In the depths of last Semester St Andrews found itself in a lull, as deadlines and the ever decreasing amount of daylight started to make the town sink into itself. However, little did students know that they would soon be summoned from their now uninventive diet of toast and Supernoodles by the arrival of a new event conceived in the drink-drenched house parties of Raisin. As they were barraged by cover photo changes and vague number shifting Facebook posts the responses were varied, some excited, some angry, most confused. So I found myself in Pret on Friday, ready to interview the directors of St Andrews’ newest event: Elaga.
The Saint: Why does St Andrews need Elaga?
Elaga: St Andrews has a really limited amount of music, especially music events. We’re able to bring in great artists and also, at the same time, help people really nurture their own careers. We think that, as long as there is a platform, and as long as we’re able to provide that platform, we should be trying to build on it and bring something new to the table. It also goes back to that cultivation of art, because we are so keen on making that a huge part of our event. We’re giving people national exposure for their artwork the way that a lot of universities in London do, for example when art universities are able to do exhibition weeks and have scouts and talent recruiters coming. We’re not actually looking to bring scouts in, but we’re looking to give them huge exposure on social media, huge exposure through press, that kind of thing. We want people to have that new event feeling, we want something that’s completely new, we want something that people can walk into and get honestly excited about, something that they just haven’t experienced before. Something that breaks the mould of having your entire year planned out already. When people say, ‘Oh I’m going to FS, I’m going to Dont Walk, May Ball, I’m going to Polo, Szentek. We want something so people think ‘Oh wow maybe I should reconsider’: it’s spontaneous.
TS: Why Craigtoun Park?
Elaga: I run everywhere around St Andrews and I would always run up to Craigtoun Park. I go up there and it’s so beautiful, there’s these playgrounds and there’s trampolines in the ground which is so exciting. It’s gorgeous, and it makes you feel like you’re outside of St Andrews even though it’s literally in St Andrews, I can run up there in 25-30 minutes. I was talking to one of the local marquee guys and he said ‘yeah I used to throw events up at Craigtoun Park, they used to do May Ball up there twenty years ago’. You know when we were talking about the event we thought we’ve got such a great idea for a venue, let’s use Craigtoun Park, let’s bring it back, let’s make it good again. And the thing is with Craigtoun Park is it’s suffering. It’s kind of old, the Dutch Village has been condemned, some of the buildings are falling apart, they don’t have a lot of money, and Fife Council isn’t allowed to grant them that. So they were really interested in us because we’re able to give them the money to rebuild a bit so I think in a way we’re able to give back to St Andrews. Also it’s just so naturally stunning, it’s not like Lower College Lawn where there’s nothing on the field and there’s just Sallies. There’s this long, gorgeous Cyprus road where Van Halen played in the 80’s of all people. Craigtoun Park has an amazing history, half of which isn’t even documented online, but local St Andrews people have come to us and told us these stories of the park so we’re just really excited to bring in the historical element of St Andrews, which I don’t think a lot of students know about.
TS: Interesting to make your committee all your friends as opposed to holding interviews?
So it wasn’t really our friends, they definitely became our friends but I’ll be honest I didn’t know about half of the committee at all before Elaga, not even as acquaintances. It wasn’t nepotism actually because the thing with us is we sat down and thought ‘who gets s**t done? Straight up who gets s**t done?’
TS: Any Crazy Ideas?
Elaga: We once had the genuine idea to fly a plane. We considered getting a plane to fly a banner that says Elaga on it. However, apparently Leuchars has rules for flying because they’re an airfield. We said at the time, is this going to be a problem with the military? The fact is that we consider everything and nothing’s immediately shot down.
TS: Could you tell me about your upcoming DJ competition for those who don’t know what it is?
