Deputy Editor, Ben Alderton, speaks out in defence of St Andrews’ events and their place in modern society.
A few weeks ago, I found myself sitting in the library, leafing through a left-over copy of this publication as a break from my usual and highly refined procrastination methods. There was a strong article from Viewpoint here, a frankly outstanding one from Events (as always) there, and, nestled comfortably by News, a Letter to the Editor.
The Letter was, in short, a Ceilidh enthusiast's vitriolic attack on black-tie events in St Andrews. I don't disagree with most of the points in this piece, but a select few claims and statements did stick in the throat. I will address these below.
I have no qualms with the assertion that some, indeed many, black tie events are "off the ball" (and the pun was very much appreciated too). But to attribute their disappointing nature to music choice seems oversimplistic. As far as I can see, the main issue with St Andrews balls is the price tag, not the music. Not only are they expensive to the extreme, but there is nearly always a discrepancy between expected and realised quality. A brief glance back at last semester conjures up recurrent visions of leathery chicken drowned in a congealed cream sauce, "served" to me at multiple +£60 events (if you know, you know). In all fairness to organisers, our town's relative geographic isolation limits the choice of providers. It makes it challenging to keep costs down. But, remarkably, the Letter abandons this well-trodden complaint, advocating instead for more expensive ticket prices… That's right- more expensive. The logic behind this? It would supposedly allow "committees running these balls to rip everyone off instead of giving scalpers the privilege". Extortionate ticket resale is a real issue in our town, but raising prices will hardly scare "scalpers" away. After all, the more expensive the ticket, the more one can cream off the top.
The argument also succumbs to multiple stereotypes and sweeping generalisations, some more problematic than others. For example, the assertion that "house and trap music is for boys" seems to explicitly (albeit probably inadvertently) exclude women from enjoying these genres: if they are "for boys", then what genres are "for girls"? Women are certainly underrepresented in the music industry, but to insinuate that none enjoy these two vast and diverse categories verges on the absurd. One need only attend a professional nightclub (think Warehouse Project, Printworks or Motion over 601, The VIC and The Rule) showcasing a well-known producer/ DJ to see a fairly equal balance of men and women, all lost in their favourite artist's performance.
Finally, the Letter is permeated by the misguided narrative that St Andrews' (weak) royal ties confer a quasi-fairytale status with which every ball must conform. This Disney fantasy, it argues, is to allow women to "find gentlemen and prince-charming, not boys". Having attended a fair few of these balls over my four years, I can guarantee that a silk lapel, champagne flute and bowtie will not magically transform a "boy" into a "gentleman". After all, "prince-charming" isn't usually found on North Street at 5 am, babbling to himself with the calling card of Shawarma house streaked down his white shirt.
In all seriousness, though I disagree with parts of the Letter, I agree with its basic premise: that events need to improve. I merely hope that this piece adds nuance, debunks myths and misconceptions and, in doing so, betters your Letter.
p.s. If you are actually looking for a "prince-charming" of some sort send James Carr a message, you won't regret it.