Commemoration ball

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A Commemoration ball is a formal ball held by one of the colleges of the University of Oxford in the 9th week of Trinity Term, the week after the end of the last Full Term of the academic year, which is known as "Commemoration Week". Commemoration balls are held by different colleges each year, following a cycle by which each college holds a ball every three years.[1]

Commemoration Week is so known because of the ceremonies in commemoration of the benefactors of the university that are held then, namely the Commemoration Day sermon formerly held (until 2006) on the Sunday, and the Encaenia ceremony (where the annual Creweian Oration in honour of benefactors is given) and garden party on the Wednesday of that week. Commemoration Week was formerly one of two occasions when balls were traditionally held, the other being Eights Week, the 5th week of Trinity term when the Summer Eights rowing races occur. Eights balls are nowadays comparatively rare.


There is no formal definition of a Commemoration ball, but the usual Oxford convention is to refer only to the larger, triennial balls as Commemoration balls. The dress code is usually white tie. Many other colleges hold smaller events during Commemoration Week that they call summer balls or parties rather than Commemoration balls. These are usually held on an annual or irregular basis, and are usually black tie. Merton College holds a triennial winter ball, of which the next will be in 2019.[2]

Recent and upcoming balls[edit]

In the past, Commemoration balls were held "night after night"[3] by different colleges during Commemoration Week. With many colleges now holding smaller annual summer balls, Commemoration balls are now held by only some of the larger colleges, who still follow the traditional triennial cycle. Oriel College hosts a ball in the first year of the three-year cycle, and until recently Magdalen College also did. However Magdalen College cancelled their ball in 2015 at the last minute downgrading to a smaller affair. Currently, in the second year, there are Commemoration balls held by New College and The Queen's College. In the third year, there are now four colleges with this honour (Worcester College, Christ Church, Trinity College, St. John's College).

The 2005 Christ Church Commemoration ball was the first to be held by that college for fifteen years because of an incident at the 1990 ball that led to the Governing Body suspending the ball and replacing it with an annual summer party until 2005. Until 1990 the three great Oxford choral foundations of Magdalen College (first year), New College (second year) and Christ Church (third year) held their "white tie" Commemoration Balls in consecutive years on a triennial basis, each being widely regarded as the most prestigious ball being held in Oxford in that year, but the 1990 incident at Christ Church upset the tradition as various other colleges claimed Christ Church's (third year) slot, and continue to do so after the Christ Church Ball was reinstated in 2005. The cancellation of Magdalen College's (first year) Commemoration Ball in 2015, and its reinstatement in the "New College" (second) year of 2016, completed the break with tradition.

In 2013, Balliol College held a Commemoration ball to mark the 750th Anniversary of the College's foundation, the first Commemoration Ball at Balliol since 1969.[4] Similarly, the commemoration ball hosted by Worcester College on 27 June 2014 was the highlight of celebrations to mark the college's tercentenary.[5]

  • 2003 — Magdalen College
  • 2004 — New College
  • 2005 — Trinity College, Worcester College, Christ Church, St. John's College
  • 2006 — Magdalen College
  • 2007 — New College
  • 2008 — Trinity College, Worcester College, Christ Church, St. John's College
  • 2009 — Magdalen College, Oriel College
  • 2010 — New College, Wadham College
  • 2011 — Trinity College, Worcester College, Christ Church, St. John's College
  • 2012 — Magdalen College, Oriel College
  • 2013 — New College,[6] Balliol College
  • 2014 — Trinity College,[7] Worcester College,[8] Christ Church,[9] St. John's College,[10] Merton College,[11] Exeter College[12] Hertford College[13]
  • 2015 — Oriel College, Magdalen College (Cancelled)
  • 2016 — New College,[14] Magdalen College,[15] The Queen's College[16]
  • 2017 — Trinity College,[17] St John's College, Worcester College, Christ Church, Corpus Christi College


Commemoration ball organising committees generally seek to secure private performances from leading entertainers; some notable performances are listed below.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Balsdon, J.P.V.D.: Oxford Life, page 240. Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1957
  2. ^ "Merton College Winter Ball".
  3. ^ Balsdon, J.P.V.D (supra)
  4. ^ "Balliol 750th Anniversary Commemoration Ball". Archived from the original on 13 December 2012.
  5. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 4 September 2013. Retrieved 14 August 2013.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  6. ^[permanent dead link]
  7. ^ Trinity College Ball[permanent dead link]
  8. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 4 September 2013. Retrieved 14 August 2013.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  9. ^ Christ Church Commemoration Ball 2014
  10. ^ St John's College Ball
  11. ^
  12. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 8 December 2013. Retrieved 3 December 2013.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  13. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 16 May 2014. Retrieved 11 February 2014.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  14. ^ New College Ball "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 27 June 2013. Retrieved 13 May 2013.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  15. ^ Magdalen College Ball
  16. ^ The Queen's College Ball
  17. ^ Archived 14 April 2017 at the Wayback Machine.
  18. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 14 April 2017. Retrieved 13 April 2017.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  19. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 10 January 2016.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  20. ^[permanent dead link]
  21. ^ Trinity Commemoration Ball 27 June 2014 Programme
  22. ^ [1]
  23. ^ Athlete at Magdalen College Ball 2012 on YouTube
  24. ^ Oriel College Ball 2012
  25. ^ Worcester College Commemoration Ball 2011 :: The Grand Tour Archived 16 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine.
  26. ^ Trinity Commemoration Ball 2011 :: The Night Archived 14 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine.

External links[edit]

2016 Balls[edit]

2015 Balls[edit]

2014 Balls[edit]

2013 Balls[edit]

2012 Balls[edit]

2011 Balls[edit]