I scrolled through my phone with bated breath, the ‘big announcement’ for the Thursday of Freshers’ Week had been due 10 minutes ago. Who would it be this time? Another slightly archaic if fondly remembered band from the mid-00s? Perhaps a DJ who’d had one big hit over the summer? Maybe even the Venga Boys? No such luck. Union J. Who were they? The One Direction look-a-like band that were trying super hard to emulate even a millionth of their X Factor predecessors success. Hadn’t they had one song last year? Maybe? I’m not sure.
Like many St Andrews students I was just confused. Had our DoEs mistaken the incoming freshers for a group of easily pleased 13 year-old girls? As for the YikYak community, it was plain angry. Posts bewailing 2015 as the lamest Freshers’ Week in living memory were upvoted without question and in all honesty it seemed like a fair criticism. We could get over Jedward as a token joke act, bookended by people we would actually pay to see, rather than grudgingly accept would be amusing when we’d had a few too many Pablos.
Last year we were treated to Scouting for Girls and the comedian Jon Richardson – events that would sell out in seconds and we could tell our friends at home about without them tilting their heads sympathetically and reassuringly saying ‘but St Andrews is beautiful, right?’ Our disappointment seemed understandable.
But here’s the thing. St Andrews is actually really beautiful. We live in a beautiful, quaint, historic town with tons of charm. We’re never short of a picturesque sunset or an instragrammable brunch and if you came here for the buzzing night life you’re a bit of an idiot.
This is a small fishing village in East Fife. We only have 9000 students and yet still make up a significant amount of the term time population. Our Union may be state of the art since the redevelopment, but it’s a size that reflects the needs of our students and has a similarly meagre budget that simply doesn’t compare with universities with far larger student bodies like Manchester, Loughborough or even Dundee. Just realistically big name acts and up-and-coming bands don’t want to travel to a place that doesn’t have it’s own railway station, is at least half an hour from the nearest McDonalds and then play to a crowd of about 1000 students.
When we accept St Andrews on UCAS we do so in the knowledge that we’ll have to travel further afield if we want ‘dank beats’ and ‘sick drops’ on a Friday night. It’s a trade off we make, and one that I think mostly goes in our favour. Whilst we don’t have big clubs or the latest chart toppers bursting into the Bubble on a weekly basis we do have some pretty cool student-run events, events that are only possible because there isn’t a slick, professionally run alternative that can undercut charity events on price and profile. We have a load of house parties, facilitated by the fact that we all live two minutes from each other and dominate the town centre to the extent that no one minds if Tremor is blasting out from a semi-detached at 1.30am.
We’re a tiny community that relishes the weird and wonderful variety of our Union-hosted events. Union J was likely made bearable by the St Andrean determination to not take ourselves too seriously and have fun, as well as a healthy dose of schadenfreude towards those who paid up for the even-more derided Starfields.
We need to give Chris McCrae a break. The Class of 2019 will have had a great Freshers’ Week not because of the acts they saw or even recognised, but because of the friendships they formed whilst making bad life choices, and the volume of cheap Tennents they consumed. It’s no surprise that some of the most positive reviews of the week have come from events that have relied on home-grown St Andrews talent. The Union should stick to what it does best and what, in my opinion, it has continued to do well this week, providing fun, inclusive nights which are value for money and not worrying about being too cool whilst doing it – after all, that’s what we have the FS committee for.