Glasgow University Charity Fashion Show spent three times as much as it donated to charity

Published

Paid £10,915 to an events management company for equipment, operators and project management
Received £8,000 from the University’s Chancellor’s Fund
Donated just £3,200 to the Beatson Pebble Appeal following the fashion show in February 2015
Accusations of “student vanity” levelled at the society by an industry expert

GUFCS (1 of 1) copy with white

Credit: Cheryl Lynch

Nathan Stilwell
News Editor


The Glasgow Guardian has discovered that the Glasgow University Charity Fashion Show (GUCFS) spent over three times as much money on creating its fashion show as it ultimately donated to charity earlier this year.

The society paid an events management company nearly £11,000 for creating and project managing last year’s fashion show, but donated just £3,200 to the Beaston Pebble Appeal, a cancer research charity.

GUCFS was quoted £10,915.50 by events company Vision Events to create the 2015 fashion show, which took place in the University’s Hunter Halls in February 2015. The quote included £300 for the hire of two MacBooks for a day; £800 for a crew to carry equipment in and out of the Hunter Halls; and £1271.25 for project management. GUCFS spent £500 on renting a Panasonic 8.5K DLP Projector, despite Hunter Halls already containing a high-end projector.

The GUCFS received £8,000 from the University of Glasgow’s Chancellor’s Fund, which, according to the University’s website, supports “mainly student centred projects which would otherwise fall out-with core funding”.

The Chancellor’s Fund Newsletter from April 2015, however, reported that just £3,000 was donated by the GUCFS to the Beatson Pebble Appeal. In the same newsletter, it was also claimed that: “Everyone involved in the management of the event – from securing sponsorship to castings and media – was a current student, and each person obtained invaluable life and business skills in developing and producing a successful event”.

Blake Sinclair, who was president of the GUCFS until March 2015, was quoted as saying: “We cannot thank the Chancellor’s Fund enough for helping us establish something that has the very real potential to raise hundreds of thousands of pounds over its life for charity, while also adding an amazing new dimension to the University student experience”.

Neither Sinclair, nor the Chancellor’s Fund, gave any indication in the April 2015 newsletter that an external events management company had been paid to help develop, create, or manage the event.

Vision Events quoted GUCFS £890 for the hire of sound equipment, but The Glasgow Guardian obtained a quote for £501 from Warehouse Sound, a Glasgow-based sound hire company, for the hire of similar equipment. GUCFS was also quoted £1,706 for lighting at the fashion show, but local lighting company MM Sound & Lighting gave The Glasgow Guardian a quote for £849 for the hire of comparable equipment.

Vision Event priced an Avolites Tiger Lighting Desk for one-day rental at £145, yet members of the Subcity radio team, the University of Glasgow’s student radio station, told The Glasgow Guardian: “The lighting desk we got for the QMU freshers’ week event that we did [a ChamSys PC Wing Compact] cost us £40”.

A member of the Subcity radio team added: “If we were doing anything with extensive lighting and sound we would go to a purpose-built venue like The Art School or SWG3, that way venue hire comes with sound and lighting, which can be easily supplemented, as well as bar staff, security, etc., and costs a fraction of the price to put on the event as it would to start something from scratch”.

When asked to comment on the quote given to GUCFS, an events programmer from a local arts company told The Glasgow Guardian: “This is a combination of student vanity and exploitation, it is a bad situation where no one seems motivated by the end recipient: the charity, the complete list of specifications given to GUCFS from Vision Events is overpriced and over-specced, the six[-strong] technical crew could have been done with two or three, the local crew should have been by students for free.”

“A charity’s expenditure should not exceed around 33 per cent of the predicted donation – my organisation isn’t even a charity and we try to keep costs to no more than 40 per cent. From the Vision Events quote I have seen, which was surely not their only cost, last year GUCFS were looking at expenses upwards of 75 per cent, which is totally unheard of. Charities should, and easily can, get a lot of equipment for free by asking the right people”.

Asked by The Glasgow Guardian if he thought GUCFS could have donated more than £3,200 by not accepting the quote from Vision Events, the events programmer replied: “Definitely. I recommend a complete rethink of their strategy. Even the £650 they negotiated off the price is only like one per cent [sic], which not acceptable for a charity”.

Blake Sinclair, who was the founding president of the GUCFS from March 2014 to March 2015, and who remains honorary president of the society, told The Glasgow Guardian: “Speaking on behalf of last year’s committee, it can be said that all members found it a highly worthwhile experience. Every member of the team contributed to bringing something new to Glasgow University.”

The Glasgow Guardian asked Blake Sinclair several questions, including: “How do you respond to the accusation by industry professionals that we have consulted who have described this as a ‘student vanity project’: “Do you think it is accurate to claim the event was entirely student run when an events management company was paid nearly £11,000 to help create and manage this event?”; “Do you think, with hindsight, it might have been more appropriate to ensure better cost control, rather than allowing costs to spiral out of control, given that only a fraction of what was spent was ultimately given to charity?”; and “Do you think it is appropriate that you remain honorary president of the society, when under your leadership, costs were allowed to run out of control?”

He replied: “Regarding the list of questions you submitted, GUCFS believes there is one overarching answer: the inaugural year was a resounding success.

“In a time where many start ups and charities struggle to make a profit, not only did GUCFS make a highly appreciated donation to the Beatson Pebble Appeal; we created an event and society that has a long-term donation potential.

“Personally, I am incredibly proud of the amount of hard work that the committee put into GUCFS last year. It was a pleasure to work with such dedicated individuals.”

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Kristen Don, current president of GUCFS, did not wish to comment on the decisions made by the previous committee, but told The Glasgow Guardian: “The charity is the center [sic] of everything we do; our voluntary fundraising relations with Teenage Cancer Trust support all our activities. This year we aim to raise awareness of the signs of cancer amongst 13-24 year olds as well as raising the funds for both units in the Glasgow area. The committee are all very excited to continue our journey supporting Teenage Cancer Trust over the forthcoming months”.

A University of Glasgow spokesperson said: “In November 2014, the Chancellor’s Fund Advisory Board approved a grant of £8,000 to the Glasgow University Charity Fashion Show. The grant was provided to support the creation of a new student society to run an annual fundraising fashion show and other events, giving the students the chance to develop key life and business skills. No funding was provided from the University’s budget.

“The University provided access to several rooms including the Hunter Halls East and West, the Concert Hall and foyer, the robing room and the East Quadrangle Lecture Theatre.

“The University’s Conference and Visitor Services Office provided advice, attended several meetings ahead of the event and a member of staff was on hand on the day of the event. CVSO covered the costs of cleanup after the event.”

Last year, GUCFS had other sponsors including Morgan Stanley, Red Bull and Spotify, but it is unclear how much financial support GUCFS received from them.