Get out of jail free at the Churchill Spring Ball

Anastasia Bow-Bertrand 6 February 2014

James Zhao and Wilfred (Freddie) Downing, joint Presidents of the Churchill College Spring Ball Committee, shed some light on the craziness that is measuring grass patches, the awesomeness that is acquiring headliner Ella Eyre, and their growing bromance.

What does your role entail?

Wilfred: Well, basically I get to take the credit when things go well and assign blame when they don’t.

James: Mainly it involves making sure the committee do their job; keeping Freddie grounded; synergy.

How did you get into it?

W: I think the phrase ‘they were desperate’ neatly sums up how I got involved in Spring Ball. It wasn’t exactly May 1940 but they were looking for presidents and nobody was volunteering. Spring Ball is annual and we wanted to keep it that way, so we stepped up. The rest is history.

Describe a typical day of ball planning

J: Get up at 7:59am, (jog/run) sprint to Head of Departments meeting at 8am, spend half an hour after the meeting working out dimensions of grass, check Sponsorship have hustled more Chinese restaurants in Cambridge, check Arts have finally started. Back to bed… Fast forward… Check that Freddie is still alive, question myself as to why I’m still doing this and then back to bed.

What’s the most challenging aspect of your role?

W: Being president, like being a politician, is one of the few jobs that requires no previous qualifications. Straight away James and I found ourselves dealing with a range of new issues which we had to master quickly.

J: Keeping Freddie grounded. It’s challenging as he’s an ever-evolving specimen, but also entertaining because he is quite fun to be around.

What’s your proudest acquisition for the ball?

W: The theme for this year’s Spring Ball is ‘Monopoly’. Obviously, the imagery is copyrighted and normally Hasbro, the producer, charge £5000 to use it. My proudest moment, so far, is persuading them to waive their fee and allow us to use it for free.

J: Ella Eyre for a fraction of the price she quoted Trinity May Ball (ten thousand pounds apparently #lol).

What would people be surprised to know about being a Ball organiser?

W: A member of the committee last year told us that our domestic bursar will ‘break our balls’ if we overspend.

J: We’re normal people!

What do you hope people will take away from the Ball?

W: Hopefully a fantastic night at a brilliant college!

J: Full stomachs and a hangover.

Churchill Spring Ball is on 15 February, with tickets priced at £75 from