I was initially unsure about my motivations for wanting to buy a ticket for DRA Ball. I am no longer a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed fresher, spending an inordinate amount of money for an event because “I have to try everything once”, I do not live in DRA (nor do I know anyone who does) and I am not a DRA alumnus. However, as soon as the Facebook event for the ball was created, I was drawn in by the slick graphics and the creative theme. As such, I decided I would put aside any qualms I had about going and pay Lower College Lawn a visit on the 22nd of February.
The event itself was set to start at 8 o’clock and finish (as is customary) at 2, giving ball-goers an ample time-frame to make their way there. Despite people heading to an event at 8 o’clock on the dot being the stuff of myths (or a pleasure reserved to ball committee) I was nevertheless surprised by the flurry of people crowding in and around Sallie’s quad on the hour. This, and the constant gaggle of taxis clustering around the quad entrance, gave the entire atmosphere a sense of commotion and made my quasi-disillusioned, critical second-year-self feel excited for the night to come.
Upon my arrival and as a more seasoned ball-goer, I decided to forgo the coat-check (and its infamous queue) and made my way directly into the tent. Even though I had attended the ball last year I wasn’t sure about what to expect, but ended up being surprised both by the way the event had been organised and how it had learnt from “mistakes” some of the past balls I had been to had, in my opinion, made.
Firstly, I must give a shout-out to the DJs who played at the event. It felt as though the music had matured and graduated from the tracks you hear ad nauseam at seemingly every event you go to at this university. Even though we are all flawed and sometimes love some cheesy school disco tunes, I actually felt like this time I could dance to the music; and if my friends’ increasingly daring dance moves were anything to go by it seemed like they did too. It might be because I joined the event a bit later, but I do not recall hearing a single “Hips Don’t Lie” or “Mr Brightside”, which made me wonder whether I was in St Andrews at all in the best of ways. Additionally, the people on the dancefloor distributed themselves in a gradient so if at any point it felt too packed it was really easy to move a couple of metres away for some breathing space.
The space at the back of the tent also offered a calmer, “rest-and-digest” area. Apart from featuring seating spaces, which I’m sure everyone wearing heels was incredibly thankful for, there were also arcade-style games, an air-hockey table and various food stands: offering burgers, wraps and ice cream. The food definitely seemed to be a hit, as I am pretty sure that the percentage of people I saw with a burger started to exceed the number of people with a drink in their hand as the night went on. The waiting-time at the bar, which can be incredibly painful, was never overly long and people seemed to get served quite quickly. The same cannot be said of the queue for the coat-check or, yes, you guessed it, the women’s toilets. However, I do realise that these are ball staples and are outside the jurisdiction of the ball organisers; I hope everyone gets to make their peace with it one day, I know I’m still trying.
A lot of time had also gone behind the concept, everything from the graphics on their social media, to the Mario Bros. themed event wristbands to the menus on the bar seemed to have been done with care and were all fun nudges to the theme. Keeping in mind that Lower College Lawn is a large area to decorate, the arcade theme might have been a bit unfortunate in that the flashiness and garishness reminiscent of classic videogames makes a lack of decoration more apparent. Whereas the back of the tent lent itself nicely to the over-saturated, neon quality of an arcade, the front seemed like it had been neglected a little bit. So, if there is one (admittedly unqualified) complaint I might have about the décor, it would be to have carried the theme through to the entirety of the venue as to tie the space together more coherently.
Finally, the event partnered up with the Schistosomiasis Control Initiative (SCI): a charity involved in providing cheap medicine through African governments to prevent parasitic infections in children. On the event page the ball claimed to be able to raise money to protect 2,500 children for 10 years against infection if it sold out, and given the amount of people there and the high demand for tickets on the university pages on Facebook, I’d say they have managed to hold up their end of the bargain.
Overall the event did not take itself too seriously, which would have been off-brand given the theme, in my opinion. It played up on its strengths but also acknowledged its limitations, and as far as Saturday nights in St Andrews go, I think a lot of people got its fever.