Despatch from Teesside

A report from the frontlines of MTV’s ‘Pimp My Summer Ball’ competition, whose £50,000 pot was casus belli for Royal Holloway and Teesside University waging social media war.

By Kyle Hoekstra, News Editor

June 2016

Somewhere between the Midlands and the North East, the sky turns to ash and the warmth of late spring withers to a quaint southern memory. The M1 marches into mists rolling low through expansive plains, neatly quartered into farmland stubbled with trees and hamlets and service stations. Turn-offs to Sheffield and Whitby file under one principal and forboding banner: THE NORTH.

March saw MTV’s ‘Pimp My Summer Ball’ competition draw our dormant Surrey college into a ferocious social media war with Teesside, a university on the river Tees in Middlesbrough. Up for grabs in the annual competition was £50,000 winnings from Club MTV, awarded to the university able to muster the most tweets in their favour.

The competition had participants tweet ‘PimpMySummerBall’ followed by the name of their university in order to gather votes. Towards this end, hordes of accounts were pressed into service by zealous students up and down the country to be debased at the anile altar of MTV. Predictably, rivalry spilled through the web’s astral bounds from Twitter to Facebook to Yik-Yak.

Royal Holloway put a strong fight to 2014’s victors, but Teesside’s 20,000-strong student body emerged victorious with 442,728 votes to RHUL’s 280,188, Queen Mary in third with 100,789.

There’s a chill lurking on Middlesbrough streets on 27 May, the day of Teesside’s Final Fling, but I’m not eager to put my jumper on. Just one of the layers I brought to bear the cold, ‘Royal Holloway’ is branded on the back and the coat of arms is sewn onto the left breast. Meanwhile most people sit unphased by the temperature, wearing their multicoloured T-shirts, speaking to each other in unfamiliar English.

While I drain a £3 Fosters on the Union terrace, hundreds fill the SU bar and more spill out across the campus for fairground rides and music. Using the cup as a mask from cigarette smoke, my other hand’s deployed as a shield from an unexpectedly scorching sun.

As Final Fling progresses, features include Katy B, Example, Sub Focus and Sigma, beneficiaries of MTV cash. They’re accompanied by a little quadcopter sputtering colourful LEDs into the night sky, which comes to steal my attention. Mounted with a camera, it floats about the stage maneuvring daintily between shots and strafing the crowd.

I reflect that it seems nobody really cares about the tension between RHUL and Teesside. Then, I find I’ve been photographed in my jumper and my brazen affair up north pictured online for all to see, and it quickly gathers a hundred likes.


This article was published in The Founder June 2016 issue

Featured picture courtesy of Teesside University

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