When thinking about Szentek, there are a few things that come to mind; the feeling of being in Kinkell Byre surrounded by psychedelic colours and art, the fine techno music that is a breath of fresh air for electronic music lovers in St Andrews, getting ready for a Szentek event, dressing freely with the right to go completely crazy… These feelings were what made me fall in love with Szentek the minute I arrived in town, and what motivated me to join their committee as a second year. However, 2020 deprived us of these feelings, and so like everything else, this year has defied all expectations. This certainly wasn’t what I pictured when I first went to the launch event and told my friends that “next year I’ll be backstage.”
Though I’m sadly not in the post-Szentek 2020 state of euphoria, I can guarantee that being backstage has been more exciting than I had hoped. An exciting list of projects and plans has occupied Millie Delaney-Doust, director of operations this year, and she answered a couple of questions for Szentek lovers past, present, and future.
Before we look to the future, it’s important to understand what has happened this past year in the depths of the Szentek committee. When the realisation hit that November would be absent of the usual lights, music and colours, how did Delaney-Doust react? Despite a burning desire for everyone to enjoy Szentek freely and safely, she and the wider committee were devastated to realise that the craziness could not go ahead in its normal fashion. Further disappointment followed when they reached a consensus that an audience-free Szentek was not on the cards.
“There was hope for a second-semester event, and we did reschedule some dates with Kinkell, however with the current COVID situation it looks like it’s just not going to be safe in Semester Two. We did consider hosting some alternative live events which were compliant with regulations, but we decided that it would be too small – one of the things that Szentek stands for is inclusivity, we want everyone to come and party with us rather than limiting the number of people who can attend.”
Fortunately, there was a way for the Szentek spirit to remain alive without putting the community at risk. Students became increasingly familiar with the backgrounds of Szentek DJs through regular Facebook live events, filling the hole that covid has left for music lovers. As of last Summer, in an effort to establish a creative outlet for all artists, musicians and party lovers, members of Szentek began producing articles about music and artwork. These showcases have been a great success for the team, and an amazing way to dig deeper into the topics that we love to broadcast at our usual huge events. The key, however, to successfully maintaining and transmitting the Szentek atmosphere, has been collaboration. As Delaney-Doust later said: “We’ve been collaborating with loads of interesting people all over Scotland and have some great stuff in the pipeline. ASHA Sound System have very kindly passed on creative control of We Will Dance Again Vol. III to the Szentek team. WWDA is a day takeover of EH-FM, the Edinburgh-based online radio station, and we’re super excited to be working with the EH-FM gang again.”
The essence of collaboration is present in every event or project that Szentek has put together thus far. Size doesn’t necessarily matter. From small-scale events like the colour-in project created by the graphics team, where exclusive Szentek designs can be printed and completed; to the collaborations mentioned by Millie, and finally the Szine. The Szine, the first in-print art publication signed by Szentek, is due to be released soon. This gives artists in St Andrews an opportunity to contribute to the theme in any way they want and have fun in the process. The theme, ‘Art of the Apocalypse’ is a tongue in cheek nod to the crazy year we have lived through. The publication will be accompanied by a virtual launch party, to showcase the original and exciting art for which Szentek is so renowned.
While our first thoughts of Szentek may be memories from music events; the first priority of the committee is its charitable mission. Before anything else, Szentek is a charitable cause that is deeply rooted in its values. Delaney-Doust stressed that one of her top reasons for keeping Szentek’s online presence strong despite the adversities of this year is that once the pandemic is over, incoming students will have the same chance to get excited and fully experience Szentek. As one of St Andrews’ few large events committed to maximum accessibility, Szentek pairs lower ticket prices and promotion of a world where everyone is free to be their true self. In addition to these core values, Szentek maintains a strong relationship with its charitable partner, Variety Scotland. This cause speaks to the hearts of the Szentek committee and their online presence this year has called increasing attention to this partnership.
“Just before the Christmas break, we had our first ever Charity Week, where every day we used our social media platforms to highlight the incredible work Variety does to help kids living below the poverty line, or with disabilities. We also did a toy drive to help Variety with their Christmas toy campaign, where families living in poverty are given presents distributed by Variety, to ensure that no child goes without. The biggest downside to not having in-person, ticketed events is not being able to raise a significant sum of money for Variety – in 2019 we managed to donate £10,000 from ticket sales – a huge amount which makes a real difference for Scottish kids.
Moving on from events, hopes, and plans for the Szentek community, Millie answered a question that has been on my mind since the first online event with Szentek and ASHA Sound System, and the cancellation of Szentek 2020. This question not only permeated my everyday reflections but comes up every time I mention my committee role or discuss life post-COVID – when will we dance again?
“Honestly, I have no idea when we can safely dance again. It seems the COVID situation is changing on a near-weekly basis, so I don’t think anyone can predict when this will all be over. Because of this uncertainty, I don’t have anything set in stone yet (don’t want to jinx anything!) but we have Szentek 2021 pencilled in for this coming November, so my fingers and toes are crossed that by then we can go ahead with a big party. I will have graduated by then, but you had best believe I will be making an appearance. If you wanna catch me, I’ll be front left.”
It is no secret that 2020 has been a year full of difficulties and disappointments. But, to coin a phrase, I’d say that every cloud indeed has a silver lining. While the fact that our beloved events being cancelled for a year really did shatter our hearts over at Szentek HQ, it also gave us the possibility to channel the immense creative potential of our community at unimaginable levels. I’ll quote Millie once again to finish this ode to the Szentek community and to all music and art lovers who can’t wait for our return: “The committee’s passion for eclectic artwork and dance music still remains, and has perhaps even strengthened in lockdown. Now more than ever we are desperate for a sweaty dance floor.” We sure hope to see you there soon.
If you would like to submit something to the Szine please check out the info below:
Submissions can be produced digitally or physically but should be submitted as an A4 PDF file and sent to email@example.com with a subject heading “Szine Entry” and your name. All submissions should be completed by 12 noon on 22nd March. If your work is selected for inclusion you will be sent a form to complete with further details about you and your submission.