Elaga: So basically there’s going to be a night at The Rule, DJ’s have applied already. We’re going to get a polling system up on the screen behind the bar. You’ll go on your phone, you’ll vote for which DJ you think is the best at the set time and it’s going to be a live poll. And then the top three get sent off to our judges and they’ll come back with critiques. It’s the talent director of Tomorrowland, the project director of electric zoo, and the founder of All Axcess. You have to start somewhere and this is a phenomenal place to start. These guys are dealing with huge names like Garixx or Avicii, they’re good friends with these guys. I think if I was a DJ I definitely would apply to that because that would give me the chance to see how I stack up against everyone else.
One of our fellow studentsnon St Feuddrews pointed out that on your Urban Dictionary definition you are looking to host a very diverse set of attendees, and yet obviously you’re one of the most expensive events St Andrews has, care to comment?
Elaga: So, the urban dictionary, we don’t actually know where it originates from, which is fine. It’s up, we’re going to take responsibility at the end of the day. On St Feuddrews, if you have a real point, make it.
TS: So you guys have no involvement in the Urban Dictionary?
Elaga: We’ll take responsibility even though it wasn’t us, to be fair every time something is posted on St Feuddrews we literally sold like thirty tickets, it was ridiculous. All press is good press. Some of them did have valid points, because I understand that there are people on serous budgets here and we do respect that. We really wish we could go at £20 but the thing is that production costs are expensive, marquee costs are expensive, just running an event is expensive. Also more importantly you’ve got to consider the context, you pay around £50 for Octoberfest for beer, or you pay £50 to bring in world acclaimed acts. Because, this is a small town in the middle of Scotland and people need to understand the context of it: it’s very hard getting all these acts out to St Andrews. I understand if you’re from Edinburgh or London you might think differently ‘oh but they do it in Edinburgh or London’: but it’s Edinburgh or London.
TS: And it’s based on trust?
Elaga: It’s very hard. We wish we had photos and videos to offer people but we don’t because we’re a first time event. The only thing I can say to that is that we’re going to try and give you the best value for your money at the event. When we’re booking stuff we’re like can people just pay the base price of the ticket and bring some money for alcohol at the bar but then can we make all the attractions free, can we try to discount food, can we prepay for some of the vendors, these are considerations that we are going through and we are spending a lot of money on. I mean its not like other events don’t do that, other events definitely do that as well. We don’t make any money from this, we try to put it all back into the event. Everyone on the committee signs something saying we aren’t going to take money from the event.
TS: So to clarify people on the committee signed a contract saying that they weren’t going to take money?
Elaga: We’re not getting any money.
TS: Obviously other events are charitable so how do you defend that?
Elaga: We really consider ourselves to be a social enterprise, with that being that we focus a lot, say, helping fix up Craigtoun. We are putting a lot of extra money towards that, we are paying them a venue fee, but the hope is that we’re able to give more back to them. There’s just so much we could do there. At the end of the day we’re not going out there and saying we have a mission of town and gown relations, I’ll leave that to the KK. But you know, if they can get a better impression of students that makes us feel pretty good about what we’re doing there. And if we can, at the same time, cultivate the arts, we can put St Andrews on the map. You know Visit Scotland has put us on their site? A local Fife newspaper reported on us and all of us were sitting there thinking ‘who contacted them?’ No one had, but reporters have Facebook too. It (Craigtoun) was a big deal back in the day and people are definitely excited to have that coming back, we’ve got some really good vibes from locals, they said yeah, this is awesome we want to have good music.
Elaga: St Andrews spoke and they’ll get what they voted for, there are some surprises to expect as well. There’s more to come, stay tuned over the next couple of weeks.
TS: Post Malone?
Elaga: Sadly although he liked the prospective there was an issue of funds.
In a closing statement Elaga said: ‘You can change a theme but you can’t change an event. We invite St Andrews to experiment with us.’ Whether their lofty claims as artistic patrons or their apparent support by the local community despite it being a student attended event are true or not one thing is certain, that Elaga will face a great deal of pressure when crowds gather on Saturday 7 April.
(Details can be found on Elaga’s website, Elaga.co.uk, or on their Facebook page.)