Why aren't we running a Summer Ball in the normal way?

The Summer Ball made a loss of £25,000 last year and was projected to lose approx. £47,000 this year. The Trustee Board of the Students’ Union called an Emergency/Extraordinary Trustee Board meeting on Tuesday 19th November, where the project team for the ball presented three scenarios:  

The Trustee Board scrutinised the financial position of the Summer Ball, looked through the different scenarios and the options available. After considering the options available, the Trustee Board unanimously voted to protect the charity’s future whilst ensuring that students had the ultimate saying whether the Ball takes place in 2020.


I didn’t realise the SU was a charity - what does that mean exactly?

The University of Essex Students’ Union is a charity registered in England & Wales (No. 1140278).  We are a separate organisation to the University of Essex and have our own stated charitable objectives.

As a registered charity we have a Board of Trustees that oversees the way we work (including making sure that we remain finacially sustainable for the benefit of our 16,000 student members) and who ensure that we continue to comply with charity law, principally the Charities Act 2016. 


What other options were explored?
When looking at how we could run the Summer Ball 2020 and not make a financial loss, we considered various options, some of which included: 

However none of the scenarios satisfied the criteria of reducing the financial risk, offering a great experience for students and/or being financially sustainable.


You mentioned you’ve successfully made changes that have saved the ball in previous years - what were they?

In previous years we have avoided putting the ticket price up by continuously looking at every part of the event and seeing how we can adapt and refine it.

This has included taking over the catering and bringing it in-house to create a new revenue stream (we used to charge £1,500 to 3 catering vans who kept 100% of the income, in 2019 the Ball generated approx. £17,000 in food income), managing to grow ticket sales over the years, and stripping costs out of the ball on various occasions to ensure that it continues to be sustainable (for example removing tents that weren’t popular, outsourcing tasks to some professional companies that could do them quicker and cheaper than doing it internally).

However we have now reached the point where we have been unable to identify any new revenue streams that can be grown and believe that any further cutting of costs or key attractions would fundamentally damage the integrity and appeal of the Summer Ball.


How much does it cost to run the Summer Ball?

The budget we created for the Summer Ball 2020 shows the event costing a total of £251,396 to put on. 

The chart below shows the key costs associated with running the Summer Ball:


Why is the Summer Ball 2020 forecast to make a loss?
Sadly, almost every cost attached to the ball has increased since last year’s budget, with entertainment costs being one of the biggest increases.

We’ve also seen rises in the cost of infrastructure, staffing, alcohol, food, insurance costs… in short, everything has gone up. 

We have also previously relied on sponsorship income to help support the event, but one of our key sponsors has pulled out, adding to the projected loss.


What is the target amount in ticket sales that needs to be made in order for Summer Ball 2020 to go ahead?

The total amount that we need to make in ticket sales is £210,700.  This equates to approx. 3,500 member and guest ticket sales at £60 for students and £70 for guests. 


Why are tickets priced at £60?
We haven't put ticket prices up since 2015 (£50) but costs have continued to rise. 

If we sold the same amount of tickets, and students spent the same amount in ball vouchers as last year, then the Summer Ball 2020 would be forecast to make a loss of approx. £47,000

In an attempt to save the Summer Ball 2020, and allow us to put on one amazing (potentially final) ball for everyone to enjoy, we have put tickets on sale at £60. This price increase and early ticket sale period, we hope, will allow us to sell enough tickets to go ahead with the 2020 Summer Ball… but we need your help to do it.


What does the Summer Ball budget look like?

The Summer Ball is a very expensive event to stage in its traditional format. Because it is staged on the University sports fields, every element of the event has to be set up each year through a mix of using hired equipment and working with expert external suppliers and providers.

To be totally transparent about the costs associated with running the event, we've provided a budget breakdown below. 

In the budget we have grouped costs into relevant categories and have shown the following three forecasts:

  1. The budget for Summer Ball 2020 based on selling 3,500 tickets (this is the model we are following)
  2. A budget showing the implications of selling the same amount of tickets as last year (3,200) at the new price (in this scenario the Ball would lose £17,000 and could not take place)
  3. A budget showing the implications of selling the same amount of tickets as last year (3,200) at last year's price (in this scenario the Ball would lose £47,000 and could not take place)



How can I help to save the Summer Ball?
We really want to put on a Summer Ball in 2020, and we know there are people out there who feel as passionately about the event as we do! 

So, if you’d like the ball to go ahead, then here's what you need to do:


What will will I get if I buy a ticket?

Assuming enough people buy tickets the event will go ahead and your ticket will give you entry to the Essex SU Summer Ball for 2020.

Full line-up and event details will be confirmed nearer the time but you can expect the following amazing attractions:


What if I buy my ticket early?

If you put down a deposit or buy your ticket before 31st December 2019, you will receive the Summer Ball 2020 Priority Package which includes:

*between 8-9pm

What if I don't have £60 now?
If you don’t have the full amount to pay for your ticket right now we’re making it a bit easier. We’re allowing you to split the payment into two parts so that you can pay 50% now and then 50% later, for example when your loan drops or when you get paid for working over xmas.  If you pay the first 50% before the 31st December 2019 you’ll be able to get access to all of the priority benefits so it’s definitely worth considering.
Please note that you’ll need to make both payments (Deposit Payment 1 and Deposit Payment 2) by 31st January 2020 for your ticket. If you pay a deposit and then decide you don’t want to attend the event it will only be refunded if the target of 3,500 tickets is not met.
What do other SU’s do with their Ball, and why can’t we do that?
Every SU that runs a Summer ball does it in a different way; some run them in their venues as they can hold 4,000 students in their club, some have concourses which allow them to just put in a single stage for those students who want to go, some expect less than 1,000 students to attend, some charge more than £60, some have 6,000 student’s attending, some run end of year parties in their club and some don’t run a ball at all.

It’s virtually impossible to compare any two SU’s circumstances as they all have different student numbers, resources and venues. 

What is consistent though is that,as costs continue to rise, Summer Balls are becoming more and more difficult for SU's to run and over the last few years a number of SU’s have had to make difficult calls on whether to host a ball or look at alternatives, which is the situation we find ourselves in now


What happens if the Ball doesn’t go ahead?
If the Summer Ball 2020 doesn’t go ahead, and you have purchased a ticket or paid a deposit, then we will be issuing everyone with a refund.

The Students’ Union will work with our ticket service to endeavour that refunds are processed within seven days from the decision being made not to run the event

In terms of how long it takes to process a refund, please be aware that this will also depend on your own banking provider and refunds can take anything from 3-10 working days to clear through.

If you pay for your ticket or deposit in cash at SU Reception then this refund will be available in person from SU Reception.


Will this be the last ever Summer Ball?

This is hard to answer definitively but there is a significant chance that if we were successful in saving the 2020 Summer Ball that it may be the last ever one. 

With the increases in costs and the corresponding risks attached to the Students' Union and the other services we provide to our 16,000 members then it would remain extremely difficult to run another Summer Ball.

Having said that, if we were to succeed in running a successful funding campaign and a financially sustainable event in 2020 then we would at least have to consider whether a similar approach would be viable in future years. 


What would run instead of the Ball?
We really hope that by pulling together, we will be able to put on the 2020 Summer Ball for everyone to enjoy.

As soon as the 31st January deadline has passed, we will know if we have been successful in saving the event and we will communicate with everyone that has bought a ticket or signed up to the Summer Ball mailing list. 

If at this point we haven't sold enough tickets to raise the amount needed to run the event then we will consult with students on how else we can celebrate the end of the academic year.