Following a smaller-scale event last year and a last-minute change of date this, FS’ annual festival had to meet exceptionally high-demands. They rose to the challenge brilliantly, proving their continued relevance as one of the UK’s biggest student festivals.
Last Wednesday, FS returned in force with their annual festival, Starfields. Originally scheduled as the dramatic conclusion to Freshers’ Week and the post-pandemic return of the show’s original full-scale format on the Lower College Lawn, the event was postponed due to the death of Queen Elizabeth II.
“Starfields 2.0” was therefore hotly-anticipated on all fronts: the thousands of attendees that crowded the length of North Street on an autumnal Wednesday afternoon in Week 2 of teaching undoubtedly had high expectations. Not only did they demand a night of euphoric, high-energy house tracks provided by some of the world’s most prominent DJs; they further demanded that the FS committee give them a reason to have come out in the middle of the working week, something that they could hold over friends who desperately sold their tickets on Facebook. They demanded that Starfields prove to them its standing as one of the biggest and most well-renowned events of the year, that it demonstrate its right to reclaim its title as one of the sell-out headliners of the St Andrews events calendar.
Ultimately, these high demands were met exceptionally well by the FS team.
Despite the midweek date, attendees were in high spirits as they filtered through the decorated quad at sunset, the school buildings lit up in pinks and purples which matched the evening sky. The switch of venue back to Lower College Lawn was an exceptionally good call, the space lending itself far better to curating a crowded festival atmosphere than North Haugh did last year. Tunnels of rainbow streamers and fairy lights marked the path into the festival, ball pits and colourful bean bags were scattered across the outdoor seating area, painted murals covered the back of the huge marquee, and the FS logo was projected onto the side of the quad buildings. From 7pm, glitter-clad festival-goers bustled across the bar, food stalls, and dancefloor, soundtracked by opening act Belters Only’s more chilled beats.
The line-up, pulled together in just a week and a half due to the change of date, was impressive. It is no secret that St Andrews isn’t known for its status as an international music venue, and ultimately Starfields’ unique selling point is that they bring big names to this tiny coastal town. To bring across acts such as Claptone - who’s performed at venues such as Hi Ibiza, Pacha, Tommorowland, and Coachella - truly is no small feat.
Up-and-coming Irish duo Belters Only set the tone for the evening, providing infectious energy which truly made us feel good (if you’ll pardon the pun). Prolific DJ and music producer Endor followed this up with a joyous set, his well-known hit ‘Pump It Up’ electrifying the evening. Finally, Claptone - who currently boasts the title of the world’s number 1 House DJ - appeared in their signature plague doctor-style golden mask, taking the energy of the crowd to a whole new level. Their set was effortlessly dynamic, a journey through high-tempo hits, slow builders, and head-banging beat drops which lasted into the night. They had the crowd in the palm of their hand: some lucky attendees were even given Claptone masks of their own, and by the end of their set not even my incredibly reserved flatmate Kyra could keep from throwing some shapes on the dancefloor.
This stellar line-up was reinforced by the insanely high production values for which Starfields is known. Attending FS events comes at a price - one that is arguably unsustainable for the average university student - however, the premium that is paid clearly goes towards making their events such sleek, professional affairs. The festival atmosphere was maintained through impressively designed lighting sets which were right on the money for every song, every beat and break accompanied by atmospheric strobes, or else lights which flooded the crowd in colour. The graphics projected across the back of the stage were impressive, the smoke machines were working overtime, and canons periodically showered the crowd in rainbow confetti.
Ultimately, all of this came together to keep the crowd in high spirits, providing a festival-esque experience which is genuinely unlike any other event at St Andrews.
However, whilst the FS team absolutely nailed the venue, music, and festival atmosphere, there were some issues which unfortunately detracted from the overall Starfields experience and will have left some attendees dissatisfied.
As with seemingly every large event at St Andrews, it appeared that the FS committee couldn’t quite effectively manage the sheer volume of people attending Starfields. The queue to get in was long and chaotic, stretching right from the quad down to the cinema; something that perhaps could’ve been solved by staggered entry times or multiple entrances. Similarly, the single bar was something of a nightmare to navigate: with an average wait time upwards of half an hour, many spent more time steadily sobering up and getting elbowed in the face than they did getting it down on the dancefloor. Investment in more bar staff or else another bar could have alleviated these concerns.
These smaller details greatly influence attendees’ overall opinions of any given event, particularly with respect to their conception of value for money. They shape overall perceptions and - unfortunately, to Starfields’ own detriment - they tend to be the details that people continue to pick over and ultimately complain about after the fact.
FS’ commitment to charity and sustainability must also be highlighted here. FS is first and foremost a charity fundraiser - having donated an impressive £600,000 to various charities in its 30-year history. Starfields is presumably a part of this fundraising endeavour, however as yet no formal commitment to any specific charities has been announced, and Starfields’ ticket-holders were given no transparency as to what portion of ticket proceeds are ultimately donated. This lack of transparency, in addition to their refusal to give ticket-holders full refunds following the change of date, is bound to get people asking questions. The group has also committed themselves to sustainability, and have sought to promote Starfields as a “fully sustainable music festival” - however details of what this means, exactly, are unclear. Was the festival completely carbon neutral, or did they just provide recycling bins for plastic drinks glasses?
Ultimately, however, Starfields 2.0 had a lot to live up to, and in my view the FS committee rose to the challenge. They proved its continued relevance as the only festival of the St Andrews events calendar, and they proved that this is a successful format which they can capably deliver upon. After a pandemic-induced hiatus, they came back this year with a bang: bringing students international talent, enchanting beats, and a final taste of summer.
Photos: Harriet St Pier