What can you expect from a Durham College Ball?

Mia Ainsley

With the end of Michaelmas (term 1) fast approaching, for Durham students this can only mean one thing: it’s ball season! It is tradition for the colleges here to put on a spectacular Winter Ball around this time of year and I wanted to let you know what to expect at one of these popular events. If you have never attended a formal event before, like I hadn’t until university, or just want more of an insight into what this night holds at Durham, then this your go-to-guide.

Theming is everything

First and foremost, the theme. Most colleges will decide to give their balls a theme which can be translated into every aspect of the evening from the table decorations to the outfits and maybe even the performances too. Themes will usually be decided by the ball committee who tend to be a group of students that applied to organise that specific ball. If this is something you are interested in, then it is definitely worth seeing how to apply within your own JCR, so that you can have a say in your college’s next big event. Last year, our ball theme was inspired by the Great Gatsby, which saw all of Butler’s students adorned in 20s glitz and glamour – it really was like a scene from the movie.

All dressed up for the Great Gatsby themed ball

Location, Location, Location

The next step is the location. Some colleges prefer to host their own ball on campus, in which case they would transform the communal area into an almost unrecognisable space, whilst others choose to hire out an external venue in or around Durham. The latter was the case for us last year, as we travelled to Hardwick Hall Hotel where we indulged in a 3-course meal upon arrival. The transport and meal were included in the ticket price, or you could have opted for a cheaper ‘ents’ ticket which covered your later arrival and gave you access to all of the post-meal entertainment. These two options are common amongst most of Durham’s balls and allow you to cater to your own budget and desires.

Entertainment is key

Following the meal, there is typically an array of entertainment available to enjoy for the rest of the evening. This may include fairground rides, live music and performances, fireworks, photo booths, food stalls and much more! Sometimes colleges can even put on an after party which ends with a ‘survivors’ breakfast’ (if you manage to stay awake that long).

Having fun with friends

Making Memories

To me, the ball is always a really wholesome event that sees you gather as a community with new friends and classmates to celebrate the success of a term of hard work and perhaps new challenges. It is a rare opportunity and allows you to enjoy one last evening with your friends before likely parting ways for four weeks over the Christmas break. That is why the balls make some of the best university memories; those which we will all no doubt treasure for a lifetime.

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Mia Ainsley


Hi! I am Mia, a third year Modern Languages and Cultures (MLAC) student at Durham University. From the north east & a very proud member of Josephine Butler College. When I am not studying for my degree, you can probably find me taking part in some of Durham's societies. I am one of the project coordinators for MLAC Outreach society, a member of the 93% club and hoping to join yoga soon too!


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