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Something Different: Soiree Burns Night and Ceilidh

Tired of the 601? Been to every ball? Looking for something different? The Saint brings you the highlights from St Andrews’ weirdest and most wonderful events.

From its origins hosting Regency-inspired virtual events in the thick of the chronically-online pandemic era, Soirée as we know it today has come a long way. The historical appreciation society has organised many well-attended events with stellar concepts and themes. Over the past few years, the society has hosted a ‘Gorish Gothic Soirée’ at Lupo’s to celebrate Halloween 2021, a Murder Mystery Dinner with a delightful Agatha Christie theme, book clubs, movie screenings, and more. They’ve also hosted several successful collaborations with other societies, including a Regency Tea Dance with the Ballroom and Latin Dance Society, a swing dance class with the Swing Dance Society, and a crocheting workshop with its Linen and Lace Society subcommittee and Sustainable Style.

On 25 January, Soirée hosted one of its most ambitious events to date: a Burns Night Supper and Ceilidh at the Hotel du Vin. Featuring a traditional three-course meal of haggis neeps and tatties, steak pie, and cranachan; recitations of Robert Burns’ most famous poems between the courses; and a sold-out ceilidh portion of the evening with a live band, the event was an infallible success. Several attendees who I spoke with complimented the food served during the dinner portion of the evening, and if the packed dance floor was any indication, the reception of the ceilidh was equally positive.

When I arrived for the ceilidh, the anteroom outside the main event space was packed with attendees listening to snippets of music and cheers emanating from behind the double doors. The ever-so-fashionable St Andrews crowd was dressed in their black-tie finest, inevitably featuring plenty of tartan. As the doors were opened, guests spilled into the ballroom, some moving to the bar for a pre-ceilidh drink, others chatting amongst themselves before the first dance – a Gay Gordons – was announced. The ceilidh was split into two parts, with plenty of breaks in between each dance to give attendees a well-deserved chance to catch their breath. Whilst the lack of ventilation and the large crowd packed onto the dance floor did make the event space quite stuffy early in the evening, the water station at the side of the bar was a smart choice made by the organisers. A raffle took place between the two parts of the ceilidh, with plenty of great prizes like vouchers for Cromars or Topping and Co, a Highland Cow plush, and iconic Scottish snacks.

I asked members of the Soirée committee what inspired the society to host their first Burns Night Dinner. Their thoughtful response touched on what they saw as the intersection between the society’s historical appreciation mandate and their desire to share local Scottish culture with the international student body. The night certainly achieved such aims. Moreover, the group’s love for creating “big events and themed events, safe and happy social events” was undeniably clear over the course of the evening, as they carried off a flawless celebration of some of the best poetry and traditions that Scotland has to offer.

If you’re looking to try something new, Soirée is absolutely a group to keep your eyes on. There’s no telling whether you’ll find yourself in the roaring 20s or at a regency-style ball: however, attention to historical detail and a flair for the dramatic is guaranteed.

Illustration: Lauren McAndrew

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