900 guests attend Cambridge ball as government plans to ban mass gatherings

Guests crowded to watch Tinchy Stryder headline

Last night (Friday 13th March), Girton College hosted their biannual Spring Ball with over 900 guests attending. The event was hosted on the same evening a government source revealed that ministers are drawing up plans to ban mass gatherings in the UK from as early as next week.

Hundreds of guests attended the ‘Arthouse’ themed ball that celebrated 150 years since the founding of Girton College and the admission of women into the University. Guests crowded in a marquee to watch Tinchy Stryder headline the event and attend a silent disco.

Crowds flock to watch Tinchy Stryder perform his hit single “Number 1”

Following the escalation of the coronavirus outbreak over the last few days, and the government’s decision to transition from the “containment” to “delay” phase, concerns have been raised about the safety of the ball. Other colleges and societies have cancelled multiple public events, including King’s Mingle, bops at Pembroke and Queens’, and Varsity football.

Students gather to take the “Survivors’ Photo” at 5.00am

The ball committee took various steps to minimise the risk of spreading coronavirus. Actions they took include disinfecting all ents after use, handing out information flyers in the queue to enter, and cancelling ents that were deemed too hands on, such as the ball pit and glitter stations.

There were also hand sanitiser stations near all food and drink, and at entrances and exits. Guests were not allowed to touch chips in the casino and could not share headsets for the silent disco. Once a headset had been worn once, it was withdrawn for the night. All workers, performers and guests were given the opportunity to cancel.

Girton College coronavirus visitor policy was distributed to all guests

While no cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in Cambridge (the nearest case occurring in Peterborough), the ball attracted criticism as it hosted guests from across the country.

Cassie, a student who travelled from Durham to attend the event, said, “I think the committee did a good job of amending the ball to adapt to combating the spread of coronavirus. I think it was good for morale – a party in hard times.”

A second year Girton student said, “I had a really great time. I am surprised it went ahead but as long as I don’t die, I’m happy with it.”

The ball had a helter skelter, swing boats and a ferris wheel

Following a meeting on Thursday regarding the risk the ball could have on spreading coronavirus, the council decided to go ahead with the event. A message to ticket-holders from the Ball President states: “The decision has been made on the basis of prevailing PHE guidance on large public events, and in the of updated UK government advice following today’s meeting of the COBRA committee. The College authorities have also consulted widely on the scientific, medical and other implications, within and beyond the University”.

Guests displaying “flu-like symptoms” were not permitted to attend the ball, and those who were concerned about COVID-19 were invited to cancel. These guests received a full refund for the cost of the tickets.

Guests were given Girton’s coronavirus visitor policy while queuing to enter

Vice Chancellor Stephen Troope issued a statement on the University’s stance on public events yesterday evening:

“PHE has not yet issued a blanket ban on holding or attending public events. Therefore, no University-wide policy of event cancellation is in place at this stage. We are aware, however, that some University-related events have been cancelled or postponed due to low attendance, to speakers pulling out, or because they required attendees to travel to Cambridge. Any University institution that is uneasy about proceeding with a public event should feel free to cancel it if, having weighed the risks, it chooses to do so. It may be a sensible precaution to avoid planning any new events in the near future.”

Other colleges have responded very differently to coronavirus. Yesterday, Trinity told its undergraduate students that they must go home for the Easter vacation.

As of 9.00am yesterday, 798 cases of the virus have been confirmed in the UK and 11 people have died.

Girton College and the University of Cambridge have been contacted for comment.