The Saint sat down with Leon O’Rourke, the incumbent Director of Events and Services, to discuss his reflections on his past year in office. Mr O’Rourke was well known among students from his previous post as head of entertainment at the Rule and for his stand-up comedy, including the panel show Bubble Bath. Last year, he was elected on several key policies, including keeping drink prices at the Union reasonable and increasing the variety on offer, bringing more student-run events to the Union and working with nearby unions for bigger acts. Now, with his term in office coming to a close, the general consensus is that he has enjoyed a largely successful year.
Tempting students into the Union with promises of cheap drinks is always key challenge in St Andrews. In wrangling with drink prices, Mr O’Rourke was able to make use of his prior experience at The Rule. He said that during his term, drastically reducing drinks prices was a difficult task. However, Mr O’Rourke has been successful in keeping prices relatively low and at a standard level for the Union.
“It’s actually quite hard for a director of events and services to have as much input as they would particularly like,” he explained. “We’re still quite reasonably priced. There’s certain things that in an ideal world I would like to see cheaper, but obviously I’m not the one who has to balance the books.”
In terms of the new Beacon Bar, whose establishment was indeed a good development for the Union, Mr O’Rourke explained why drinks prices upstairs are slightly more expensive. “We’re obviously trying to create as cheap cocktails as possible, but we are also using very good quality liqueurs and spirits,” he said. However, simple drinks like spirits and mixers or shots are also more expensive in the Beacon Bar than in the Main Bar, though the same ingredients are used.
In terms of events, the Union has reportedly seen an increased variety of new acts and shows. Besides the mainstay big events, there has been an increase in things like karaoke and pub quizzes. Mr O’Rourke said that there have been “a lot more student-led initiatives and new events that students are creating themselves.”
“It’s great to see people do what I did and come up with their own events.”
The big focus for him was the “rebranding of the Union, and making it the place to go again.” A very successful freshers provided a good building block in this respect and Mr O’Rourke believes that the Union is “gradually changing for the better.”
Another of Mr O’Rourke’s goals in office was to tackle the issue of the apparent reluctance of some societies to use Union space for student-run events. The opening of Sandy’s Bar last year was definitely helpful in this respect. Societies and sports teams have increasingly been using Union spaces like Sandy’s or the Beacon Bar this year. “It’s great to see a variety of things being held in the Union,” Mr O’Rourke said. “Overall it’s been quite a successful year for student run events and hopefully that can continue.”
This year’s freshers’ week was undoubtedly a big hit. Commercially, it was the most successful by 33 per cent, according to Mr O’Rourke. He described the entire experience as “one of the proudest weeks of [his] life. I ran myself into the ground by the end, but I loved it,” Mr O’Rourke described. “I think the caliber of acts we got were higher than we’ve ever had.” Overall, he thinks that student satisfaction was very high. “I’m pretty proud of the whole thing, I hope it will go down in memory.”
Mr O’Rourke also expressed regret about not having a bigger refreshers’ week scene. With no Venue 1, however, his “hands were tied as opposed to previous years.”
Collaboration with other universities
“All four of us sabbaticals have worked very hard at storing up relationships with other unions this year,” Mr O’Rourke described. They have reached out to the Glasgow SRC, the Northern Service (a consortium of unions), and the Dundee student union.
“At the moment I’ve set up good working relationships with two or three other unions and although I wasn’t able to make full use of that this year, I’m very sure I can help the following year’s candidates,” Mr O’Rourke explained.
The Saint‘s assessment
Being Director or Events and Services can be a daunting task, especially when caught up dealing with the commercial aspect of the job. However, Mr O’Rourke has worked tirelessly to achieve the key policies he was elected on and has ultimately made the Union a more lively and active place to be this year.
The highlight of his time in office – and also a vast personal achievement – was effectively organising one of the most successful freshers’ weeks that St Andrews has had in recent memory. He fought to keep drinks varied and the prices reasonable at the Union, as well as bringing in a larger variety of student events. Mr O’Rourke successfully advocated the use of Union space for student clubs and societies, and the development of Sandy’s Bar last year and the Beacon Bar this year have undoubtedly helped in this respect.
Although St Andrews will most likely be sad to see him go, he leaves behind a growing network of relationships with other student unions. When asked if he would run for office again, Mr O’Rourke explained that he would not be running again because this is his sixth year in St Andrews and “it is time to move onto something else.”
Overall, Mr O’Rourke can proudly look back on his successful year in office.