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Szentek: St Andrews Summer Begins With a Rave in a Castle

Alix Ramillion reviews the techno group's annual daytime rave in Mains Castle.

On Saturday 1 April, Szentek hosted its biggest event of the year. Moving Castle was hosted at Mains Castle in Dundee. The daytime rave was highly-anticipated due to the diverse scores of international DJs it featured. Whilst Szentek’s November event at Fallside Mill presented more heavy and dark sounds, this featured a plethora of genres from Scottish electronic (Valtos), to jazz fusion (Milhouse Collective), to garage (Sleuth).

The castle was decorated eclectically and vibrantly, with homemade colourful banners and spotlights that expressed the upbeat theme of spring celebration and created a festival atmosphere. Much of the event was hosted outside. I thought that this organisation was particularly ingenious - it was easy to change the atmosphere by moving from a tent, to a blacked-out night room inside the castle, to an outdoor courtyard with lanterns - keeping the thrilled attendees engaged. This transient aspect of the festival was reinforced by the alternation between soft and harder sounds, making the eight-hour event enjoyable throughout.

The summery mood prefigured the end of the term with upbeat sounds, bright colours, and alcoholic slushies. There was a huge turnout and most attendees appeared to enjoy the event. Nonetheless, there were downsides: such as bus timing issues and a lack of communication that caused many people to have to pay for a taxi in order to make it.

Whilst Moving Castle ultimately proved Szentek’s status as a St Andrews social staple, it begged the question: how has Szentek grown in popularity so rapidly in such a short space of time?

I think that its popularity mainly comes from the fact that, as a collective of people from a variety of different places, their events have become a melting pot of different genres and cultures. This is shown in their name: ‘Szentek’, which is Hungarian for ‘Saint’. Since its foundation in 2016, Szentek has aimed to collect funds for Variety Scotland, a charity working to support disabled and disadvantaged children. Szentek has become one of the biggest hosting organisations of the region and one of the most regular and popular events in St Andrews, hosting student-led sets every couple of weeks in Aikmans. I had the opportunity to attend the Submarine session a few weeks ago, which I thought was amazing.

Ben Sanders, the group’s co-head of music, explained that “Szentek is far more affordable compared to other St Andrews events. The prices are basically what you have to pay for the venue, and although balancing the budgeting can be quite tough, we make it as accessible as possible.”

Their inclusivity philosophy, combined with their philanthropy, is part of their appeal to attendees. This being said, standard tickets for the Moving Castle event were sold at £50, a price that, for the most part, only fashion shows top and are usually compensated with a gift basket and other perks.

The idea of spontaneity is also essential to the group, as Szentek wants its creative scene to be as natural as it can be with the participation of musicians. If their production was staged and prerecorded, how would the talent of its artists truly be revealed?

Explaining this philosophy, Theo Verden, co-head of music, said that he feels “the word techno has been quite saturated” and that “endless genre-labelling is quite isolating or hard to get to grips with”. Techno is a genre of electronic music, often on the ‘harder’ scale: however, the term is now used as a shortcut to refer to events like Szentek.

But they offer much more. Verden detailed that “we have soulful house music, experimental breaks, drum and bass, electro, groovy stuff, progressive house and much more!”

Branding Szentek as a ‘hard techno event’ is inaccurate and can automatically mince out a significant crowd. The term encourages images from Berghain or Kit Kat - an elitist, selective, music scene - to spring to mind. However, Szentek events really provide something for every taste! Verden explained that Szentek seeks “to expose St Andrews students to forms of art and expression that often don’t often come here, and I think people appreciate that”.

This was definitely expressed in how the majority of Szentek’s sets at Moving Castle were live music sets featuring authentic and oftentimes unique musical devices, creating an ‘art production’ rather than a ‘marketing one’. Looking at their instagram account, which features artsy photographs, templates, drawings, collages and montages, it becomes clear that Szentek is a profusion of arts that aims to appeal to your visual senses and send you into a trance.

Whilst some may perceive its vibe as more ‘hippy’ or ‘edgy’, I believe that Szentek consistently provides exactly what everyone looks for in an event: making it the perfect way to spend your evening (or day).

Image: @szentek.sta on Instagram

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