St Andrews is a town full of age, from crosses on streets to medieval swords on the Library lawns. It comes as no surprise that this extends to our events culture, where history plays a key part, but continuity can introduce a sense of boredom. Some events become so well established in fact that the creative thrill which one coursed through them has now given way to the ebb and flow of slight layout changes and the occasional new food stand. No such difficulties with Szentek last year however, whose incredible success in 2016 made it one of the events of the year. With great success however, comes great hype, and, as I went to meet my first semester hero once again, the stakes were high.
An hour into the event and it seems I needn’t have worried, far from a disappointment it seemed that Szentek 2017 had managed to entertain crowds while taking on a slightly different vibe. While the previous year had embodied a sense of Budapest Ruin-Bar madness, this year seemed to have a more relaxed vibe, seeming more open from the moment I arrived. Equally, the music was a marked improvement on last year, with the set by Palms Trax proving particularly popular as the night went on. Guests were also treated to a range of choice in terms of environment, as the eclectic and otherworldly pieces of art displayed throughout the main area melted into the darkness of the side rave room, only to lure you hypnotically back towards the shifting scenes of Blue Planet 2. Unlike the rigidity and formality of other event scenarios, Szentek had managed to bring even the least alternative people out of their shells (something I can vouch for as the owner of a Barbour, red chinos, and black Labrador).
In actual fact, one of the best parts of the night was delivered not by the committee themselves, but by the guests. Across dancefloor and walkway alike the halls of Kinkell were thronged with original outfits and outlandish creations. From branded indie-wear to home-made inventions and veteran costumes the citizens of Fife had pulled out all the stops to make sure they fitted in with the swirling colours of the venue. Faced with such competition from the alternative artists of the town, I made sure not to mention that my shirt was from my Gap Year.
Nonetheless, the committee still has something to learn from its success last year, and the ruin bar culture it attempts to emulate. The ruin bar carries with it an attention to extremes, an obsession even. The spaces either epitomise a near claustrophobic assault on the senses, or an eye-opening vastness that was achieved to some degree in Kinkell this year, but could still be better performed. The screen for instance would have acted well as a more separate area, somewhere to wander to when your ears are ringing to stimulate another part of your senses. Equally the nonchalant insertion of a political reference in the toilets last year almost made it seem like a part of the wider theme, while this year I could have been at any other event. The relaxed nature of the night worked, but without different areas separating the crowds the main area at times felt a tad empty. Though, saying that, it is worth remembering that the side room this year was far superior to last year, with a vibe that bears a strong resemblance to the ruin bar cellars of Hungary’s capital.
Szentek 2017 nailed many of the factors that I learned to love both visiting Hungary and going to Kinkell last year. There can no doubt that the musical and artistic choices made by the committee proved that we cannot pin down St Andrews’ most unpredictable event to a label. Talking to guests afterwards and in the following days it has been one of the few events where people have an opinion on what was awe-inspiring or what could have been done better. It is remarkable to see just how much people seem to care about Szentek. I can only be sure of one thing, the hope that when I walk in next year, my efforts to replace my Gap Year wardrobe will be rewarded with another serving of originality and flare.