Interview: Leon O’Rourke, candidate for director of events and services

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Photo: Maria Faciolince

The director of events and services is responsible for managing student input regarding bar and entertainment services at the Union, and is involved in the strategic planning of the Association’s events programme, which includes important events like Freshers’ Week and the Graduation Ball.

Read our analysis of Mr O’Rourke’s manifesto here.

Firstly, why are you running for DoES?

It’s something I’ve wanted to do for quite a few years… I’ve been at St Andrews for five years now and this is my fifth year. It’s kind of been something at the back of my mind for me, I’ve always enjoyed entertainment. I was a beatboxer, like, professionally. I’m actually the lead singer in a band, I’ve been a stand-up comedian since I was 14, so I love being in front of people. And I kind of got to learn a lot about the tech side, the planning side of entertainment from working at the Union. I mean, I think I’ve presented more shows than anyone else has – just for the sheer fact that everybody seems to pick me to do their shows.

Erm, it was brilliant in RAG Week, I got, like, ten emails, because they hadn’t – I don’t think they’d internally communicated amongst themselves about who was getting me, so they all emailed me and said ‘Can we get you?’ I was like, ‘Yeah, sure, why not?’ to all of them. They ended up, like, I imagine that they got to their meeting and asked ‘Oh, who’ve you got?’ ‘We’ve got Leon’ ‘Oh, have we all got Leon?’

But yeah, I think it’s something I’ve always wanted to do. I say always – I wasn’t four, wanting to go to St Andrews. But Jules, the DoES from a few years back, he was a good friend of mine and I went to him with the idea for my comedy panel show, Bubble Bath and he kind of gave me the time to do that. He said to me a couple of years ago that DoES would be something that I’d be good at, and that I should maybe look to in the future. So that was kind of something that cemented in my head.

Were you in the St Andrews Revue?

I wasn’t in the Revue, but when I did Bubble Bath, I did work with Amanda [Jules’s girlfriend] and we did shows together and were judges on St Andrews’ got Talent. It’s kind of an easy transition for me – it was really good for me, I got the chance to work with Amanda and Jules in different ways. And then obviously I knew Meg, who was the DoSDA at the time, and I had a really good relationship with all of them, which was fantastic. We got so much done.

In terms of event management, Jules let me help him out, booking acts and stuff like that. So I got a bit of practice there. Actually this year, Dan’s been great as well. Dan gave me a bit of free reign at certain events… I got a chance to help out with [Clan Warfare] and the Ents crew. Yeah, I mean, it’s been really good.

I’ve not been part of the Ents crew… I do own a lot of my own tech, because I am the tech advisor and head of entertainment at the Rule, but I hadn’t got to use as expensive tech as they have in the Union. So that was quite nice to get a chance to do that during Refreshers’.

How do you think that Dan Palmer [incumbent DoES] has done this year?

I’ve got a really good friendship and working relationship with Sandy, the head of the Bar, and Mandy and the other people at Security… I was talking to them a while back, and they said that they felt that in their opinion, Dan was the best, because Dan stays behind and communicates with the staff about exactly what’s going to happen that night. What they can do, how to improve certain things. That’s fantastic: and I think that the staff benefit from it too, they all love it.

In terms of what Dan did, Dan offers a greater variety, and I really love that. It especially gave me as a student the opportunity to continue my show that I’d created the year before… sure, I think the one thing we’re lacking is publicity in talking to Fiona, the head of Ents. We had a chat, and she says that the one thing the Union needs to work on is publicity. Maybe that’s because we’re a building site, but maybe we need to push it a bit more. I mean, the Vic advertises a night, and suddenly everyone’s there.

Do you think you’re impaired at all in terms of your lack of Union experience, for instance, not being a member of Ents crew?

Initially I did, because frankly Campbell‘s fantastic in my opinion. His knowledge of the Ents stuff, I mean, none of us are going to be able to compare to his knowledge. But I mean, I’m a techy guy, I own six different PA systems, I run the PA system at the Rule, I’m head of entertainment there… Because I’ve done so many events, in terms of hosting, presenting, being a judge, being a participant, being the creator of a show, I’ve been able to see how Ents works. And I’m not, you know, the Ents guys are great, because they all do it voluntarily. But it’s not like, you know, it’s not that I’d be out of my depth if I were to say ‘Look guys, I’ll help you out tonight.’ Some of the equipment that we’ve got I even own personally and, obviously, have seen it in action so many times, behind the scenes – I kind of know what’s going on.

Can you explain your drinks prices policy? Are price freezes realistic and, if not, what sort of rise would you consider acceptable?

That’s obviously the main question I was expecting, I suppose. The bar still has to make a profit and there’s inflation and all that. That’s why I said in my policies that I don’t want to assume that I can freeze it, but, as I said earlier, I’ve got a really good working relationship with Sandy, as well as with the general manager of the Union, whose son is one of my really good friends. Oh, nepotism rears its ugly head!

I would say that a more reasonable price when the term starts up again would be £2.20 [for a pint of Tennant’s], because obviously the £1.90 price we’re doing at the moment is for the Building Site Bar. I’d say £2.20 is reasonable; I don’t want to make any assumptions though – as long as we’re the cheapest bar in town, and it would need to be by a decent amount… Tennant’s, in my opinion, cannot go up past £2.30. If it does, I think me and Sandy will have to have a serious chat!

And then I want to do something that Jules introduced, called Skint. Legally, you’re allowed to have 72 hours of a price change, and so if you make a price change with anything it has to last for three days. I like the idea of doing that again, and maybe it might be something for quieter days. They haven’t done it this semester, but I’d like to push it a little bit more: £1.50 bottle beers.

But also working at the Rule, we’ve seen success with our cocktails.

