Junior Sophister Politics and Economics student, Sam Kelly is one of three candidates running for the position of Entertainment (Ents) Officer in the 2023 TCDSU elections. Having founded his school’s well-being committee, and formerly sat on their student council, Kelly has been “organising events since school”.
He has volunteered with mental health charity, Jigsaw, for the last five years, and is the current Events Officer for the Hist, one of the biggest societies on campus. “The Hist ran more events than Trinity Ents did during Freshers’ Week this year,” he told Trinity News. His experience has helped him build relationships with venues in Dublin, as well as to learn how to network: “Now that I know how it works, I know how to form connections easier”.
Kelly’s manifesto centres on three main points: “Ents for Good, Ents for All, and Ents for You!”. The first, ‘Ents for Good’ emphasises safety. This point, Kelly explains, “has two aspects… people being safe and people feeling safe. And I think that if you tackle them as the same issue, you won’t solve either”. Kelly notes that some groups, such as the LGBTQ+ community, have to be more “keenly aware” of their safety at events, and while he knows he can’t make every single student feel safe at every event, he hopes to reduce the number that do not.
Kelly is reluctant to make promises to which he cannot commit but favours tangible measures he can ensure, such as having stewards trained in bystander intervention training and pervasive free cup holders at all Ents events. He says cup holders are something the SU already have, but he wants to make sure their presence is integrated and communicated to students: “A huge amount of what I want to do is try and do what the current Ents policy [says], but then just communicate it. So, it actually happens”.
Kelly is reluctant to make promises to which he cannot commit but favours tangible measures he can ensure, such as having stewards trained in bystander intervention training and pervasive free cup holders at all Ents events.
Ents for Good also incorporates sustainability, in which area, Kelly wants to “throw the SU’s weight around a little bit”, by pressing venues on basic sustainability practices. A huge part of Kelly’s approach will be student feedback, so he hopes to learn how he can improve environmental practices, on and off campus, via that.
‘Ents for All’, is about accessibility, which Kelly calls “ensuring that every person is getting an equal share of accessibility to events”. He hopes to do this by keeping the same amount of night-time events but supplementing them with increased daytime events. This increased volume of events would rely on collaborations with student societies, shedding the workload appropriately such that Kelly can deliver on his promise. In turn, he hopes to support these societies more, via direct support and the Ents handbook, which he mentions later.
Kelly focuses on daytime events because they are accessible to several students commonly excluded from Ents events: people who do not live in town, people with physical disabilities or sensory issues, people who prefer alcohol-free events, mature students and postgrads. He says that on-campus and daytime events are also cheaper, ensuring low-cost events that are simple and fun, such as arts and crafts, movie screenings and murder mysteries.
He claims that on-campus is more accessible for people with physical disabilities. He also hopes to hold some events specifically for mature students (or two a semester), and others for students not studying on the main campus: “there’s this amazing building in St. James’s hospital, it’s called the Old Stone building, and it is available for events. An Ents event has not been held there, in, like, five or six years… it would be very simple to do would be so easy to do”.
The final point of his manifesto, ‘Ents for You’, is about communication. Kelly wants to facilitate a constant flow of information between himself and students, in both directions. His biggest barrier to holding events in the Hist has not been time, but an “information gap” between the people running the events and the people going to them, about the kinds of events they want to attend, and the types of problems they face doing so.
Kelly stresses student input because he says certain groups may be disadvantaged in ways he has never thought of due to a lack of first-hand exposure to them.
Kelly stresses student input because he says certain groups may be disadvantaged in ways he has never thought of due to a lack of first-hand exposure to them. In addition to the existing Ents office hours, he wants to introduce “issue” office hours, specifically for complaints and queries relating to safety and accessibility requirements. He “want[s] people to be sick of the words ‘Google Forms’, because the two people that aren’t will still write in them”. In terms of information flow the other way, Kelly wants a ‘direct support’ approach, where his emails are open to any queries.
He also plans to work with Estates and Facilities, local venues, and youth charities such as BelongTo and Jigsaw, to compile a comprehensive ‘Ents Handbook’. This would contain information like how to navigate Estates and Facilities for on-campus events, where to book when to contact them, and prices, as well as information on how to make society events feel inclusive for members of marginalised communities, and how to ensure safety and sustainability. This five to six-page booklet would be given to every Ents Officer in every student club and society on campus, improving the efficiency of their roles, and thereby, significantly enhancing campus life.
Regarding the much-anticipated reduced-capacity Trinity Ball this year, the last on campus for the next five years, Kelly says that he is uncomfortable making promises, because “no one knows [what’s going to happen with it]… Anyone promising anything for Trinity Ball doesn’t know that they can deliver on it”. One thing Kelly feels that he can promise is enhancing the diversity of the people selecting which Trinity artists will play: “I would love to have an application process to join a panel to select [those] artists”. Another is to lead a viral student campaign rallying for bigger names to headline the concert: “We did nearly get Jedward! It was too late, but let’s say there’s a campaign that starts in January… that gives us more power to get better acts”.
Kelly plans for an action-packed Freshers Week, which, like his increased daytime events, will rely hugely on supporting existing Trinity societies to put on their events: “This would be a great way to kick off the year and show that Ents is all about collaboration and direct support”. Kelly says he would love to have a series of constant performances in Front Square, and that he will do what he can to ensure that the week does not take place during term time.
For RAG week, he envisions collaborations with external charities, and events emphasising self-expression and mental health. He says that sometimes it is sometimes less confronting to grapple with an issue by coming to an event than by talking to a therapist or someone you know: “Exploring your own identity through Ents is a good way of doing it”. He suggests drag shows, pride flag decorating and a couch outside the arts block where people can sit for tea and a chat. Other events he has planned for throughout the year include themed Pav Fridays, a dance class night out and a campus-wide Easter Egg Hunt.
For RAG week, he envisions collaborations with external charities, and events emphasising self-expression and mental health.
Referencing the constant debate as to what the extent of SU political involvement should be, Kelly said, “Define political. Trans rights, human rights, LGBTQ+ rights; I don’t view those as political, and, absolutely, Ents should take a stand on those”. Kelly acknowledges that there are a diverse array of political opinions within the college and that nobody should feel alienated from events on the basis of their political ideology. However, certain things are non-negotiable to him: “anything that protects the rights, safety, health and happiness of people, I don’t necessarily think that that’s a political issue”.
Ultimately, Kelly’s bid for Ents is because he thinks he is good at it, and he feels he can bring a passion to the role: “I love events. I love doing it and it gives me such joy”. He promises he will work hard to help Ents “move and in a direction that it never has before, and make it considerably better”.