When one has to review events, one always encounters the same problem: it is impossible to describe it in a completely antiseptic, objective way. Whilst I could have had a normal night out, the next person could have had the best night of their lives (I am of course exaggerating; but it’s always best to keep things interesting), as so, anyone’s thoughts on a night out will always be slightly skewed by their own personal experience. So this review, whilst hopefully fair, will not be the end-all be-all on what happened on the night of 23 February on Lower College Lawn.
After this tragically long preamble, let’s jump right into what my thoughts on the night were: what was great and what could have been improved, all sprinkled with a few personal anecdotes (short anecdotes make for the best seasoning).
As a science student who lives in one of the further out halls (not DRA; I didn’t say the farthest), I don’t hang around the scenic parts of the university as much as health guidelines dictate I should. For this reason, whenever I venture into that end of North Street (you all know what I’m talking about) I still get that slightly star-struck feeling of “Oh my goodness, a building that wasn’t constructed in the 1970s”. Lower College Lawn, peeking from behind the beautifully lit St Salvator’s Quad, had been decked out in a massive marquee, which made me feel excited the moment I saw it from the Quad entrance. The latter was a photo-op waiting to happen, which seemed to make a lot of the ball-goers (myself included) stop and take pictures with their pals, the kind that toed the classy line between “I forgot to send a picture to my mother for the past few months, I’ll use one of these” and “classy Finsta post”.
The atmosphere changed upon entering the marquee: by the time I arrived the party was already in full swing and music was blaring from the dancefloor, located a flight of stairs away from the entrance. I dutifully left my coat at the coat check (bless the people working at said coat check, you are the unsung heroes of every ball) and made my way towards the action.
There were a lot of people. This made a feeling of contentment settle in my gut, the type you get when you hadn’t been sure whether to buy a ticket for something and all of a sudden you feel validated because now you know it was the right thing to do. It was packed but as I made my way further back into the monumental tent, the number of people started to abate and the atmosphere there was decidedly different from that at the front.
Near the DJ booth at the front, people were densely packed, and I for one had the life-changing experience of seeing people in suits forming mosh pits. I know I will never see this again. I am grateful to have witnessed it once in this life. The further back you went, the tamer the people became: most were getting pictures with the various white on-theme, Greco-style statues of Poseidon and Aphrodite (or so I think. This is where gaps in my classical knowledge start to emerge) and others were gaining a well-deserved breath from the madness up front.
The split between the two sides of the tent did not particularly phase me. However, the marquee was quite big and if there had been something big to fill it with such as the catwalk from FS (as a friend pointed out, thank you), it would have felt more “full” and this would have possibly given the ball a more “energetic” atmosphere, improving it.
The music sets were really nice; there were some good danceable numbers throughout the night (much to the detriment of my five-inch heel clad feet, they will be missed) and the lights used in said sets were quite exciting and cool. Definitely a nice change from the usual night out or some of the other balls I have been to.
There was a valiant effort at providing free food (ice cream and sweets) for the party-goers. In fact, at the beginning of the ball there was a small crowd that never seemed to get any smaller gathering around two Janetta’s ice cream counters excitedly, this conferred a bit of liveliness to the rear end of the marquee as everyone collectively went through a sugar rush. I have decided drunk people and sugar are the ultimate millennial power couple. Bags of free sweets were also handed out to the masses (or whoever felt self-indulgent enough), these contained little sea animal sweets which were deliciously on theme with the ball, whoever did that is definitely still patting themselves on the back (and so is the person who put the little temporary tattoos on the tables in the marquee).
The bars were vast expanses flanking the sides of the tent and I personally never had to queue to get a drink which was delightful. What was less delightful however, was the twenty minute queue I had to endure outside to gain access to a restroom for one minute. Although this is not the fault of the ball organisers, it would have been nice if there had been more restrooms available, so the waiting time would have been cut down. That having been said, the queue to the girls’ toilets was next to the porta-potties (which could be used by multiple men at once) and the highlight of my night definitely occurred when a random male student entered one of these and started chanting, leading the entire group of men in the porta-potty to start chanting too; truly a display of camaraderie in its purest form.
Overall, I would say I enjoyed my first hall ball experience. The tickets were reasonably priced for both residents (£5) and non-residents (£15), the catering was decent and the music was good. The only real problem with the entire event, in my opinion, was the hype it received in the runup to it. People were comparing it to Welly and Christmas ball, two titans of the St Andrews social calendar, and that, in my opinion, contributed to raising people’s expectations to unreasonable standards. Furthermore, a few older students compared this event to past DRA balls, with some saying they were “better”. As this is my first year here, I am not in a place to judge it by means of comparison, so I can only go from my experience of past (non-DRA) balls and only feel it’s right to give the ball organisers credit for putting together such a big event.
Finally, DRA ball was a fun night out. Will I go next year? I don’t know. A ball is a ball is a ball is a ball, and with so many happening here in St Andrews, in my opinion, you have to pick your battles and (in this case) your balls wisely.