As the 2017 sabbatical elections approach, we look back on Taryn O’Connor’s time as Director of Events & Services.
Alternative event spaces
In her manifesto, Ms O’Connor pitched the idea of utilising non-Union spaces for Freshers’ and Refreshers’ Weeks, namely University properties such as Younger Hall or the Byre Theatre. In our manifesto analysis, The Saint observed that these spaces may lead to increased ticket prices. Ms O’Connor confirmed that this caveat caused both Freshers’ and Refreshers’ Weeks to remain Union-based, saying, “We did get in contact with those spaces, but it’s all about timing. We wanted to keep prices affordable for students, so it ended up being better for us to do it [at the Union].”
Despite not personally organising non-Union based events, Ms O’Connor did assist in booking the Spanish Garden for Glitterball and North Haugh for Masquerade Ball (prior to its rebranding). This close communication with the student events sector reflects her past experience with student societies: during her campaign, Ms O’Connor emphasised her roles in the Just So Society, the St Andrews Revue, and Saints LGBT+.
Ms O’Connor’s 2016 campaign addressed the issue of under-utilised spaces within the Union itself. She hoped to increase attendance on Saturdays and revitalise the Beacon Bar.
Saturdays have continued to stagnate; however, Ms O’Connor is currently finalising plans for a a monthly free-entry Club 601 night. The concept was successfully tested during Refreshers’, and Ms O’Connor hopes it will lead to experimental DJs and themes for Club 601.
Ms O’Connor credits this to her own experience as an international fresher at the Union, which led to her booking an array of acts that every student could appreciate.
Ms O’Connor has also rolled out OMFG, a series of themed Beacon-based parties. The first event (“Assassin”) sold out, and more recently, the Valentine’s Day themed-event was cancelled in support of the rescheduled St Andrews Charity Fashion Show.
The Union incited ire from the student body when it switched from Tennent’s to Carling as the result of a deal made by trading group Northern Services. Ms O’Connor stressed that this decision was made with lower drink prices in mind. When the Union’s contract ends in two years, Tennent’s may have decreased its prices enough to be financially viable for the Union bar.
Freshers’ Week and the Bop
Ms O’Connor’s belief that alternative acts attract students has been confirmed with the financial success of Freshers’ Week 2016. Ms O’Connor credits this to her own experience as an international fresher at the Union, which led to her booking an array of acts that every student could appreciate.
The Union’s financial success has extended to the weekly Bop night. Operating under the philosophy that she would never “plan a party [she] wouldn’t go to,” Ms O’Connor has dedicated a budget to Bop decorations. Aided by the Union PR team (an initiative developed by previous DoES Chris Macrae), Ms O’Connor’s Bops boast the best numbers of the past five years.
One unfulfilled aspect of Ms O’Connor’s manifesto is the addition of fishbowls to the Union bar. Instead, Ms O’Connor has focused on drink deals and partnerships with sponsors (such as October’s Jack Daniel’s Bop). The absence of fishbowls from the Main Bar is attributed to health and safety, and their absence from the Beacon Bar is due to the decreased efficiency that accompanies mixing larger drinks.
Fishbowls have made appearances at select student events such as RAG Week’s Sangria Night. Beyond that, they have proved to be unviable.
Operating under the philosophy that she would never “plan a party [she] wouldn’t go to,” Ms O’Connor has dedicated a budget to Bop decorations.
In 2016, Ms O’Connor expressed a desire to further the Union’s partnership with student societies and the Athletic Union. All but two of her Wednesday nights this year have been partnered with an AU sports team (such as hockey’s popular Rodeo Night), and staples such as the John Wookey Memorial Game after-party will continue to be held at the Union.
Ms O’Connor has also organised the most collaborative Bops out of any prior directors. LGBT+, the Charities Campaign, On the Rocks, and RAG Week are among this past year’s hosts. The Union’s online venue booking form has further aided societies in need of event spaces.
“I think we’ve done a good job of working with [societies],” Ms O’Connor said. “It’s a hard promise to quantify, but as nobody has any questions and everybody’s voices are being heard, you know that you’re doing it right. That’s been one of the best parts of this year.”
Students will also be gratified to learn that the Union is in the process of having a water fountain installed upstairs.
On paper, Ms O’Connor has fulfilled or made steps to fulfil the majority of her campaign promises. She has presided over a time of financial success for the Union, and her policies will lay the groundwork for increased society collaborations in the years to come.