My first time hosting a Ball

OUSDS Highland Ball


Antonia McClintock, President of OUSDS shares her experience hosting a Ball for the first time.

Forget the Boat Race, or the Varsity Rugby Match, the oldest university rivalry in the country now extends to Scottish country dance, in the form of the Oxford-Cambridge Highland Ball. Hosted in alternate years by the Cambridge University Strathspey and Reel Club (CUSRC) and the Oxford University Scottish Dance Society (OUSDS), I knew that as President of the OUSDS it would not be long before we would have to host.

This being the first dance event I’d ever organised, I was keen to get involved. ‘Surely, it can’t be that difficult’ I thought to myself, ‘people organise dances all the time - how hard can it be?’. Imagine my surprise, then, when planning started a year in advance! 

The band and hall having been booked, I thought, what more can there be to do? 

Quite a lot more, it turns out. Between setting up bank accounts, getting insurance, writing risk assessments, making catering plans, writing a programme, finding callers, and deciding on ticket prices, I began to wonder why people organise dances at all! As the whole process was brand new to me, I was full of questions, but fortunately we had an experienced committee who helped every step of the way.

There were also two demonstrations to plan and rehearse. First, a Country demonstration choreographed by Niall Bootland, and then a Highland demonstration rehearsed by Sam Schad, with Fergus Fairbairn as Piper. Both of these went very well on the night, and can be viewed on our YouTube channel here.

Photo credit: Reggie Thomson


The day of the ball came, and I was nervous. There were so many things to remember - tartan banners, balloons, spare Dem kit, not to mention a huge tub of pasta salad that I’d made! Fortunately everything went smoothly. We had the brilliant Ewan Galloway playing for us, and as the guests began to arrive, my nerves settled. I even found myself on the dance floor, enjoying some of the dances. I was relieved when the interval came, mainly because I was so hungry. In my haste to get ready for the ball, I’d forgotten to have lunch! As we came to the final dance of the evening, A Trip to Timber Ridge, all of my worries from earlier in the day had vanished, and I found myself having a lot of fun. In fact I realised that in my stress I’d forgotten what dancing was about - having fun with friends on the dance floor. 

Overall the ball was a huge success (even if I do say so myself). We’d like to thank the Cambridge University Strathspey and Reel Club for making the trip over to Oxford, and hope that everyone who attended had fun. We’d like to thank Reggie Thomson from Cambridge for the beautiful photos which you’ve seen accompanying this article, and I’d also like to thank the Highland Ball committee, particularly Sam Schad and Niall Bootland, who helped to organise the event. I’m already looking forward to next year’s highland ball in Cambridge, but perhaps even more so because we won’t be hosting it!

Photo credit: Reggie Thomson

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