On Saturday, St Andrews celebrated a milestone. The streets suddenly erupted in local pride, with bagpipers and singers uniting to remind us of our university and town’s esteemed history. Many of us were able to begin these celebrations early, journeying to Lower College Lawn for a birthday party that featured gin, dancing and (of course) cake. The Fellowship, advocates for St Andrews in every sense of the term, went above and beyond to plan an accessible, convivial event, and they succeeded on almost all counts.
The night began on a high note when, upon entering the Quad, we were handed tokens for a free gin and tonic (early arrivers received two). Fortunately, these tokens could be cashed with ease: instead of the usual straight bar or even an L-shaped bar, the Fellowship elected for a square bar in the centre of the main marquee. This not only gave the bar staff a better view of their patrons, but allowed for a widely dispersed crowd, rather than the singular mob that tends to develop when a bar is located in one corner. Even though queueing did occur, particularly later in the night, the sight of the crowd was never daunting.
In the second tent, a string of musical acts took the stage. Joe Grimeh opened with a lively set to guide the first guests onto the dancefloor, and crowd-favourite Blues Society handily picked up where he left off. DJ Kalliope had the honour of playing at the stroke of midnight, the critical moment of the evening when our uni turned 602. DJs Dan & Stu then finished the ball with their usual flair. The quality of each act was unsurprisingly excellent, considering that each performer has an extensive history playing to St Andrews crowds. Some complaints were raised, however, by the volume of the noise: One guest began playing music on his phone to illustrate that the DJ simply wasn’t playing loud enough. The majority of the crowd seemed perfectly content to both dance and chat, a winning combination (one that this reviewer quite enjoyed).
The comfort of the guests appeared to be a priority for the Fellowship. Every crowd-pleasing facet of an event was met, from the large amount of photographers (ensuring that everyone got a chance at a new profile picture) to the cheap drinks (£3 for a single, £5 for a double, £4 cocktails) to the impressive spread of cakes provided by Cottage Kitchen (devoured, sadly, by ten o’clock).
However, though the event had almost everything one would want at a ball, it seemed disturbingly under-attended. The sudden decrease in size was awkwardly noticeable, with half of the marquee blocked off and left shrouded in silent darkness. The rooms that remained were decently crowded throughout the night, but one cannot help but wonder about the ball that could have been. It may have been the bad timing, as the majority of potential ball-goers could have elected to take Friday off in favour of Advent or Christmas Ball. It may have been the ball’s lack of street cred, this being the first year the Fellowship developed a distinct theme for the night. It may have been a litany of reasons, but the end result remains a drastically under-attended event.
A shame – 602 was easily one of the best balls I’ve attended in St Andrews. Hopefully next year its developing reputation will bolster ticket sales beyond 1000, so that everyone may experience such a cracking night.