Read our interview with Mr O’Rourke here.
Running for the post of director of events and services, Glaswegian mathematics student Leon O’Rourke is well known among students as head of entertainment at the Rule, as well as for his stand-up comedy, which included setting up the panel show Bubble Bath. His key policies include keeping drinks prices reasonable and increasing the variety on offer, increasing the number of student-run events in the Union, and working with other nearby unions to bring in bigger acts.
The perennial pledge surrounding drinks prices in the Union is a well-trodden path. Tempting students into the Union, a key challenge in St Andrews, is not made easier when other bars and pubs in the town offer many drinks for cheaper than the students’ own bar – surely a rarity amongst UK universities. Mr O’Rourke’s prior experience at the Rule stands him in good stead in this area, especially in terms of introducing new drinks deals, although even the most experienced barman would have trouble fighting falling profit margins as suppliers inevitably raise prices. But if anyone can tackle the pricing issue, Mr O’Rourke seems one of the more likely to do so.
In terms of increasing the variety of events, Mr O’Rourke’s past successes in the field of comedy bode well for that particular area, one which is often considered underrepresented in the Union events calendar. Karaoke is also an event which rarely features elsewhere, and would be welcomed by many as a cheesy addition to life in St Andrews. In terms of the big calls regarding the major events (Sinners, Bops), he plays it safe by pledging his support for both (few would scrap the ever popular Sinners, but reform of the notoriously badly attended Bops is certainly worth considering). Evolution not revolution regarding events seems to be Mr O’Rourke’s mantra.
One of the issues concerning student-run events is the apparent reluctance of some societies to use Union space. Facilities are well worn, to put it diplomatically, but the opening of Sandy’s pub should provide a welcome new environment for events to thrive, and Mr O’Rourke seems to have recognised this opportunity from the outset. His idea of having music made by students being played over sound systems in the Union is a novel one, and although a minor policy it is refreshingly creative.
Mr O’Rourke supports an unashamedly populist Freshers’ Week, a sensible approach at a time when hundreds of eager first years are descending upon the Union seeking recognisable floor fillers to which they can nervously shuffle alongside newly made friends. Previous holders of the office of DoES have scored notable successes in securing big acts, an added pressure for this year’s candidates. Mr O’Rourke seems well prepared for this aspect of the role, with experience not only in University climes as part of the DRA/FP Ball organising committee but also from to his work on the stand-up comedy circuit.
Collaboration with other universities
Finally, Mr O’Rourke’s promise to work with other sabbaticals at nearby universities to coordinate shared events with bigger acts has been heard before, with less than notable outcomes achieved. It is difficult to see such a partnership occurring – what do other, bigger universities gain from St Andrews’ involvement? It would be hard to envisage St Andrews taking a lead in hosting events when a much larger student population resides just on the other side of the River Tay. In which case, would the Union really want to trumpet some of its main events being held most likely in Dundee, dragging students away from “the Bubble” just as they take their tentative first steps into it?
Still, more communication with fellow student leaders is never a negative thing. Furthermore, the idea of coordinating the same performer coming to more than one Scottish university over consecutive nights, thereby reducing rates for said act, is definitely worth considering further.