Chris MacRae has worked at the Union for the past two years, both behind the bar and as a DJ, and will be known to some as the founder of #NELFUN club nights. Now, he hopes his experience of the Union as both a customer and a member of staff will help him in the role of Director of Events and Services.
A key policy of Mr MacRae’s is an increased focus on daytime events. He wants to position the Union as an alternative space to the ground floor of the library for those who want to meet for social and entertainment purposes in the day. As part of this offer, regular events will be held, with board game and video game tournaments mentioned. Whilst the idea of rebranding the Union as a study space is a good one (the Main Bar is never full in the day and could certainly be better utilised), some of the events proposed appear to be ones which are already catered for by existing societies. Therefore there is a risk that the DoES could be seen to be stepping on the toes of societies by arranging events very similar to their own.
Mr MacRae states that “music is perhaps my biggest passion.” To this end, he proposes various forms of music for the Union, from House and Trap DJ music to local talent live. As part of this, the Beacon Bar would be designated as a “cool” club for one night a week, hosted by guest DJs. Another night would see local talent take over the Union to demonstrate their abilities. These are relatively straightforward events to organise and, if marketed correctly to prevent low attendances, could well be a success.
More ambitiously, Mr MacRae talks about linking up with outside organisations such as Hector’s House or Nightvision to bring more famous DJ acts to St Andrews. This requires making good contacts and Mr MacRae’s relatively high profile amongst the student community suggests this shouldn’t be an issue. Once again, the problem of attendances rears its head- it was only a few months ago that another attempt to link up with an outside organisation, Circus Saturdays, flopped due to low numbers. Widespread publicity for these types of events would be vital and it is not evident that Mr MacRae has much experience in this area.
In a line that could have been borrowed from any DoES candidate’s manifesto over the last five years, Mr MacRae says he “will fight to keep drinks prices as low as possible behind the main bar.” He does propose a few new ideas though, with the possibility of a “Drink of the Week” deal or a slightly more far-fetched “SKINT” night with “incredibly cheap” drinks on certain days of the week. The former proposal certainly seems plausible and Mr MacRae’s good working relationship with the bar manager Sandy (he has worked at the bar in the Union) can only help with this policy.
Group deal nights
A further policy of Mr MacRae’s is to introduce specific “hall nights” and “postgrad nights,” with designated evenings for each hall and for the postgrad community, accompanied by cheaper drinks for those from the designated group. Whilst it is commendable to try and integrate the consistently overlooked postgraduate community into the Union, the idea of hall nights seems questionable. Students generally head out into town with their direct roommates, or with those from their classes or societies, as opposed to their halls of residence. The Clan Warfare events, alongside the regular in-hall events, could be said to cater for any hall loyalties that do exist.
Mr MacRae also proposes that these drinks deals are extended to groups such as birthday parties: “if one can guarantee enough people through the door, they will in turn get cheaper drinks.” This is a novel idea, but doubts persist about the administration of this. What would happen if 30 people were guaranteed yet only 10 showed up? Would they have to wear special wristbands (which could just be passed on to others)? It seems unworkable.
The most startling sentence contained within the manifesto is the comment regarding a headline act for Freshers’ Week: “Venue 1 was opened by Pink Floyd back in 1973 and I want to see a similarly-sized opening act for St Andrews’ first ever nightclub (Club 601).” This is one of the boldest claims you will ever see from a candidate and it is for Mr MacRae to demonstrate how he would work to bring in an act of that calibre.
Apart from this statement, Mr MacRae provides surprisingly scant detail about his plans for Freshers’ Week, usually a mainstay of a DoES manifesto. We do not get a breakdown of the type of acts that Mr MacRae wants to bring to St Andrews, nor do we learn how he will utilise the new venues for different types of act.
The Saint’s assessment
Overall, Mr MacRae certainly presents some innovative ideas and appears especially clued up on the music side of the role. However his relative lack of experience of organising events within the Union framework could count against him and some of his claims seem rather implausible. Clarification of his Freshers’ Week plans, alongside details of how he would go about publicising the events which he wishes to create, would go some way to improving his manifesto.