Bacchanalia: an evening of debauched culture

Emily Lomax reviews Bacchanalia's debut.


Nobody quite knew what the elusive Bacchanalia would be like, but plenty rocked up at Younger Hall on Friday to see what happens when music, culture, wine and art combine in a Greek-themed event. The result: lots of fun, and a lovely ambience. People danced, sat around, chatted – it was a sociable affair, very easy-going, especially as no buses were involved.

I was intrigued as to how Younger Hall would function as a venue, and while it felt a perhaps a little like a church hall – the kind of place you would take ballet classes in – the curation of the space made it only work in the events’ favour: from the white “statues” in the doorway as you walked in (it was good to see laid-off statues dancing in the main hall too, enjoying their retirement), to the life-drawing corner, to the main stage – you could tell that lots of planning, imagination, and zest had gone into the conception and curation of the night.

The event lighted away from usual balls, not relaxing back into any formulaic moulds which only ever seem to goad us into getting bevved. For this reason, there was a really happy bunch to be found at Bacchanalia: no bleary-eyed zombies, but instead a lot of spirited dancing, enjoyment of the music, exploration of what was on offer. A pleasant degree of Bacchanalia was achieved. Also, I was exhausted and was very glad that Younger Hall was a space and a place that lent itself to chilling – from the chaise lounge (a mildly exhibitionist place to sit, providing a popular photo opportunity) to the rows of seats at the back where you could just have a good old sit down. Ideal.

The features of the night were hit and miss perhaps, but this didn’t matter for the whole event at all. The music was fantastic, and the stage the star of the show; an eclectic mix of folk and folky pop and indie and jazz. A little corner entwined with leaves served as a philosophical garden, but really it was a nice hang-out zone. I enjoyed sketching people by the chaise lounge, and there were plenty of paper and pens provided. The cave of the Delphic oracle was fanatic – echoing, cold, candle-lit, while the oracle herself was perhaps a little vague and saccharine, her advice was that of a kindly friends’ mum. But it was still a very nice touch – a nice atmospheric contrast to the warmth above.

Hades (an underground chamber filled with the bouncing disks of discos lights but devoid of people) was a bit of a ghost town – there must have been more saints than sinners present at Bacchanalia. The event was enjoyed much more for its folky, jazzy vibes than anything remotely underground.

Overall, Bacchanalia was low-key, lovely, busy enough that it buzzed but without having to weave through people, and you could feel the creativity and enthusiasm that had gone into its creation – none of it felt contrived because it felt home-grown. It occupied a new terrain, away from large-scale balls and basic bops: this was a different sort of social event for the fairly unchanging St Andrews calendar. And at £15, the tickets were a great price – much cheaper than other balls, for an evening of superior music and dancing. Hats off to Bacchanalia.


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