Things aren’t ‘Kicking Toff’ – why the Daily Mail has C-Sunday wrong
‘Trollied’? The Daily Mail needs to grow up
Love it or hate it, everyone who knows what it is has an opinion on it.
C-Sunday is a well established norm. With highs of 23 degrees and Sainsburys selling out of beer and ice cream, this Sunday was a beautiful day that was enjoyable for many.
However, the allure of several thousand inebriated Cantabs is too tempting a prospect to miss for the tabloid photographers who descend each year to illustrate articles for the likes of the Daily Mail, the Sun and the Daily Star – featuring delightful headlines such as "It's all kicked toff!", "Fail Caesar" or"Boozy students strip off in the sun for drunken blowout".
Immediately, these articles generate conversation here in Cambridge – usually revolving around the mercenary nature of tabloids, the hyperbole of the features themselves and why it's all just a little bit ridiculous. Yet, we need to also ask ourselves – could the Daily Mail (and their friends) be right? Are we riotous, out of touch and acting in a rude and entitled manner?
The tabloid coverage
The articles published by the likes of the Daily Mail and the Sun serve, if anything, to portray C-Sunday in a positive light. The worst acts described will be – god forbid – people vomiting or being given a stern talking to by the police, and the majority of the articles actually make the event look really enjoyable.
The pictures in these articles – often of students doing things as heinous as dressing up, cooking on barbecues and HAVING FUN?! – are only the beginning of the ridiculous embarrassment the tabloids make of themselves.
These images come from the same news agencies each year – namely, two: Splash News and Cater News Agency. These agencies act as the carrion birds of the modern world of journalism, swooping down each year to snap unsuspecting students having a nap or carrying a crate of beer, who will later awake to find their face gracing the hallowed archives of MailOnline. The captions, however, are where the tabloids really flex their world-class journalistic talents. You have to feel sorry for the reporters who are tasked with describing ordinary Bank Holiday weekend activities in an ominous, imposing fashion.
Case in point: a picture of a student carrying some beers was captioned 'Transporting the goods'. This is a phrase I'd use for an international drug deal – not Coors Light.
It becomes clear from reading such articles about C-Sunday what their purpose is – to target an innocent event and portray it in the rowdy light expected of students to generate a quick and sizeable readership from the clickbait articles mass produced by the tabloid media.
However, is C-Sunday 'innocent'?
Before attending, most college students were emailed about the consequences of celebrations on Jesus Green. The email I received from my Senior Tutor included warnings of a police presence to ensure activities would be "peaceful, lawful and have no adverse effect on others using or passing through Jesus Green", and stressed the necessity of our cooperation for the event to be "peaceful and free of trouble." While I certainly believe that the tabloid representation of C-Sunday and the warnings offered by college staff are over-exaggerated, the event is not without its downsides and damaging undertones.
For instance, the cleanup necessary after C-Sunday is extensive and covered entirely by the city council. Cllr Lewis Herbert this year stated that while the council was glad the event occurred "without major incident", it was "no excuse for university students leaving Jesus Green, one of our much loved and well used parks, in such a mess year after year". The littering on Jesus Green is unprecedented, unnecessary and anti-social, deepening the so-called 'Town and Gown' divide.
Additionally, the actions of college drinking societies are repeatedly criticised year on year. Some societies always receive complaints for their behaviour and this year was no exception. The Trinity Hall Crescents were filmed in Wetherspoons listening to a speaker joke about 'inclusivity' and swimming in the Emma college pond, while the student airlifted from Trinity College to hospital on Sunday was suspected to be taking part in an initiation for the Trinity Cobblers.
Moreover, many of my friends took issue with the repeated use of the sensational phrase 'It's all kicking toff', claiming that whitewashing the entirety of C-Sunday as a celebration reserved for the entitled and privileged is unfair. C-Sunday is not just for 'toffs' but is for anyone studying at Cambridge, and yet it's undeniable that C-Sunday is an example of the ostentatious excess often associated with this University. Like May Week, C-Sunday is an expensive and flashy celebration, and while not all students stroll around Jesus Green swigging from bottles of Bollinger, some do.
While the individual negative elements of Caesarian Sunday are serious and reprehensible in-and-of-themselves, when combined with tabloid reporting, they represent a serious blow to the reputation of the entire University and the scores of students who attend C-Sunday without incident. The same can be said of the articles written for Suicide Sunday and May Week – is this level of merriment worth the damage it causes to the perception of Cambridge University?
So, next year, as you lie down under the noon day sun with a bottle of whatever Sainsburys had on offer on your way over, the scent of your food burning to a carcinogenic crisp on a nearby barbecue and the uproar of a nearby drinking society dressed as sailor boys / nuns / lifeguards / all of the above, just think for a moment – is C-Sunday all that great or could we possibly, shockingly, be getting this all wrong?