Getting artsy in St Andrews: where to create and inspire

Lydia's design for the On the Rocks 2013 festival

In the autumn of 2012, I came to St Andrews as a junior year abroad (JYA) student from Sarah Lawrence College in New York, where I studied (and continue to study) creative writing and literature. I also do illustration, photography, graphic design, and printmaking. I wanted to continue my creative work during my year abroad and so in St Andrews…

I got involved with:

Inklight, the creative writing society, which was piloted last year by Carly Brown (ranked fourth-best slam poet in the world as of June 2013, when she competed in the World Series in Paris). This year, Rosa Campbell takes the helm and that is honestly reason enough to join the society. They host weekly writing sessions at the Whey Pat, a number of poetry slams throughout the year and certain specialized events such as Rhythm and Metre that combined live jazz and poetry. If poetry isn’t your thing, don’t worry. They host postgrad-led workshops throughout the year that span many genres, monthly open mics, and there was a group that participated in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). I hear there are going to be even more organised sessions during the month this year. The society also puts out a journal of original student writing at the end of the year.

On the Rocks, the largest student-run arts festival in Scotland. Patrons include, but are not limited to, Judi Dench, Helen Mirren and Sean Connery. Newest patron as of last year: Andy Serkis. I was lucky enough to design for the festival last year and so I know just how much goes into making it a success (more people than you think, more hours than you think). The festival spans a week in April and I believe there were around 35-40 events. Lots of theatre, lots of music (including Rhythm and Metre), lots of art/photography shows, and events that can’t really be pigeon-holed such Re-Score, an event where a group of students wrote an entirely original score to No Country For Old Men and then performed it live during a screening of the film. There are about a million ways to get involved, whether it’s being part of an event, organising your own, volunteering or applying for open committee positions (like this year’s designer).

I kind of and/or unofficially got involved with:

Art Soc (Art Society). Though I never officially became a member, I was involved with numerous Art Soc events. I helped set up one of the major shows of the year, which took place in the then-president of Art Soc’s flat, and attended both the first and second semester creative lock-ins (which were held at our very own Barron Theatre). The flat show was incredible, complete with foliage woven across a ceiling and live music performances in the kitchen. The lock-ins were even better: art supplies provided (though bring your own to supplement), biscuits and tea provided (bring a mug unless you want a tiny plastic cup), and live music through the night. It’s an opportunity to be creative in whatever way suits you – whether that’s drawing, painting, writing, sculpting, knitting, anything – in an environment where other people are doing the same thing. A little advice: get there when it starts if you want a seat that’s not in a back corner somewhere where the light doesn’t really reach you. Art Soc’s other major thing is weekly life drawing sessions (free for members) and then other randomly interspersed events like explorations of automatic drawing and a version of speed dating where you draw people instead of say awkward platitudes on Valentine’s Day. As well, I was able to experience ArtSoc’s collaboration with Music is Love, a massive collective of artists and musicians in St Andrews that hosts concerts where art supplies is provided and the audience sketches/works in their preferred artistic medium. These were some of my favorite events, and they inspired me to initiate similar nights at my family’s coffee shop in Colorado. Definitely a don’t-miss.

ST.ART Magazine. The student art publication that puts out several digital issues throughout the year and then a printed one at the end. They also host weekly creative sessions that centre around different activities (for some reason the only one I can remember is the origami one), but if you want to do your own thing and just need space to do it in, they’re cool with that. ST.ART has a good website, one of the highlights of which is their gallery section where they have pages devoted to student artists and their work. They also do quite a lot of other things, such as their relatively new expansion into music as well as other events throughout the year. Check out their site for more info. Little known fact: they accept writing submissions as well as art, so you writers can do that as well as the Inklight journal.

I wish I had gotten involved with:

Stereoscope Magazine, a photography publication. I wasn’t involved with them, but I do know that the publication they put out at the end of the year was the one of the best-designed student publications I’ve seen. They’re pretty understated when it comes to advertising/digital/non-digital presence, which I thought was refreshing. Also, as far as I understand it, their thing is combining contemporary student photography with archived St Andrews photography, which is pretty cool. Why didn’t I get involved? I have a specific memory of unfortunately being in the middle of essay panic when someone reminded me about the submission deadline. I’m not sure if they host other events during the year, but if they do, my guess is they’d be worth attending.

Be sure to look for Inklight, St. Art magazine, Art Soc, and Stereoscope during Freshers’ Week! On the Rocks is taking online applications for the upcoming 2014 festival. Note: not all creative groups in St. Andrews are directly affiliated with the University. Most of the ones that are can be found here. Be sure to ask around for which societies will suit your interests.


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