Carla Jenkins: What would your mam think?

Remember: the ‘VIP’ section is just a room in a barn which gives out sausage rolls.

On Saturday I had the good fortune to attend the Kate Kennedy Charity May Ball as press, writing an article on ball fashion (hopefully you’ll see it soon, because many of you looked fab) . I’m sure some of you are hoping for an article that complains about the existence of such archaic and exclusive dining clubs, or one that complains about the price of the ticket in regards to what you actually receive in attending the ball, or what charity the ball actually supported. Believe me, I have many opinions on these things and I’m hoping to see such an article soon myself – one that gives an honest review of the ball and whether or not it was – or is – worth going to. But I’m choosing to write what may be my last article this year on the behaviour of the guests at the ball, and the general atmosphere that was achieved at Kinkell on Saturday night.

Megan O’Hara is a fourth year at the university who occasionally works behind the bar at Kinkell with her flatmates, and has worked numerous events including Rugby 7’s and Don’t Walk. Talking about her experience serving fellow students, she observed that more often than not, the night begins rather pleasantly, yet gradually becomes ‘darker and darker’ as, eventually, “everyone gets past the point where they are coherent and adopt this bizarre collective mentality, where it’s as if we’re not even people let alone their peers and fellow students behind the bar…”

Asked about her time serving behind the VIP bar at the May Ball, Megan stated that the abuse that herself and some of her colleagues experienced was “awful” and concluded that “last night was literally the worst” in terms of the manner of customers. I asked her for examples. She told me:

“Out of a good 10 offensive comments last night, the worst ones were a guy asking me for a free drink and then when I refused he started ranting about he was a public school boy and (somehow?) deserved a free drink because of that.

Another was that we had a problem with the credit card machines and only one was working, so towards the end of the night there was a long wait to use card but we could serve them immediately if they had cash – we had advised before that it was mainly going to be a cash bar. A guy ordered drinks from my flatmate, who was standing beside me, and when she warned them it would be 10 minutes he said that was fine. Then, as my flatmate walked away to serve someone else and it seemed to dawn on him he was going to be waiting, he shouted things like ‘GIVE US SOME DRINKS WHILE WE WAIT THEN.’ My flatmate didn’t hear him because she was facing the back, so he proceeded to sprawl over the bar and tell her to ‘pour us some fucking drinks you piece of shit.’”

When asked to summarize the reception of her work during the night, she stated, “The amount of people who openly look down on us for working behind the bar is insane. I’m just like, what do you think this means? I was at the other side of the bar at the last event; just because you paid for a VIP ticket doesn’t give you any entitlement over me.”

Whilst my own experience of the ball last night was definitely not as extreme as Megan’s, I felt the genuine atmosphere in Kinkell last night was one of unidentifiable hostility. At almost all times, I felt like I was being pushed and shoved from all angles, spilling my drink and in turn having drinks spilled all over me. At times, I felt ashamed to be there, apologetic and sheepish when talking to people who were working behind the bar or security guards as I saw them trying to handle the queues or being met with rude guests, or, even worse, who were being blatantly ignored by people who walked right past them. At one point, waiting to board the bus, there was a boy in front of me so desperate to get ahead of everyone, myself included, that he held his arm out onto the bus to block anyone pushing in front of him and disregarded the fact that the same arm was stretched right across my own throat, separating me from my best friend, whom I was queuing and boarding with.

Now, I must clarify a few things here. The majority of the guests at the ball last night were merely students much like myself; friends and others, who had excitedly prepared themselves for what they hoped was to be a good night, having a good time, and getting merry along the way. And of course, no one is ever fully exempt from the pushing and shoving that comes with queues and crowds when you are being pushed first, myself included. But what I am trying to get at here is that in this day and age, and particularly in today’s student body, I – or anyone else, for that matter – shouldn’t have to be around people who believe that when you are in the VIP section of a ball its ok to sprawl yourself over a bar and verbally abuse a staff member because you paid £70 more than her to be there. I think what we must remember is that this hallowed ‘VIP’ section is actually just a room in a barn which gives out sausage rolls. We should all be able to attend these events that we pay so much for feeling comfortable and knowing that you will have a nice time in the crowds regardless of who is playing or where you are; that you can and will be treated well, that you should be glad you dressed up and fulfill the quotas of bright young things enjoying what could be the best years of your life.

And so, I write this last article as a plea and a promise to all students, regardless of financial and educational backgrounds, races, ethnicities, and genders. Please, before you decide to relish in the privileges that whatever ticket you have has bought you (or, remind others of the ‘privileges’ you have received in your life has ‘entitled’ you to) ask yourself, ‘what would my mother say if she saw me do this?’ and I promise that I will do the same.