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Review: On the Pebbles x Rusacks Hotel Arts Festival

Advertised as the UK’s largest student-run arts festival, the On the Rocks Arts Festival gave St Andrews students a memorable day with On the Pebbles. Starting mid-day, the festival filled 20 November with a number of exciting workshops, live music scenes, sales, and exhibitions. The day finished with the On the Pebbles After-party at the Rule. The festival successfully offered events catering to and covering a variety of artistic media. Through the Swap & Sale, a “sustainable clothing swap,” the Heart to Heart exhibition, and two watercolor workshops, students explored all types of artistic interests.

Sat in the majestic Rusacks Hotel’s rooftop dining area, gazing out on the deep blue waters and miniscule walkers of West Sands, it was hard to imagine any lovelier way to spend an afternoon. The cocktail in my hand may have influenced my bias just a bit: a champagne-based drink with whiskey, strawberry liqueur, and soda water which was misleadingly delicious. The effect of this concoction quickly influenced my understanding of my artistic abilities. Everyone around me seemed to be under the same spell. The beautiful weather brought out the bright colours of St Andrews’ Old Course, West Sands, and even the distant Dundee, as the cloud cover of our town had lifted for once, and visibility was high. There was a lot to paint, in short. The beautiful weather also ensured that almost nobody took the seats facing away from the great windows and balcony. Though all the tables were set up with painting equipment on either side, there were many viewless seats going a-begging. The On the Pebbles staff had kindly laid out the water, paint sets, and two different sized sheets of watercolor paper out by every setting. There was also a sheet detailing some techniques and inspiration for those of us who were only just being introduced to painting. Nonetheless, almost every work I could glimpse was of the beautiful view below.

As the Rusacks is eager to cultivate itself as a location for student societies to gather, and as the On the Rocks staff mentioned a possibility of more painting events in the future, I can warmly recommend trying your hand at watercolors there when they happen. It is a comfortable and soothing environment for creating your next masterpiece.

On the Rocks also allowed me to explore my love of live music. OTP At the Pub started at 5pmat the One Under Bar in the Rusacks Hotel. The Rusacks Hotel, recently under renovation, hosted two of the OTP events: the two watercolour workshops and this live music performance. The small show featured four performers: Hannah Koegler on the harp, Will Grabowski on the acoustic guitar, fiddle-duo Jack and James, and guitar-duo Nathan Frankel and Elliot Faber. The One Under Bar is in the lowest level of the Rusacks Hotel. With low-ceilings and darker tones, the room has a cosy atmosphere perfect for an intimate live music setting. Students chatted with friends over a drink and listened to these live performers’ music. I was able to make it for Locke’s performance, during which he played seven of his own songs, including “Addicted,” “Amsterdam,” “Benzene,” “Receipts,” “Residential Annoyance,” “Grasp,” and “Bedside Drawer,” and finished his performance with “Fisherman’s Blues” by the Waterboys. The acoustics of the room complemented Locke’s voice and the size of the venue allowed you to appreciate his ability while also feeling involved in the performance.

I also stayed for the fiddle-duo’s show. The pair drew the crowd in with their precise sound and contagious energy. The sound provoked attention, but as did the almost-mesmerising artistry accompanying the pair’s bowing and fingering patterns. They played the Irish, and occasionally Scottish, melodies of their repertoire. Just before the start of their first tune, they commented on how wonderful and exciting it was to play in front of a student crowd. Their usual crowd consists of Scottish golfers who come for the duo’s weekly Friday-night gig.

Just as the OTP at the Pub event did a great deal for these musicians and the satisfaction of seeing refreshingly new faces in the room, it did just as much for these audience members. I felt the comforting and casual energy of grabbing a drink with a friend, listening to some good live music and the coinciding appreciation for art.

OTP described the small get-together of musicians as “Live music and a pint!” It was exactly that. The scene invited a wide variety of music lovers. It catered to those interested in music, instrumentals, up-and-coming artists, like myself, and it also offered a great deal to students just looking for a more warm and interesting setting than just a Saturday night at the pub. Thanks to the On the Rocks Festival and all of the live-performers, OTP at the Pub was a success.

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