So you’ve got into St Andrews, you know the basic facts and figures, now you want to know the important stuff – what kind of shenanigans can you get into? What are the best events? What’s the nightlife like? Well, Tom – the incoming Director of Events and Services (DoES) – and I are here to help. 

First, a bit of a disclaimer – currently neither I nor Tom (or anyone else) know exactly what events are going to look like this year in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. That all depends on the state of play in September, in Scotland and internationally, as well as the policies of the government, university, and a whole host of other relevant parties. In short – we don’t know what events will be like this year. That’s doubly true for freshers’ week, so take everything written here with a big pinch of salt.

Freshers’ Week & Traditional Events – Jo

*Normally* Freshers’ Week involves a whole host of events. These are usually detailed by the union, halls, and independent groups in the weeks running up to the start of term, so I won’t go into too much detail (because I can’t!). Some things always take place, like ceilidhs, The Bop (which is the weekly Friday night event at the union), Sinners (which is a ?monthly? Sports night), and the Freshers’ Fayre. The Bop and Sinners are both cult classics, and the only real club experience you can hope for in St Andrews, so be sure to check them out.

Freshers’ Fayre is probably the most important event of Freshers’ Week, because it introduces you to all the different societies and sports that St Andrews has to offer. Societies will also usually host ‘give it a go’ sessions during the first few weeks, to give you a chance to test out the society for free to make sure it’s what you want. My advice – try as many new things as possible, and go to all the socials you can.

There are also lots of traditional events throughout the year. These include raisin weekend – which is most definitely just a scavenger hunt and foam fight and no alcohol is involved at all, we swear! – where you’ll have a whale of a time with your new academic family. That happens in October, but family events can continue throughout the year. There’s St Andrews Day, in November – I personally love the fireworks. There’s the Gaudie, which is a torch-lit pier walk in honour of John Honey, a local historical hero. There’s also May Dip in… May, when we all run into the North Sea for fun. Honestly, I don’t even know about that one. It’s cold, I can tell you that for free.

As you can see, there’s a lot of tradition going on in St Andrews. Probably not surprising for a University founded in 1413. But what might surprise you is just how many music events take place in town, too. 

Music Events – Tom

When it comes to live music, St Andrews is far better off than you might expect for a tiny town. The Student Union co-hosts gigs with STAR every Saturday, where upcoming rock/punk bands from across Scotland come to perform in Sandy’s Bar*, and in a normal year, Freshers’ Week can bring artists like Tinchy Stryder and Tristan Evans.

*Here’s a taster from Sandy’s Bar:

Staying within the Union, you can also find RockSoc and Jazzworks events every Thursday, and BALLADS (Ballroom and Latin Dance) every Tuesday. Music Society hosts lunchtime concerts in St Salvator’s Chapel on Fridays, featuring all kinds of orchestral and a cappella music. There’s truly something for everyone. What’s more, if representation of your favourite genre seems to be lacking, the music scene is incredibly malleable. You can come and hammer it into whatever shape you want. If you want more reggae, start a society (please do), or find a less active group to revive. Or if you’re into music journalism, join STAR’s own Hearing Aid Magazine and start taking it in your own direction.

There’s a real grassroots community within the student music scene here. Groups like Wax Collective, BPM, and STIMS host sweaty house parties with live DJs and bands, whilst Szentek, Starfields, and a multitude of balls and fashion shows bring in the bigger acts. These groups all manage to create their own individual, often eccentric atmospheres. Each has a regular crowd, devoted to their group’s approach to melting subgenres, yet all remain a welcoming space for absolutely anyone looking to try something new. For a newcomer, such groups are bound to appear intimidating. In reality, they’re an ideal setting for meeting new people with a shared interest, especially those that prefer to host more peaceful events, like our increasingly active branch of Sofar Sounds. Once you get over the first hurdle, of going to an event and talking to a new person, you’ll be set.

If you’re an artist who’s interested in performing in St Andrews, a great place to start is by joining our Facebook group for musicians.

Balls & Formal Events – Jo

One more thing you should know about St Andrews social life is that it includes a lot of black tie affairs. Don’t let that put you off if you’re not from the upper echelons yourself – I’m definitely not – because you’re under no obligation to take part in them. That being said, I personally recommend jumping right in – most of the formal events are a hell of a lot of fun, and although they can be a bit pricy you can pick and choose the best ones. 

So, what are they? 

Well, every hall of residence will host its own ball, and they’re all amazing for residents. DRA’s is massive and half the Uni goes, not just residents, and it’s normally the cheapest ball of the year too, so look out for that in second semester. If you’re anything like me, you’ll have a bunch of fun memories of your hall ball (or not!).

There’s a few signature balls you should go to at least once – Opening Ball is a tradition for freshers (although it might be a bit overrated) and May Ball is the same for final year students. Christmas Ball is the most hyped event of the year, and ticket resales are insane and to be avoided. They’ve sold out in minutes every year I’ve been here – just total chaos. There are other balls too, for societies, sports, and charities – Welly Ball springs to mind – but it’s up to you to decide what tickles your fancy. 

There are other formal events too. Fashion shows is probably the biggest category after the balls. I’ve not been to one personally, but they sound quite fun. There’s a bunch of different ones, most are for charity, they’re all black tie. Good excuse to get drunk and stare at strangers? Then there’s events like polo… The list goes on!

In summary, there’s a bunch of events going on in St Andrews, throughout the year. We can’t guarantee anything about any of them right now, but hopefully this gives you an idea of what you can expect when we get back to the ‘old normal’! 

This is part of a series of articles designed for incoming first year students. Up next – accommodation! Where are you going to live? Which is the best hall? More on that in the next article.