The Lumsden Club occupies a peculiar niche within St Andrews society. They are at times referred to as the “female KK,” a descriptor that falls flat in the absence of similarities between the two charity clubs. Lumsden can be found selling roses during Valentine’s Day, serving Pimm’s at the Rule, or volunteering in charity shops throughout town. Although their red polo shirts bear a passing resemblance to the jackets worn by the Kate Kennedy Club, Lumsden lacks any true parallel within the University. In its fifteen years of existence, the Club has successfully accomplished the rare feat of being utterly inimitable.
In 2001, Emmeline Kuhn and Libby Hart held the first meeting of the Lumsden Club in a small student flat. Despite what Wikipedia will have you believe, the Club refutes the notion that then-student Kate Middleton had any involvement in this initial meeting. Many unofficial biographies do place the Duchess of Cambridge amongst the original members; however, this has not been confirmed by any primary sources. President Hannah Done describes the early days of Lumsden as “a group of friends who wanted to raise awareness for a group of charities.” She states that even now, the Club is investigating the details of its own origins. “We’re in close contact with alumni. Especially in our fifteenth year, we think it’s important to know where it all started.”
Vice President Meggie Gresham expresses her admiration for the Club’s growth. “We’re not static,” she says. “That’s the real thing about Lumsden. We’re always growing, we’re always innovating. We’ve gone from meeting in a flat to becoming an international organisation. The Club has girls from around the world – South America, North America, Europe, Australia, Scandinavia…” This combination of nationalities contributes to the Club’s constant sense of motion. As new viewpoints enter the fold every year, there is no danger of the Club falling into a potentially tired pattern of identical events. Head of PR Anya Brochier enthuses that “anyone who is even slightly interested should apply. There’s no homogenous personality that makes a ‘Lumsden girl.’ Absolutely anyone can be part of Lumsden.”
Above all else, the Club values its charities. Ms Done refers to Lumsden as “a very human-based charity,” as evidenced by the physical contributions they make alongside their monetary donations. Every girl is required to do at least one hour of volunteering a week, a requirement that can be fulfilled at a charity shop, community centre, food bank, or another local enterprise. The girls are also given regular fundraising challenges, ambitious goals that they often exceed through teamwork. Ms Gresham identifies a Northumbrian charity run as a particularly successful expedition, having allowed a group of Lumsden girls to raise £1,400 for last year’s chosen charity. The Lumsden Cardinals also participated in the University’s Mixed Hockey League, pulling off a surprise win in last year’s tournament.
The Club has supported Fife Women’s Aid for the past two years. Ms Done once again emphasises the human aspect of Lumsden: “We want to get involved in ways beyond just writing a cheque. We’d like to host a clothing drive after Christmas, for example, when they really struggle for donations. It’s a relationship that we want to keep constant. Reps from the charity come speak to our freshers, which really establishes a close connection and helps motivate us during fundraising.”
Although the monetary recipient of the Club’s charitable activities is Fife Women’s Aid, the Club continues to maintain ties with its previous charities. Lumsden participates in the yearly Parkinson’s Walk in support of Parkinson’s UK, in addition to volunteering at the hospital. “I love the fact that you’ve got a group of girls with completely different backgrounds,” says Ms Done, “but we’re all working together to achieve the same goal. The Club pushes you out of your comfort zone. Even if you’ve never volunteered before, you have a great foundation to get started.”
Ms Brochier praises the support network created by the Club’s charitable activities: “You run into people over town, in charity shops, and you see people you know and have worked with. It’s very much an extension of your own friend group, and it’s being a part of some-thing that spans the entire town.”
Lumsden lacks the ostentation that accompanies Opening Ball or a charity fashion show, but it easily establishes itself through events such as the recent Pimm’s Refilled. The Club’s informal launch event, Pimm’s marked Lumsden’s first collaboration with the renovated Rule. “Lumsden did Pimm’s events in the first few years of the Club,” reveals Ms Done. “We thought it fit to bring it back for our fifteenth year.” The Rule, with its signature balcony and wide open dancefloor, perfectly suited the laid-back atmosphere of the sold-out party. The girls confirm that they hope to continue their partnership with the pub.
Ms Done admits that Pimm’s Refilled would not have been possible with the Lumsden Club’s natural proclivity for evolution. “If you had asked us a year ago about Pimm’s, we would have been like, ‘Yeah, maybe.’ The Club is very much run by the girls, and the directions that we take are very much determined by our freshers.” Ms Brochier confirms that the Club “will support you one hundred percent if you can present a strong idea.” This welcomeness encourages members to develop their own projects, allowing the Club to remain free from the constraints of tradition. While Lumsden does have its traditions (such as the annual Christmas Dinner), it has the ability to change with the times and consistently present alternative events to the students of St Andrews.
The Winning Women Conference was one such project. Founded in 2015 by then-second year Evangeline Tawil, the conference united a contingent of novice event planners, who cut their teeth on what may become known as Lumsden’s most successful event yet. Ms Gresham says that “already Winning Women has grown into something bigger than we expected.” Recently sold-out for the second year in a row, the conference continues to be a cracking success for the Club, a true indication of Lumsden’s innovative nature.
The Lumsden Club welcomes any first-year girls to apply, leading to a highly competitive interview process. Approximately 120 girls attend the first round of interviews, a number that must be cut to 20 for the second round. Sifting through over 100 applications and rejecting the majority of them sounds like no easy task. “It’s not necessarily about background or your personal history,” says Ms Done. “It’s about enthusiasm and thinking on your feet. That’s what makes me think, ‘I want to know you.’ There’s not one type of girl for Lumsden, and that’s why we interview everyone.”
By the end of the interviews, around ten girls will have been selected to join the Lumsden Club. This number fluctuates each year; another example of the Club’s reluctance to be bound by tradition. They accept members based on spirit and ambition, the two tenets that form the foundation of the Club’s central activities. Lumsden has been censured in the past for being single sex, a criticism that lacks merit considering the purpose of the Club: to inspire women, to support women’s charities, and to create a network of women helping women. Sexism continues to pervade society – particularly St Andrews society, where gentlemen’s clubs are in abundance. If we can tolerate half a dozen male-only drinking clubs, then surely we can support a female-only charity organisation.