Newsflash: St Andrews hosts a lot of balls. So just what prompted one of my fourth year friends to claim this morning that this year’s Bongo Ball, designed to raise money for the Xavier Project, was one of his “favourite nights out in St Andrews to date”?
The self proclaimed “massive party”, held in a disused cinema in Crail Airfield, kicked off early Friday evening with buses leaving town from 7.30 onwards. Owing to early bus times which left little to no time for pre-drinking and were rather ridiculously assigned by surname (unlucky if you were the only one in your friend group with a surname A-O); a large number of students, myself included, skipped out on the free buses and opted to take taxis to the venue instead.
Arriving a little before 9pm (a full hour and a half after the event was supposed to have started), the large venue was still pretty quiet. After a slow start, however, the evening began to gather momentum as more and more students arrived, stumbling from their taxis to the bar to claim the two free drinks included in the £32 ticket.
By 22:15, the venue was packed with over 600 students wearing a huge array of outfits that they felt best showcased the theme for the evening: “Africa meets Black Tie”. It’s the only event I’ve ever been to where animal onesies and painted faces body-pumped alongside dinner jackets and LBDs; giving the whole evening a uniquely relaxed and informal atmosphere.
Speaking of body-pumping, a definite highlight of the event was undoubtedly the music, which managed to keep the crowd going for the duration of the evening. A Zambula band kicked off the tunes for the evening and soon had the dance floor overflowing with bodies, shaking their tail-feathers to the authentic African sound. I’d heard these guys were good (they play the event every year), but even I was surprised how much I enjoyed dancing to something so different to the norm.
As the night progressed and guests discovered just how cheap the bar was (£2.50 a double), dancing morphed from ‘busting a move’ to ‘bobbing up and down’; and with that the music underwent a swift change of tempo. Alex Bryson picked up the prime DJ slot and kept the lively crowd energised and bobbing away to some great contemporary tracks, with Immanuel Jebson taking over the decks for the evening until close at 2am.
Despite the great music, those who stayed within the confines of the main dance floor and bar area seriously missed out. The surrounding area had been transformed, with a smaller (but equally energetic) dance tent and separate shisha tent (for the hipsters) set up just outside. Being October in Scotland it was, of course, freezing out in the open air; but this was somewhat combated by the huge bonfire, which burned throughout the night, providing warmth and a slightly more chilled out vibe for those whose ears were well and truly ringing.
Another aspect you would have missed if you refused to brave the cold was the Buffalo Food Truck; and trust me, if there was anything worth braving the elements for, it was their ‘African chicken wings’. Each Bongo-er was given a ticket for a portion of free chips, which I heard were wonderful and far preferable to the mysteriously named ‘Bongo Burgers’ supplied at last year’s event. The Buffalo Food Truck also offered the aforementioned ‘African chicken wings’, specially created for the event, for those of us who were searching for something a little spicier.
By 01:20 the evening was in no way showing signs of slowing down. Unfortunately, not having the stamina I once had as a fresher, no amount of free food, great music nor African vibes could sustain me and I made my way onto the buses waiting to transport the few faint-hearted among us home.
I have to agree with my friend that this year’s Bongo Ball really was an unmissable event. I’ll certainly be returning again next year for what was an incredible night for a great cause.
Photo credit: Katya Clark