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10 weird and wonderful things University of Bristol students have done to raise money for RAG week

Dressing up as St Trinians? A pedal car race with over 500 participants? Kidnapping Alfred the gorilla from Bristol Zoo? Thea Powell covers the ten whackiest and weirdest stunts that University of Bristol students have pulled off in RAG weeks gone past.

By Thea Powell, Second Year English Literature

For almost 90 years, Bristol University’s RAG week, some seven days for raising and giving, has been a prime example of the generosity and kind-heartedness that, as we all know, our student population embodies so well. The photos below demonstrate fantastically how, for decades now, there has been no limit to what Bristol students will do to raise money for local and worthwhile charities, or to look ridiculous.

  1. The RAG parades.

There have been a multitude of things, both bizarre and brilliant, done by students during the popular RAG parade. The first example of this is some female students in 1984 and 1988 dressing up as St Trinians. There’s something wonderful about these students acknowledging that they might get more money thrown into the charity bucket by dressing up in a school skirt and fishnets, and using it for good. Sort of like an ‘if you can’t beat the creepy sexualisation of school girls, might as well use it to raise more money for charity’ kind of mindset.

A University of Bristol student dressed up as a St Trinians. | © Bristol Post

2. In 1960, a young female Bristol student sat on the end of a makeshift ducking-stool, over the moat in front of the city Council House. On the other end of the plank were large stones, which were purchased by onlookers one by one. As the weight of the stones decreased, the girl began to outweigh them, until eventually she was tipped into the water.

3. The pyjama raid of 1969. More than 100 pairs of pyjama bottoms disappeared from male students in Churchill Hall: the raiders were 16 female students from Manor Hall. It was so skilfully done that no one even know the raid had happened until the men of Churchill Hall got ready for bed. One of the thieves explained: ‘students make the public cough up a lot of cash for RAG week. We thought we would make some of the students pay their share.’ The male students got their trousers back the next day – at a price, of course. As a former resident of Manor Hall, I’ve personally never been so proud.

4. The 1988 parade: the photo below shows student Richard Denby as ‘the pink baron.’

© Bristol Post

5. A man is shot in the street and falls to the pavement. Blood is everywhere. Except, he hasn’t been shot, and it’s actually just a RAG stunt organised by medical students. It is real blood though: the students took a bag of real blood from a friend which would pop as the acting victim was ‘shot’. Student Paul Gee was fined as a result, and said: ‘I will pay my fine if my loan comes through in April.’ Understandable.

6. And ANOTHER example of an absurdity during the 1988 RAG parade: there will be some examples from other years, but 1988 seems to have been the golden year for inventive ideas. Here we have Tracey Belsham, being ‘injected’ on the Bristol Dental Hospital float. Dentists, eh?

Dental students acting on the RAG Parade Float, 1988. | © Bristol Post

7. The Jail Break. For many years, a popular method of fundraising for RAG was the jail break: thankfully the event was not much like its name suggests, but rather would involve a group of students attempting to get as far away from Bristol as possible, with absolutely no money.

8. The Pedal Car Race was a popular part of RAG week during the 60s, and this particular photo shows the 24-hour Pedal Car Race of 1967, modelled on the Le Mans 24-hour race, except with little pedal cars instead. Over 500 of the participants and spectators ended up in various Bristol hospitals afterwards, complaining of rashes: conspiracies abounded, naturally, but in the end, it seemed that the cause was only a combination of dust, tar and sunshine.

© Bristol Post

9. Look away if you’re planning to eat soon, or ever again. The following photograph shows a Mr Stephen Joyce, doing his bit for Bristol’s RAG week of 1981 – that is, attempting to eat half a pound of live worms. A commitment to charitable fundraising indeed, outweighing that of Bob Geldof, or anyone, really.

© Bristol Post

10. And finally, the kidnapping of Alfred the Gorilla: a story that gripped the city of Bristol, albeit for a few days. Alfred was an old resident of Bristol Zoo who was stuffed after death and placed in the city’s museum, but disappeared in the RAG week of 1956 after being kidnapped by some university students. Though there is less of a clear link to fundraising in this story, there’s something quite iconic about a 7-foot-tall gorilla spending the night in a student’s bedsit off Whiteladies Road, and turning up the next day in the Student Health Centre waiting room.

© Bristol Post

RAG week in the age of Coronavirus:

Though RAG week, like everything, will be affected by Coronavirus this year, Bristol University’s determination to raise money for worthwhile causes will not be beaten! A virtual RAG week will take place from the 15th of February, and will include a plethora of brilliant online fundraising events.

• A pub-quiz
• A poker tournament
• Speed dating
• A murder mystery night
• Bingo lingo

For more information on these events, see Bristol RAG’s Facebook page.

Featured Image: © Bristol Post