King's College London
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Student days

Social events

Annual Garden Party, 1930s (Ref: Q/PH3/29)Annual Garden Party, 1930s (Ref: Q/PH3/29)Regular social events were held from the formation of the College, one the earliest being the annual Commemoration Dinner, established in 1923. Attended by students, staff and old students, the evening included speeches and music with the final dinner being one of the last events held at the College in 1985.

A further regular event initiated in the 1920’s was the visit of students to the Rotherhithe Mothers’ Club, where they traditionally performed a sketch or entertainment. During the summer term, the mothers would visit the College where demonstrations were laid on in the laboratories, followed by tea and entertainment. Meanwhile, from 1926 a series of public lectures on art and drama, held in the College hall, attracted widespread interest. The series was opened by Mr Nigel Playfair with a lecture on ‘What is meant by Production in Theatre’, and Her Highness Princess Marie Louise honoured the College by taking the chair. These were so popular that an additional series was arranged for 1927, and they subsequently became annual events.

Of considerable popularity was the Summer Garden Party, which was held annually in the Quadrangle from 1925. The parties featured tours of the College, entertainments and refreshments, and even attracted royalty with attendees in 1934 including Her Royal Highness Princess Alice. The event remained a stalwart in the social calendar at King’s College of Household and Social Science until the Second World War, when - following damage to College buildings - the Quadrangle was utilised for extra teaching and staff accommodation.

Queen Mother at Jubilee reception, 1958 (Ref: Q/PH2/30)Queen Mother at Jubilee reception, 1958 (Ref: Q/PH2/30)A significant occasion in the College’s history was the celebrations to mark its Golden Jubilee, marked by a series of events held from 30 April to 7 May 1958. During the eight nights, buildings were floodlit and an exhibition of photographs illustrating the history of the College was displayed in the Courtauld Hall. The main event was an evening reception on 30 April 1958, attended by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother. Jubilee celebrations continued with a Ball on 2 May 1958, a noted highlight being the cabaret provided by a young and rising comedian, Rolf Harris. This was followed on 3 May with a Thanksgiving Service attended by Her Royal Highness Princess Alice, with singing led by a choir of students and staff. Jubilee events ended with the Commemoration Dinner on 7 May 1958, where tributes were paid to Sir John Atkins, who formally retired as Chairman of the Council during the session.

High table at Jubilee Commemoration Dinner, 1958 (Ref: Q/PH2/31)High table at Jubilee Commemoration Dinner, 1958 (Ref: Q/PH2/31)The student social scene featued regular Saturday night hops, dances and annual balls. 1945 saw the revival of the Christmas Ball for the first time since the beginning of the Second World War, to which members of local Colleges and Officers from the Forces’ Stations were invited. Third Year Degree students also gave a social for the Freshers, taking the form of amusing entertainment followed by dancing and games, which later became an annual event. Post-war the Christmas Ball returned to its usual venue of the College Refectory at Campden Hill, and guests included students from several other London Colleges. The traditional February dance later became an Easter Ball, known from 1960 as the Commemoration Ball, a key feature being a particular theme which saw decorations for the event spread throughout the Main Building. Other popular events included Sunday night discotheques and Friday Jazz evenings and regular screenings by the Film Society. From 1980 social activities included lunch-time concerts, frequently performed by students from Queen Elizabeth and the Royal School of Music.

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