The Oxford Blue has seen internal Union documents which detail the arrangements and theme for this term’s Union ball. 

The Union ball will take place on Friday 12th November and will be themed around Moulin Rouge, a cabaret in Paris described as “the spiritual birthplace of the modern form of can-can dance.” The Union is budgeting for a ball with 600 attendees with the event running from 8.30pm to 2am on the Saturday morning, with the Union spending £6265.20 on the Moulin Rouge theme. Total expenditure for the ball has reached £43,804.29 so far, although this is not the final figure and is likely to increase.

The Blue can also reveal some of the food and drink options that will be available at the ball. Oysters and French sparkling wine will be provided on arrival, with £1250 spent on an oyster service for the ball, which will run alongside a £410 vodka luge ice sculpture. £1200 worth of macarons and candyfloss will also be provided at the ball.

It is not clear if prices have yet been finalised, but The Oxford Blue has seen documents suggesting prices will fall in the range of £85 – 95 for members and £95 – 105 for guests, which would be an increase of £10 to £25 per person on the price of the last Union ball, where members were charged £75 and guests £80. This hike in prices seemingly contrasts with the Union’s stated approach to balls, with the Union’s website stating at the time of publication “The Union Ball is more affordable than the vast majority of College Balls, providing everyone with the opportunity to have a night to remember, without breaking the bank.” This price increase would make the ticket cost comparable to many college balls such as Hertford’s cancelled la Fête de la Folie and Corpus Christi’s Sol et Luna. Ticket prices for La Fête de la Folie were set at £90 (£95 for guests), with Tinchy Stryder headlining, whilst general release tickets for Corpus Christi’s ball are on sale for £100.

Lifetime membership to the Oxford Union costs £286.34, while access memberships are available at £169.95 for those who qualify. The current main requirement for access membership is being eligible for the full UK government maintenance grant. The Bridge slate, whose officer candidates were all victorious in the Hilary 2021 Union elections and whose presidential candidate is now Union president, pledged to “create a union centred around inclusion and engagement.”

The ball will feature live music acts in the Union marquee and buildings from 8.30pm – 11pm, with acts moving completely inside after this. Acts include a brass ensemble, jazz quartet and harpist. To run alongside this, the Union has also hired 3 live can-can dancers to meet and greet guests as well as perform throughout the live music. A magician will also feature in the entertainment from 9pm – 11pm and a silent disco will run from 11.30pm – 2am in the debating chamber, at which point the ball will finish. 

This comes in the context of several other college and society balls being postponed due to concerns related to Covid-19, including the Brasenose and Hertford balls, as well as the Glitterball. The Brasenose ball was postponed due to a decision of the Brasenose College governing body, whilst capacity limits imposed by Oxford Town Hall after 3 staff members fell ill from Covid-19 resulted in the postponement of the Hertford ball and the Glitterball.

The Oxford Union has been contacted for comment.

Illustration by Lakshmi Murugappan.