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Freshers’ Seafront festival comes under criticism

Freshers having fun at one of the Freshers Week events between the 24 September and 2 October Photo: Malcolm Tam

Some students have been left dissatisfied with the organisation of this year’s freshers’ events. At universities up and down the country freshers’ week is widely anticipated as being the perfect energy-fuelled introduction to life in higher education.

In the vein of last year’s celebrations marking freshers’ orientation week, the University of Sussex Students’ Union (SU) planned for a similar event this time and the University of Sussex’s website promised “an incredible festival bringing students and friends together from all over Brighton across five venues for a night the city will never forget!”

The Seafront Festival was spread over five venues across Brighton’s seafront, running from 10pm on 30 September through to 4am.  Tickets cost £20 and students were issued with a wristband allowing entry to each venue.  The event was ticket only to allow organisers to easily measure sales against capacity.

Despite having paid for their wristband, some students were unable to gain access to some (or in a few cases any) venues due to those venues being at capacity.

Whilst there was always a possibility that it would not be possible to fit all the attendees into one venue, there was an assumption by students that they would at least be able to access one of the locations.

However, one fresher said: “the event was oversubscribed, as the venues were so small that nobody could get in to see the acts that they had paid £20 to see.  I got my wristband and then found that I couldn’t get into any of the venues that I wanted to, even after queuing – so basically wasted £20 on this event.”

Another fresher, Ben, echoed this perspective and added: “the opening tent party was very expensive considering the headline act didn’t even show up.”

A statement from the University of Sussex’s Students’ Union (SU) pointed out that last year’s Seafront Festival event had been successfully organised by Brighton-based Union Events for Brighton and Sussex Students, and was received positively.

The Students’ Union had acted as the ticket retailer for the event and following the success of last year’s event they teamed-up again for 2011. Despite the criticism of some, the freshers’ week was, for others, a successful event.

One student commented: “I had an awesome fresher’s week.  I met loads of wonderful people hanging out on campus and at events around Brighton. Everyone felt comfortable so quickly and there was so much laughing in my house that week.”

In comparison to the University of Sussex’s Seafront Festival, there were cheaper experiences on offer for students elsewhere in the country.

Birmingham City students were welcomed to the Midlands with a night of various performers hosted at Gatecrasher for just £12. The night offered a mixture of events throughout the city which were accessible to both students and non-students, ensuring plenty of selection and space for everyone.

At another Midlands-based institution, Leicester’s De Montford Univerity, students were offered events for as little as £4 entrance fee, which gave the students the chance to pay for one single location. The fact that it was held at one single venue meant not only the students were able to see all acts, but  it also allowed the venue to confirm the amount of students that would be there instead of being required to consider those migrating from club to club.

Jack Graves, who felt frustrated by the week’s events, said:  “The fact is that the event holders knew that this would happen, and yet still exploited me. I can’t really afford to spend this kind of money on something and then have to spend more money just to go to a club that had nothing to do with this event.”
He went on to say: “I, amongst others, just think that we should get our money back or at least get some kind of compensation.”

Activities Officer James Hickie said: “The Students’ Union apologises to anyone who had a negative experience at this event. We hope that you enjoyed the rest of the week and that any problems you experienced at this event didn’t affect your overall enjoyment of the beginning of your time at Sussex and as a member of the Students’ Union.”

The Students’ Union confirmed that it has been contacted by a number of students who had experienced frustrations with the organisation and execution of the fresher’s week events.

They have invited anyone with a question relating to the problems surrounding the Seafront Festival to contact their events team at:  events@ussu.sussex.ac.uk.
Any students wanting to request a refund on their tickets should direct their enquiries via email to the Seafront Festival’s organisers at the following address: luke@unionevents.co.uk.

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