! At Oxford a ball means an all night (literally - some last from approximately 7pm until 5am…) party with your friends, featuring champagne receptions, open bars, a huge assortment of food ranging from paella to cookie dough, and entertainment from dodgems to laser tag to a performance from Scouting For Girls! Tickets tend to sell out quickly because there is always so much interest, but there are many different ones to try and get tickets for.

College Balls

College balls are the main ‘Oxford’ balls. They are held at different points throughout the year, and all have different themes - some recent themes include yellow submarine and lumina. You normally buy tickets as a group with your friends, and it’s really fun getting dressed up together and going for the classic photoshoot around Oxford before the ball starts.

Most colleges host an annual black tie ball, but some hold Commemoration Balls. These are hosted by a college once every three years on a rotation, so one year Trinity, Worcester, St Johns and Christ Church hold theirs, the next is Oriel, and the next is New, Queens and Magdalen. They are really fancy white tie affairs and because the ticket price is higher, they have a bigger budget so are normally more lavish – some have champagne all night! I was on the committee for New College’s Commemoration Ball, held in the summer (Trinity) term of 2019. It was so fun getting to organise something on such a big scale, that so many people will enjoy!

Some Commemoration Balls have 'Access Tickets' to make sure that the whole college and Oxford community can attend, if they want to. For example, at Christ Church's last Commemoration Ball, they sold half price tickets to students from a household income of less than £16,000.

Society Balls

Many societies also host their own balls – there really is never a shortage! Oxford Law Society and The Union both host balls each term. Union balls occur in their grounds and are a fun cheaper option for members (guest tickets cost about £10 more). The night always ends with a silent disco in their debating chamber which is always fun. Law Soc balls occur at venues out of Oxford, which is unusual but exciting! Recent venues include the National Gallery in London, Hedsor House, the Roman Baths in Bath, Royal Naval College at Greenwich and the Natural History Museum in London. I organised the Natural History Museum ball as I was on the executive committee. It was such a unique and amazing experience; I’ll never forget looking at everyone dancing under the blue whale whilst standing with my best friends who I organised it with! I even sneaked off to Facetime my mum and show her how amazing it looked.

Many of these balls offer the option to work for half the night, thus paying for half of your ticket. You could also work for the whole ball, and use this income to pay for a different ball. There are lots of different ways to be able to afford balls in Oxford! The RAG (Raising and Giving) Ball is also a cheaper ball - but all the balls are just as fun as each other. After all, you get to spend the whole night dancing away with your friends! What more could you want?

In short, if you want to get dressed up and dance very literally all night, you’d love an Oxford ball! There are so many to choose from, including charity balls, that you will definitely find one that suits you. Getting involved in ball committees is a unique way to enjoy the night, but I love it even more than just attending as a guest!

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