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Leicester Special Collections

Sylvia Dowling's RAG Day

RAG Day and Lucifer

Sylvia (to the right) and her friend Chris dressed up as aliens for RAG Day

RAG Day Floats on London Road, 1957

RAG Day Floats on London Road

Sylvia Letter Explaining RAG Day

This is the letter written on 12 May 1956 where Sylvia explains much of her RAG experience

7 May 1956

RAG Day is a special day at university that often culminates in a RAG week, where students dress up and do silly activities in order to raise money for charity. It is a student-run organisation and comes from the word 'ragging', which is an extensive display of noisy, disorderly conduct. Sylvia and her friends actively took part in RAG day by dressing up as things from another planet (her idea!) with green faces, wire antennae, as seen by the accompanying photograph. Syvlia bought cheap green swimming-caps, and did her face with green eye-shadow; Chris made a green crepe-paper mask, and borrowed her young brother’s space-gun torch.

12 May 1956

RAG Day is supposed to be fun, however sometimes things do get a little out of hand. For example, Sylvia explains how the newest issue of the RAG magazine included a controversial picture of Lucifer, and the students had to cut out the picture, and the offending page in 45,000 magazines! Sylvia herself had removed about 40 on them. She was under the impression that she wasn'tmaking much progress, but was happy to hear when she returned to the depot: “so you want some more!”, which suggested to her that, she must have been doing better than average. 

Additonally, Sylvia notes that the press has gotten word about their space men costumes, and are looking for Sylvia and her friends to interview them.

RAG Societies were once a staple of universities across the world, working to raise funds and attention for charities. These groups were student-run and depended on volunteers to host ‘RAG Days’ each year. For many, this was the most anticipated event of the school year and would spend weeks preparing for the big day. Students ultimately banded together to produce floats, costumes and ‘rag-mags’ for sale Unlike the modern alternatives, Rag Days were designed to join the whole city together, encouraging peers and strangers alike to join the noisy disorder of the parades up to the main campus.