A Fresher's Guide to Arts and Culture in St Andrews
Updated: Sep 8, 2021
The cultural vibrancy of St Andrews as a town might be hard to picture given its small size, but every street is fueled with a creative energy of its own. There's so much to discover—not only about town but also about yourself—whilst trying out different societies or simply immersing yourself in the culture of St Andrews. Be it watching a play you’re studying for your English degree in the Byre Theatre or walking into Fraser Gallery to admire the artworks it hosts, there is something for everyone. Not only does the town have its own student run theatre where plays and musicals are performed, but also a number of publications including The Saint, which you are (in fact) currently perusing. It would be fitting to say that the next four years are undoubtedly the best time to step out of your comfort zone. The art and culture of St Andrews unlocks many avenues for that purpose, from theatre and music to fashion and journalism.
A cow-barn-turned-theatre, the Byre hosts both amateur and professional performances ranging from Pop Up Opera, classical film screenings and comedy shows. The Just So Society which specialises in musical theatre also puts up their performances here alongside other clubs such as the Dance club. The Mermaids Performing Arts Fund is a subcommittee of the Students Union of which all matriculated students are immediately a part. As a frontrunner of the performing arts, Mermaids is the right fit for anybody interested in acting, directing productions, screenwriting and set design. Recently, Mermaids performed Arthur Miller's The Crucible and Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House at the Barron Theatre. The Barron will be open this year, but running operations in the studio at the Byre as the Barron Theatre site on North Street was closed in January. Similarly, the Gilbert and Sullivan Society (G&S) performs and recreates the comic operas of the playwright W.S Gilbert and composer, Arthur Sullivan. Student run productions are not only performed in St Andrews but also taken all the way to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
This year the G&S Society's play The Sorcerer and the Gondoliers was performed at the Fringe—a platform where several filmmakers, producers, and actors first start their careers. Phoebe Waller Bridges' show Fleabag, for example, was first performed at the Fringe long before she produced it as a TV series. This opportunity is one you cannot miss, especially if you feel passionate about theatre and believe in the power of performance. To quote Bertolt Brecht, "Don't expect theatre to satisfy the habits of its audience, but to change them."
Music and Fashion
The musical scape of St Andrews is a synthesis of everyday pop, hip-hop, indie, and electronic beats. There is something in and around town to cater to every musical taste. Naturally, your taste in music will evolve throughout your time at university, especially as you come across an amalgam of tunes and beats you never thought you'd be jamming to. Musical festivals you should look out for include the On the Rocks Festival (the second largest student run arts festival), and Szentek, playing electronic dance beats that are underrated and unheard of, but that never fail to make it a night to remember. Both student DJs and others from all over the country come to perform for their events making it incredibly unique. Another trailblazer when it comes to discovering new music and social parties is the Rap and Hip-Hop Society. VS Creatives is also known for their trendy hip hop house parties and streetwear fashion shows. Every fresher should at least go to one event hosted by VS to experience the vibrant and vibey atmosphere they manage to achieve. For all those who are into fashion, modelling, and styling, the St Andrews Fashion Show (FS) and Sitara are definitely ones to keep an eye out for.
Art Galleries and Journalism
In addition to various student-run societies such as the ArtSoc, St Andrews is full of art galleries like the Fraser, Sproson and Junor gallery. The Sproson Gallery houses still life paintings, prints and landscapes of scenic locations in and around St Andrews, most of which you'll be seeing as you walk the streets. To those of you who are interested in analysing the intricate details of paintings and sculptures, writing for the Art Pot Magazine is highly recommended. The Calliope Arts Journal is another artsy platform for anybody who likes to write about topics ranging from fashion to film. The Saint is also a great platform for students to both keep up with local news and contribute to its discourse, as any St Andrews student may submit articles to The Saint for publication.
Just Those Essentials
These are some of the essential university pages which you should follow throughout your time at St Andrews if you want to keep yourself in the loop. Not only do these make life easier, but also keep you informed of all the major events happening around town:
The Saint Newspaper (http://www.thesaint.scot/)
Mapstone Condensed provides important updates released by the University in a short and concise format. (Facebook: @mapstonecondensed)
Mermaids Performing Arts Fund (https://www.mermaidstheatre.com/)
Gilbert and Sullivan Society (https://gilbertandsullivan.wixsite.com/standrews)
Instagram: @standrewsfreshers @Artpot.magazine, @phonipolis, @vscreatives.group, @szentek.sta, @rapandhiphopsoc, @ontherocks festival, @calliopeartsjournal, sitara_2022, @fs.standrews, @justsosociety.
When it comes to exploring all that the town has to offer, it will be natural for many of you to feel afraid or worried about joining societies, some of which hold interviews and have auditions. Don't fret too much about the outcome because at the end of the day, the journey you undertake defines you more than your final destination. So just get out there and jump into the sea, feel the adrenaline that comes with it and don't regret it even for a second.
To quote Walt Whitman, "the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse." You decide what yours will be.
Sairaa Bains - Arts &Culture - Deputy Section Editor)