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Club 601: The Stagnant Monopoly of St Andrews Nightlife?

Hannah Shiblaq reflects on the ever-present (and never-changing?) club.

Club 601. The university’s social hub holds an absolute monopoly over nightlife in St Andrews. Whilst a night out can of course also include stops at other local venues like the Vic or the Rule, the inevitability of almost always ending up at the union is enough to make anyone laugh (or else you’ll cry).

It does make sense, given the union’s central location, regularly scheduled events, and affordable prices. From objective description, Club 601 has all the basic makings of a desirable hub for nights out.

Despite this authority, I can’t help but notice the combined eye-roll and sigh reaction to the words ‘601’ and ‘union’. However, if the union is almost solely responsible for providing electric hiatuses from weekly lectures and tutorials, then shouldn’t they always be worthwhile?

A couple of weeks ago, I attended Taylor Swift Bop at the union. The crowd was ablaze with a level of enthusiasm that I’ve only ever seen at a couple of other events hosted by the student union in the past. It was a hugely-successful and highly-popular evening, proving that the union is in fact perfectly capable of planning and executing incredible events. So, why haven’t they all been such hits?

I’d like to preface by stating that the union has indeed hosted its fair share of exceptional events. Despite this fact, however, the general student consensus teeters between appeal of convenience and stagnation of complacency. The union dominates St Andrews student nightlife: something that, I fear, has made them sloth-like in terms of ambition or improvement.

Behind every union event is the largely student-run ENTS crew. According to the union website, the crew “offers training [in] lighting, sound, and projection, plus opportunities to run events in the union”. It exists as a subcommittee funded by the union directly, so anyone with interest can join.

Lucy Brook, the Director of Events and Services for the University’s Students Association, spent five years as a member and now oversees the entirety of ENTS Crew.

“As the union event organiser, I tend to run events that appeal to a large more ‘mainstream’ audience but I have been pushing this year to have a wider range of events and genres”, she told me.

In fact, she even revealed that the massively successful Taylor Swift Bop was the product of a submission on the events suggestions page, which students can use to provide the union with feedback. At the end of the day, students know what students like. At a relatively small university like St Andrews, interests, trends, and opinions spread quickly.

“We are here to help students do what they want to do”, said Brook, “so we will always try to make an event that a student wants to happen, happen”.

She has also ensured that this coming semester promises a myriad of themed events that directly target students’ interests.

I have observed that the most successful Union events have had themes intended for specific audiences. Taylor Swift Bop appeals to the university’s vast Swifite population, Rewind appeals to fans of particular musical eras, and Sinners appeals to sports fans and team-players alike.

People want to feel seen and as though their interests are appreciated. What’s more, even if every single event-goer isn’t a Taylor Swift fan, or a retro music enjoyer, or a fan of sports, it doesn’t matter. Enthusiasm is contagious. If one observes another basking in their passions, they will match this excitement tenfold.

Union events are most exciting when the crowd itself is excited. If no one knows any of the songs, then no one will sing along, leading to a dissatisfied crowd. If the lighting is relatively bright, the mystery and intrigue of the club setting dissipates. Small tweaks to everyday 601 shortcomings could ultimately make a world of difference.

Whilst St Andrews is not well-known for its nightlife, it absolutely could be. It is a small coastal town oriented around a 610 year-old university; but the population consists of young adults who like to go out and are innovative in terms of making their own fun. In my view, the union has a golden opportunity to utilise its supportive crowd and surrounding resources to its advantage.

Image: YourUnionEvents on Facebook

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