The art of the St Andrews party

What makes the nightlife in our town special?
What makes the nightlife in our town special?

As the semester draws to a close, with the thought of your mum’s washing, your mum’s cooking, your mum’s questions and well, just your mum in the back of your mind, I’m sure you can’t wait for the inevitable interrogation about the St Andrews nightlife when you return home.

“Is there even a club in St Andrews?” is the non-fresher, non-local addition to the classic line of questioning: “What’s your name? Where do you come from? What do you study?” It is predictable, repetitive and just downright annoying. The answer to the question, officially, is yes. We can boast about The Vic or The Lizard but they demonstrate that no one said a nightclub has to be good to exist – in relation to Newcastle’s Digital or Tiger Tiger in Manchester they are not good at least. But ‘good’ and ‘fun’ are different things.

In an article published this week on The Independent’s website, which subsequently found its way on to the infamous Overheard in St Andrews Facebook page, St Andrews was deemed to have one of the worst night lives of British universities, an honour shared with the likes of Winchester and Chichester, such esteemed company! Needless to say, this post provoked raging debate and we were treated to such articulate arguments as a one-word comment of “bo***cks”. Whether that was referring to the evening activities of the Bubble or the initial article itself is anyone’s guess but personally, I would hope it was directed towards The Independent.

It doesn’t need reiterating that St Andrews is not a world capital of partying; cheap drinks, neon lights, multi-storied rave pits and world-renowned DJs are lacking from our plethora of after-dark excursions. Instead, we have created a varied, interesting and fundamentally unique nightlife: one that gets better the tighter it is embraced.

The rather costly nature of beverages up and down Market Street has given the pre-drink a vital part to play in the night. Unlike other universities, it is not toward the aim of flowing conversation in which alcohol is employed but rather on cheaper inebriation. Sociability comes second. Whether you are fond of playing highly aggressive, usually counting based, drinking games or instead prefer a pack of cards to tell you when to drink it is likely that you will end up consuming all your alcohol earlier than planned. More often than not this means someone does something exceptionally entertaining or stupid – most likely stupid, it is always stupid – making the night instantly memorable from the get go. Even if the pre-drink is lacking a focal event of ridiculousness, twelve people spending half an hour trying to count past the number twenty in a mixture of French, Latin, hand signals, Roman Numerals and weird animal noises is as brilliant, if not more so, than it sounds. It is not uncommon for the ‘pres’ to be the highlight of the night and when you are spending that time with all of your friends, how can anyone possibly turn their nose up at it?

Union - Henry Legg
The Union, where students inevitably find themselves

Neither The Lizard, The Vic nor the Union (Wednesday with Sinners exempted) are crazy, sweat-ravaged mosh-pits, yet when you can see someone you know, and importantly someone different, every time you go for a drink, the night is never boring. Despite the fact that around two decades on this planet somewhat takes away from the novelty of seeing a familiar face, it is extraordinary the effect alcohol has on this everyday event. Suddenly, it is as if this person has come back from the dead and brought Bobby Moore back with them. All social norms are forgotten and for a moment or two you become the happiest person alive. When you know so many people because the town is so small, that’s a lot of these very happy moments in one night.

We cannot forget the dinner parties and black tie balls that embody St Andrews. The dinners are a great way of cementing friendships whilst demonstrating an impressive Fajita-assembling skill that your friends never thought you capable of. In the privacy of your own home when the pressures of pulling or getting blackout drunk are non-existent, you can actually have a spectacularly good time. Let us not forget to end the night in the Union to meet those who couldn’t fit on the invite list for said dinner party.

Black tie events and St Andrews are effectively one and the same thing. At no other university can you get a weekly dose of self-tied (very important, freshers take note) bow ties and black dresses in as varied a setting as an airfield or a fair ground. We may complain about the impression this gives off but we knew about the culture before we came here and we all love it. We shouldn’t care what other people think; pre-drink on port, have a glass of whiskey at the ball and lap up your new found awesomeness and culture. Just don’t do it too much lest the Kate Kennedy Club scout you.

So when the questions inevitably come flying in about how boring your nights are don’t try defending it. Accept that Christmas Ball and May Ball are the only times substantial numbers of people will even vaguely be in the vicinity of each other when a little tipsy, and tell people you don’t care. As the journalist in The Independent article showed, from the outside it is impossible to judge a St Andrews night. Yet from the inside there is something truly endearing about the 100 yards between the Union, The Vic, Courtyard and Empire.


  1. I appreciate the sentiment of the article but I have to say I disagree completely. You speak about a pre-drinks culture as if it is unique to St Andrews – every student across the UK does it! Counting up to 20+1 in weird ways is not special to the Bubble.

    Of course you can have a good time in St Andrews on a night out, and bumping into people you know can make it feel like a tight-knit community, however, that is clearly not to everyone’s taste. Even in big cities, students go out on the same nights to the same clubs so I wouldn’t call that unique to St Andrews either.

    I would say that although it is obviously possible to have a great night out in St Andrews, you have to be with the right people and it generally takes a lot more effort, money and luck than it should. In St Andrews you can’t spontaneously decide to have a night out if it is the wrong day of the week since nobody will be out.

    Of course, Raisin is the exception to the rule and is truly fantastic, and although the black tie events are very popular I would rather spend the equivalent of the entire entry fee on a great night out clubbing or bar hopping. That is my own personal opinion however – ball nights are good, however there are too many of them meaning that to have regular good nights out you have to keep paying up.

    St Andrews nightlife is different to other places, and it may be endearing. Is it objectively good? I wouldn’t say so myself.


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