Having a Ball – a guide to university events

If you love dressing up, getting suited and booted, then Durham is the perfect place for you. The University hosts a huge number of amazing and varied events and balls throughout the year for students to attend. This means you can work hard and no doubt party hard and let off some steam.  What makes these events even better is that they are organised by students (so you can get even more involved if you like), many of these events raise thousands of pounds for charity each year. Something that should definitely be celebrated. You most certainly will not be bored!

Just to show the sheer amount and variety, here’s a list of just a few of the great events:

Durham University Charity Fashion Show

I’m not going to lie to you, this is one of Durham’s biggest events which is an entirely student-led charitable venture. It happens

once a year over two nights, welcoming over 2,000 students, selling out in 2 seconds! This year it raised a record-breaking £106,000 for the charity Mind. It did not fail to be a true spectacle, showcasing up-and-coming British designers and international talent. With the models being Durham’s very own students. Yet it is more than a show, combining mediums of art, fashion, music, and performance. Prepare yourself for an amazing night.


Individual College Balls, e.g. Hatfield’s Lion in Winter Ball, Castle’s June Ball

Every year each college hosts their main ball (some hold many throughout the year). These normally follow a theme and include at least a 3-course black tie meal, live music and performances, fairground rides and many more. These are normally for college members only. If you’d rather skip the meal, then you can just buy an entertainment ticket instead and arrive after to make the most of what the Ball has to offer. Think insane tribute bands, silent disco, waffle, and burger stands, you name it…. It’s likely to be there.

Aggression Sessions

Aggression Sessions is a Durham student charity black-tie sparring event raising money for charities both on a local and international scale. Analogous to other universities fight nights, it takes amateur novice boxers that attend Durham University and gives them a platform to try their hand at boxing. You attend the event as a group of 10 and are seated in tables around the ring which normally provide donuts and drinks.


Sports Balls, e.g. The Durham Palatinate Ball, Polo Ball, Cricket Ball, The Snow Ball (Ski and Snowboarding) etc.

To celebrate sporting excellence, Durham hosts many sporting events, with the Palatinate Ball being the overarching award ceremony one. The event honours the sporting stars, with each sport having their own table at the ball. It gives the perfect opportunity to bring the teams together and to have a lovely three-course meal and a boogie.


If awards are not your thing, then many other sports host their own individual balls i.e. Polo Ball. You don’t have to play the sport to attend. It’s a perfect opportunity to meet people and people from other polo clubs who travel up to attend the balls also. You even get to have your photo taken at the ball with polo ponies!


Society Balls, e.g. Gin Ball, Caledonian White Tie Ball, Drama Balls

To complement the vast array of societies there are numerous society balls, with amazing raffles, fairground rides, and headline acts.

If that’s not your scene, then the Caledonian White Tie may be. You get tickets as a male-female pair and dance the night away to some fun reels and end with the ‘breakfast meal’ in the early hours of the morning.

Subject Balls, e.g. Law Ball

Students enjoying a Law Ball

The perfect way to blow off some steam with your course mates and have a fantastic time. For example, the Law ball which is a highly anticipated event. This year it was held at the beautiful venue of Beamish Hall, with a champagne reception, three-course meal, and entertainment.

College Days

If black tie isn’t your style, then Durham can still cater for you. Each college, once a year hosts their college day as an opportunity to celebrate the academic year and celebrate the origins and existence of the College. The usual programme of events is unique amongst all of the colleges. Some colleges start the day with a Champagne breakfast with entertainment throughout the day, which can include bands such as Bass, Swing, Samba, Jazz, and Steel etc. There are also fairground-style events as well as a disco, ceilidh, and activities such as ‘College Olympics’. College days is where college spirit is seen at its finest.

College Bar Fest

The clues in the name, spend the day in College listening to music and tasting a variety of craft beers, cocktails and specialty ciders.

Formal Meals

Formals are a meal in college, which as the name suggests, you wear suits and dresses and wear gowns – so you get to feel a bit like Harry Potter… The number of formals a term varies on the college and whether or not it is gowned or fancy dress. Either way, expect good food!

Bar Quizzes

Sick of the balls? Yes, I know Durham has a lot of them. Fear not. Get yourself and some mates together to chill in your college bar and take part in the Pub Quiz. These occur a few times a term depending on the college. See if you have what it takes to win…


Get ready to dust off your formal wear….

Freya Smellie

Hey, I’m Freya Smellie. I study Anthropology at Durham University, I’m Sponsorship Executive Member of Team Durham Polo Club, and I’m a media manager for Draper London – a luxury linen brand. I’m a country bumpkin who loves to travel and get involved in many new experiences. Hobbies include finding the best Bloody Marys!

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