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Opening Ball: A Classy Launch to the Academic Year

Ilaria Freccia reviews the first ball of the black-tie season.

On Saturday, St Andrews students made their way in droves to the Madras Pitches for the first ball of the season. Stopping for a firework show on the Old Course and switching out trainers for heels, the streets of St Andrews were littered with students in their finest attire.

The ball was highly-anticipated. After a string of disrupted events, students showed up with enthusiasm, generating large crowds that eagerly awaited a night of prosecco and dancing. The knowledge that the proceeds of the event would go towards three charities - Families First, Home Start East Fife, and Cosmos Community Centre - helped to justify the extravagance of the event and the high prices of the tickets.

Upon arrival, the Kate Kennedy Opening Ball was exactly what a ball should be: classy. With free prosecco, elegant white draped tents, and a group of bagpipe players at the entrance, the setup did not disappoint. The coat check was accessible and efficient - although made slightly more difficult by the large crowds that formed at the entrance searching for free drinks, reuniting with friends, and taking in the setup. There were two tents for students to enjoy. The main one had a large bar spanning the two walls, making it reasonably easy to get a drink, and a live band up front. The supporting acts were Ronan Baxter, half of Dundee’s disco diving duo Jute City Jam, and Downstem, St Andrew's own rock band. Later, Crazy P, the headlining act, came out and turned it up: once again proving the ability of St Andrews’ committees to bring an international name into town. The music was right on the money: singalong hits, from ABBA to Kings of Leon, were exactly what was needed from the evening.

The second tent, featuring a DJ with a large poster of a stormtrooper behind them, was a bit smaller creating a more intimate atmosphere. The music was a mix of languages and styles and it was fun to see the international side of St Andrews emerge through this. Polka Dot Disco Club, a DJ collective that empowers and champions women, trans, and non-binary creatives was a fantastic choice of act that proceeded to tear up the dancefloor.

Outside, there were plenty of tables set up that students used to eat burgers from the food truck, chat with friends, and take a smoke break. However, with temperatures down to 10℃ and as someone with both freshers' flu and a thin dress, not having any sort of heat lamps or even lighting outside was a huge downside of the event. It wasn't realistic to go and get my coat every time I stepped out to find a friend or get some fresh air, and I ended up spending a good portion of the night shivering.

With the event coinciding with the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship fireworks show, it was fairly difficult (for us freshers in particular) to find our way to the site. Crowds of firework-watchers filled the streets, making an already difficult trek in heels even more challenging and removing the opportunity to follow the other dressed-up groups. Especially after arriving at the Old Course Hotel, I wished that there had been some lights or signs put up to point us in the right direction. The walk was just far enough to feel too far, and after deciding to leave we were left with no choice but to hike back shivering and with sore feet because there was nowhere to find or call a taxi.

Regardless, the opening ball exceeded my expectations. They opened the school year and formal events season with a bang and left everyone with a night to remember (or not). After a rocky start to the year, they proved dependable, elegant, and well organized: it was a night to come together, listen to great music, and most of all, have fun.

Photo: Ilaria Freccia

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