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Snowball fails to gather momentum

The annual University of Sydney Union party received a frosty reception, writes Kira Spucys-Tahar.

Snowball fell flat in 2012, and its future is uncertain.
Snowball fell flat in 2012, and its future is uncertain.

The University of Sydney Union’s annual Snowball event fell flat last Thursday. The traditionally quieter counterpart to semester one’s Beachball usually attracts a smaller but still sizeable crowd, but this year the numbers could be described as dismal.

According to numerous sources, the $5 entry fee was waived for all in attendance. There were around fifty people in the building at any one time, with approximately 150 people in attendance overall. One partygoer described an abundance of security guards wandering aimlessly down Manning Road trying to entertain themselves.

USU Director of Operation Peter Underwood told Honi, “The $5 entry fee was only waived for those who were already in Manning Bar prior to the event starting and for those who were allowed in after 10pm. Due to the low numbers, we decided to allow those who were already in Manning to stay and to open the doors at 10pm to the public.”

There was a distinct lack of promotion of the event on campus, but Mr Underwood told Honi, “there was promotion in the lead-up and on the day of the event” including Facebook advertisements, emails and a giveaway of 50 double passes.

A Facebook event went up online on Tuesday at 12.01am, less than 70 hours before the party was due to begin. The hosts were the USU Board Directors who collectively invited over 1000 people, but only 77 clicked attending. A source told Honi: “There were more people at Manning for the Grassroots on Campus drinks than there were for the Snowball event.”

The downturn in numbers at Snowball reflects a trend in declining attendance at both the Snowball and Beachball events. Promotion of the events, both on and offline, has not been at the standard of other USU festivals and events.

The organisers have also reduced the physical size of the events. Beachball used to be over all three levels of Manning House, but due to licensing and management concerns, the USU decided to shift the event to the top-floor bar area only. This reduced the capacity of the event, stifled much of the excitement for partygoers and limited the USU’s opportunities for booking big acts.

Sources say there are structural issues within the management of the USU bars after a restructure took place following the departure of several other staff from the USU’s employment.

Mr Underwood said, “In 2009, a management restructure was implemented to improve USU operational standards. The Entertainment Manager and Bar Manager positions were made redundant and a new Venue Licensee position was created. This new position would manage both areas, with two supporting duty managers. These positions were filled in early 2010, with the duty managers taking on the responsibilities for C & S bookings and weekly entertainment.”

The active and demanding nature of liaising with clubs and societies, external hire of the venues, and the running of major USU events means staff can be stretched in their current roles.

Nice and Ego were one of the acts hired to play at Snowball this year. They told Honi that after chatting with past acts who played the event, they expected hundreds of people, and they were surprised to see the venue so empty.

Rumour has it the event will be shelved and not return to the Union’s social calendar next year.

“No decisions have yet been made about Beachball or Snowball events for next year,” Mr Underwood told Honi.

If it does return, aside from seeking out bigger acts, better promotion needs to take place so students are engaged.