B&G’s headline event the multicultural ball moves online

26 June 2020

How do you turn a major event of the year, such as a ball, into an online event that captures the colour, movement, and flavours of the traditional event? For the students of Burton & Garran (B&G) Hall, they had this exact challenge with their annual multicultural ball.

The students held their first ever Zoom-based multicultural ball in late May with students tuning in to enjoy the company of their friends and colleagues.

In what normally constitutes a sit down dinner complete with delicacies from around the world, and a lot of dancing and fun, the 2020 version of the 'multi culti' was scaled back to an online version to accommodate the COVID-19 pandemic, while still giving the community a chance to connect remotely.

Madelene (Maddy) Watson, who organised the 2020 event, says despite a smaller turnout of attendees, the online event was still a huge success.

"I decided we needed some big ticket events to keep the college spirit alive," Maddy says.

Even when the restrictions came into effect, it was all about trying to emulate the normal face-to-face night as closely as possible.

"So we had our Head of Hall Jamiyl give a speech, B&G President Meg Malone gave a speech, I gave an MC opening address," she says.

"Normally it's quite a big event, there's about 250 to 300 people that go, out of the 500 people at B&G. So it's a chance to see everyone together and have a sense of camaraderie and fellowship, and that you have a community around you."

After the speeches, some videos created by the students that were relevant to B&G, were shown to the attendees.

"I made this video of a stereotypical day in the B&G kitchen to remind everybody of the chaos that happens in there," she says.

The students were also separated into smaller breakout rooms where they could then mingle with each other as if they were sitting around a table, face-to-face at the ball.

"We were going to do a google form where we would get people to submit which table they wanted to be a part of but we didn't really get much engagement with that form so we just kind of randomised it and it worked out really well.

"It was nice to speak to people that you normally wouldn't have chosen to speak to."

Much like the traditional Multicultural Ball, the students also said goodbye to exchange students who had come to ANU to study for a semester. The event traditionally has a cultural dance or music piece.

"This year we played a video of last year's multi-culti of an Indian dance which was really good and good to remember what it was like, then."

Maddy says the table chat was the highlight of the night, because it emulated the B&G experience where students would normally sit down, face to face, at the table in a kitchen and have a chat to whoever is there.

"Out of the 500 people at B&G we were expecting 150 maximum but that would have definitely been pushing the capability of Zoom," she says.

"We ended up getting 60 which was impressive, definitely, and it gave everyone a chance to interact well without any technical issues so that was good."

Running at just under an hour and a half, Maddy says the organisers knew the event wouldn't be as long as the normal three-hour event, but that it was important that it still went ahead.

"It was really worthwhile and I'm glad we didn't have to turn off the cameras because it was lovely to see everyone's faces laughing and enjoying themselves. It kind of felt like a return to normalcy, if only a little bit."

"I think that's especially important during times like this is to kind of feel that sense of community when we're all so isolated, ourselves."