Post By RelatedRelated Post
WEDNESDAY NIGHT SAW the launch of the AU tour. Sportsvest, the chosen tour operator for this year, reps were out in force with freebies, party discounts and even free tour places. However this event did not take place in the standard setting for AU Wednesday nights, the Venue, it took place a mile away at Piccadilly Institute.
The LSESU booked out the Venue for a corporate client, a decision that brought widespread criticism from students. The process by which this booking was made has been called into question. An approach for the booking out of The Venue was “finalised in the week commencing November 9th” according to Activities & Development Officer Katie Budd, however The Beaver can reveal that the first the AU Exec heard of this booking was a week in advance of the event. AU President, Julia Ryland, heard by word of mouth over Facebook about the booking before any contact from the SU was made. The situation could have been much worse for the AU Exec had this infor- mation not have come to light to over Facebook as it would have left them with less time to find a venue, and possibly left them without the ability to hold the Tour Launch Party.
After finding out, the AU Exec entered into a series of conversations and meetings with the SU to try and resolve the situation. Sources familiar with the communication process have not been particularly kind about the way the Union handled the situation, one going so far as to describe their manner as “manipulative”. Whilst the SU did concede that mistakes were made, other than the provision of £2000 to help cover the cost of hiring an alternative venue, very lit- tle help was given to the AU Exec. The SU themselves earned between £6000 and £6500 from the corpo- rate event. The AU Exec were left with less than a week to find a suit- able location for what is arguably the most important Wednesday night of Michaelmas Term for the AU Exec.
The work required to find an alternative venue arguably goes far beyond the recommended four hours a week proposed by the Part Time Officer (PTO) pay guidelines. Promot- ing a more inclusive AU Tour was a key campaigning point of Julia Ry- land’s manifesto, and the SU actively hampered this by denying access to The Venue.
The SU did offer the use of the Three Tuns (at first this was the only place offered), combined with the 1st Floor of Saw Swee Hock and even the 6th floor as alternatives within LSE premises. However, it was clear from the outset that these would not be a suitable replacement. The AU
Exec worked extremely hard to secure Piccadilly Institute as the venue and, in spite of the Men’s Rugby Club walking out approximately twenty minutes after arriving, the event ended up being a success.
LSESU Activities & Development Officer, Katie Budd, commented that “We were approached for a late external booking for the Venue on November 25th. This booking included venue hire, as well as the sale of food and drink, both of which have accompanying costs. This was finalised in the week commencing November 9th, and unfortunately we did not have a sufficient process in place to ensure that the AU President and Exec were adequately consulted and communicated with. We would like to assure the AU that going forward we will be improving our processes so that we avoid this in the future.
The AU have consistently had the ability to use The Three Tuns/Venue in the new building on Wednesday nights, though they do not always use it at all. There have been several times since moving into the SSH that the Tuns only has been used. The AU rarely used the Old Quad in the East Building, doing so a maximum of once or twice per term.
In regards to an alternative venue, The Three Tuns was offered, coupled with the ability to use the 1st floor for activities. The 6th floor was also offered as a possible venue. Further support was offered throughout and, once an external venue was chosen by the AU Exec, we made a significant financial contribution towards the event in light of the situation.
In answer to the question ‘Was the motive of profit put above student interest?’ No. We are a charity and money spent in the Union, as well as income generated by charging external organisations to use our facilities, is reinvested into everything that we do. It is crucial to sports club budgets and society support, as well as advice and hardship funds. While we do apologise and acknowledge that more could have been done to prevent this situation from arising, this booking was taken before there was full knowledge that the AU were intending to host an event. It is clear that there are some easy remedies to make sure that this doesn’t happen again.”
Julia Ryland, AU President, told The Beaver: “The AU turns up at the Venue every single Wednesday without exception. Even when there is not an event happening, there are still AU Clubs that have their socials there every week. Therefore Tuns manage- ment would have been fully aware that booking this function would im- pact the AU.
The Tour Launch Party had been planned and booked since the summer, yet no effort was made to find this out. Not only were we not consulted before the external booking was finalised, we were told nothing at all. When word finally reached the AU Exec that an external booking had been made, we were met with blame and excuses rather than an apology and an offer of help. The Students Union should value the AU enough to give us priority at our own Students Union bar, rather than sell us out with no notice to an external company.
However, the event was not a disaster thanks to the hard work of the AU Exec. To find a venue that met the AU’s requirements in less than a week is almost a miracle and without the commitment and determination of Oli, San, Tessa, Jenny and Elin it would not have happened. I couldn’t be more grateful to be a part of such a hard working and competent AU Exec.”
Photo Credit: Daniel Cayford