Spring is well on its way, and with it comes a staple of the St Andrews culture calendar – On the Rocks. The student-run arts extravaganza begins on 4 April, and The Saint caught up with the festival’s director of programming, Wallis Grant, to find out what people can expect from this year’s edition of On the Rocks.
The Saint: For any students that aren’t familiar, what is On the Rocks?
Wallis Grant: On the Rocks is the largest student-run arts festival in Scotland. We aim to showcase the talents of the student body and share them with St Andrews as a town. Our uniqueness comes from the diversity of acts, which range from art to music to theatre.
TS: The theme for this year’s festival is heritage. How and why was this theme chosen?
WG: 2014 is undeniably a very big year for Scotland and we sought to celebrate this by capitalising on the idea of a Scottish identity, in keeping with this year’s Homecoming Scotland celebrations. We’re also seeking to acknowledge our international heritage as an institution by telling the stories of where people came from, to where they are now at St Andrews.
TS: How will the heritage theme be reflected in the festival’s programme?
WG: Within the programme we have a number of events focused specifically on this theme, such as the Heritage Night at Forgans on Tuesday 8 March, which will be an evening of poetry, dance and music celebrating Scottish Heritage. We are also running an art competition to design a logo for the pilgrimage to St Andrews, and curating an art exhibition and interactive murals dedicated to our town.
TS: On the Rocks is entirely student-run, but members of the St Andrews community outside the University are also encouraged to participate. How important is this mixing of town and gown to the festival?
WG: We are aware of the drastic impact that the student population makes on the town of St Andrews and want to show awareness of our surroundings and bring together the residents of the town in a fun and exciting environment. We utilise venues generally more associated with the wider St Andrews population to try to blur the lines between town and gown.
TS: On the Rocks has grown and flourished since it was first organised in 2009. Now in its sixth year, can we expect an even bigger, more diverse festival than we’ve seen previously?
WG: Of course! This year we have over 35 events and ongoing activities throughout the festival. We have a strong and diverse committee who are working hard on individual events to try to make the festival the strongest yet. Furthermore, we are trying to work with outside parties and increase our interaction with other universities to optimise our outreach. Mostly we want to create a great festival vibe in St Andrews and want as many people as possible to get involved.
TS: Have you learned any lessons from previous On the Rocks festivals?
WG: Largely that organisation is everything. So much hard work is put into all of the events that we need to adequately demonstrate and celebrate the standard of performance.
TS: Are there any events in particular that we should be looking out for?
WG: It is hard to single out an event but arguably our largest two events are Sitara and the Big Top Ball. Otherwise ‘An eve of fine dining and murder’; a Sherlock themed murder mystery run by the Fine Food & Dining Society has certainly caught my eye. There will also be the great drama on at the Barron, which is consistently impressive.