St Andrews is saturated with societies. Open your Facebook or University email and you’ll see end-less posts, notifications, and messages all vying for your attention. “Come join us in…” and “interested in joining…”. The vendors desperate-ly bombard you with their products. Sigh. You don’t even bother clicking on most of these notifications. After all, you already made up your mind if you wanted to attend or not because you already know what the events are about without even having to click on these notifications. Fashion shows, balls, pub crawls/pres, food fairs and speaker events: there are so many societies doing extremely similar events to the point that they have become redundant.
Strip away all the societies and their events, and St Andrews would be just a town of three streets with overpriced restaurants and tourist shops. We know that there is no way to escape St Andrews; we live and breathe it. Walk to Tesco hungover in your pyjamas and you will embarrassingly encounter your lecturer or your friend’s ex. Unlike cities with lots of pre-existing cultures (and thus places to go and things to do), we are in an empty playground able to decide on the games we want to play. By playing dress-up for balls or trying new food at fairs, the societies and their events are essential as they offer us these distractions to give joy and meaning to our day to day lives. The wide range of societies from Pokémon to Beekeeping to Democrats Overseas allows us to find friends of similar interests to play with. It makes you feel like you have found your “thing” and have successfully established yourself in this small town.
Unfortunately, we keep playing the same games over and over again. Fashion shows, balls, and speaker events are always done by a multitude of societies. I don’t blame them for having extremely similar events though. We as the attendees have demanded these events to be repeatedly supplied. Additionally, the lack of funding for new societies by the University combined with the limited spaces in town makes it almost impossible for new societies to create alter-native, large-scale events. At the end of the day, their goal is to make profit for the continued existence of their society. Of course they will pick the safer option and create an event ensured to be successful instead of branching out to alternative, newer ones.
Sure, there are societies that offer unique experiences. I commend the societies that try to do something different in this limited place. Murder mystery night by Fine Food and Dining Society or Holi celebration by Sanskriti? Yes please. There must be similarly distinct events in St Andrews, but unfortunately it seems they are overshadowed by the countless generic events with bigger budgets, better marketing, and more popularity. It is not that I want to dis-count these generic events since they exist due to high demanded. We all love them. However, what I do wish is that more societies put an effort in doing something outside their norm and that these unique events are then more popularised in St Andrews. I understand that there are risks in putting on unique events, but it might be worth the risk if we want to make our playground more interesting.
When there are too many societies putting on extremely similar events, I can’t help but wonder whether there are just too many societies for this town in the first place. Look at the Facebook events page and you will see that there are at least three different events happening every single night. It could get tiring seeing the same thing over and over again. There are also some societies that are just too similar with each other. They constantly have the same sort of events that it seems easier from the outside to ask them to join up and produce one event instead of competing with each other and making the public choose which event to attend.
Despite this, there will never be a decrease of societies in St Andrews. The Union will never enforce a limit to the number of societies because that would result in an unnecessary oligopoly. Even though it seems as if they have similar events, these societies exist in the first place because their basic values hold unique missions. Furthermore, it allows pretty much everyone in St Andrews to hold some sort of committee position to pamper up their CV and make themselves feel important. When everything is considered, all these societies must exist to ensure inclusivity.
I would also encourage students to try out more different events or societies. They may be overshadowed by the bigger, better marketed events but checking them out may pleasantly surprise you. This town is oversaturated with societies but this is our playground, so let make it interesting.