How does your experience of working at the Rule qualify you to be DoES?

Being head of entertainment, I get to sit in on all the managers meetings, as well as being a supervisor there. I’ve now been the in-house musician there for over a year. I’ve got to see, having close personal relationships with the managers there, means that I’ve seen what works, I’ve seen the actual inner workings of the bar. I see that we’re making a lot of money on cocktails: like, stupid amounts of money. We’re scamming the hell out of you people.

On Skint, we could do similar drinks. Obviously, people go to the Union for cheap drinks, they don’t go to the Union because ‘Oh, let’s have a Dry Martini’, you know. It’s not one of those places, and we know that. But I think that Sex on the Beach is the simplest cocktail to make… there are so many really simple cocktails that are two spirits and a mixer. So I’m thinking that we could do punch bowls, we could do jugs, for cheap price.

When you say ‘increasing variety’, what type of events do you have in mind?

That’s a good point. I recently – I had meetings in a sense with members of our student population, people that I don’t feel are being represented enough. British and Americans are represented pretty well in terms of the drinking culture, but not all of us are into that. I personally, I don’t feel that… I was talking to the Chinese Hong-Pao Society, and that’s a huge population, it goes British to American, and then them. And I kind of think that they’re not getting a chance to come to the Union which is meant to be for everyone.

I like the idea of karaoke, which is a really big thing for Oriental and Far Eastern culture. I am Iranian, so I’m technically Asian, but they don’t think that’s close enough! So I think that it’d be quite nice to do something like a karaoke thing in Venue 2, once a fortnight or something. It’s to encourage them to come in.

Obviously the idea is that some people want to see more live entertainment; the DJs are great, I’m a DJ myself and I find it really fun to do. But I love live music too, a lot of people want to see a live band, and I think that Music is Love have been doing most of their open-mics and performances inside of somebody’s house. Which is great for the members, but I do feel that it’s easier to get non-members to come if it’s in an open venue.

I used to be the host at the Vic, I’ve done the Rule, I’ve done a little bit of the Blue Stane, Rascals… just little simple things, like putting board games behind the bar – like they do in DRA bar or the Whey Pat. We want to bring in a slightly newer audience, we want to adhere to all of our student population. It’d be great to have live musicians, not, obviously, rock bands, but chilled out stuff during the day in the new coffee shop. I want that to be a place where people can come – the library is packed 90 per cent of the time.

In terms of the other variety of events, I created a comedy panel show, which is so different, and I found was so much fun. We packed out Venue 1 a couple of times. But thing is, I don’t want to come up with all the ideas myself: that’s not my job. My job is to facilitate events.

Which contacts would you be using to help with this?

I’ve been on the same bill as people like Russell Howard, Russell Kane, Michael MacIntyre, Mickey Flannigan – just to name a few, and my dad’s best friend is Billy Connelly. But it’d be unfair of me to assume that the student population wants that. For me, music is the main thing: people want to see music, they want to hear music, they want DJs, they want to hear live bands. That’s great. I want to do that – comedy is a thing that I’d like to encourage, but I’m not going to overflow with that, because that’d be unfair.

I love roller disco, I love laser tag… But yeah, I’d like to keep them going, see what other people came up with and seeing what people do with that – it’d be great.

Would you be a visible DoES?

I think it’s something that I’d have to look at in terms of having been allowed such a great opportunity to perform, the Saint Live have asked me, the a cappella guys have asked me to perform for them, to be the host, sometimes to beatbox at the fundraising events, something like that. I want to do as much as I can, if it means that I can’t be onstage, I am ok with that, because I have a lot of friends – the comedy boys in second and third year – who I think would do great at it.

In terms of ability, just to present a show, I’d like to think I’m up there and obviously a comedy background kind of helps.

Where might you succeed where other sabbs have failed?

Well that’s tough to say: as a person, I’m in no way better than they were. Having worked with people before, I’d like to think that I’m quite a charismatic good talker. So that’s something we could work on – I’ve got a good wee telephone voice! Give them a chat.

Why would other universities want to work with St Andrews?

Two years ago, I knew the sabbatical teams from Glasgow and Edinburgh, and I’d like to maybe see if I can build some contacts with the new ones, talk to them. Obviously Dundee, Abertay are good choices for us to work with, I’ve made a lot of jokes over my shows at their expense, so hopefully they’ll never see my shows! But I’d love to get a chance to talk to them.

In terms of whether we’d go there, or they’d come here, I’d like to think it’d be a really nice mix. It’d be great to be able to offer, I mean, having been one of the senior students at DRA, I’ve seen the big busses and stuff to Dundee. It doesn’t have to be expensive at all – people do it all the time, people go to Fat Sam’s, it’s really easy to do. When we were doing it in DRA, I booked busses twice to go to Dundee for our Liquid [a Dundee club] nights out, and we booked at Liquid, got VIP tickets, free drinks – that kind of thing.

I organised one of the most successful DRA balls… it’s kind of something that we could look to do, to go to them. But I think St Andrews people would be more keen to do things in our own town, and in order to – I think the reason I’m saying ‘do it with other Scottish unis’, is because, I mean, Edinburgh and Glasgow: great cities. St Andrews and Dundee, because we’re smaller, we don’t have the same kind of pulling power. All we have is Younger Hall and Venue 1, really. I’d like to push a little bit more with Dundee, see if we can encourage people to play at both events [in Freshers’ Week, particularly].

I predominantly think that it’d be good to work with Dundee and Abertay, because they are so close, and I’m assured that they would be inclined to think the same way. It’s something that I’d like to do – I understand the limitations. It’s something that we could try, and if it doesn’t work it’s something that the sabbs after could give a go. I’d like to give it a bash, and see if we can get it working properly in future years.

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