Events struggle to find their place in St Andrews. Although we claim to desire something “new,” fledgling committees fight to sell tickets, as students gravitate toward the familiar faces of Welly Ball or Christmas Ball. Initially Szentek fell into this trap, peddling wristbands until the final hours of Thursday 17 November. Many guests admitted, even whilst they boarded the buses, that their expectations for the night were low. We had been told very little about the minute details of the event, only that we could be sure to “expect the unexpected.”
Unexpected. Eclectic and unique and alternative are accurate descriptors of Szentek, however “unexpected” is perhaps the only word to adequately capture the spirit of the evening. From the moment they entered Kinkell Byre, guests were in a state of shock. Artwork occupied every available space, from the ceiling to the walls to the floor. Inflatable rafts, installation pieces, clotheslines and banners; every medium was utilised to fulfil the committee’s promise of completely transforming Kinkell.
To further achieve this goal, the main room had been divided into halves: One side acted as the usual dancefloor, featuring a psychedelic DJ booth that overlooked the crowd. The other half remained curtained off, a darkroom filled with spray-painted lounge furniture. Within the darkroom, guests relaxed and watched black and white films on a massive screen. This setup was completely unlike any I have ever seen at Kinkell Byre, and it perfectly suited the laid-back theme curated by the committee. Many an hour was spent relaxing in the cinema, which was by far the highlight of the venue.
The main dancefloor did not lack for its own incentives: Preceding Wankelmut came RJay Murphy, recognisable to St Andreans from his appearance at Szentek’s first launch event. Opening the night were APUD and Content (Max Payne and James Peel), who performed with their characteristic exuberance behind the decks. Wankelmut himself was no disappointment – as a veteran of ruin bars, his music perfectly encapsulated the intended atmosphere.
For guests who sought a more intimate vibe, the “boiler room” acted as a close quarters dancing experience. A separate lineup of student DJs (Ferdinand Vermersch, Carolina Galvao, Teresa St Goar and Ahmed Shareefy) channeled the underground nature of ruin bars for a sweaty, psychedelic affair. This room was particularly popular early in the night, when the main dancefloor lacked a sizeable crowd.
Lately, events have not been complete without the presence of Ludo & Lolo’s Crêperie. The small stand was never without a massive crowd, drawn by the scent of freshly made crepes. Guests also sought sustenance from the Toro Tapas stand, a student enterprise hand-picked by the committee.
Being inspired by the ruin bars of Hungary, Szentek’s true test came from the reactions of Hungarian guests, many of whom have personally witnessed Budapest’s nightlife. Marcell Kovács found that the event was nothing like an actual ruin bar – and yet, he identified this as the reason for its success.
“Szentek promised to bring the ruin bar scene from Budapest to St Andrews, but thank God, they did not. Honestly, if ruin pubs were like this, I would visit them more often (i. e. I would visit them); but in reality, they are just clubs / bars with a bunch of crap in them, priced at the budget of tourists. Szentek, on the other hand, realised the concept in much more organised and likeable fashion, and Kinkell Byre proved to be a great venue of choice. It was terrific to see that an event so incompatible with the St Andrews ball scene garnered such an impressive attendance. All in all, I was pleasantly surprised that the Szentek team organised such a great night at the first attempt. Bonus point for using a name that 95% of the non-Hungarian speakers consistently mispronounce.”
In conclusion: Szentek delivered on every single promise that it made, an almost unheard of feat in St Andrews. The event was every bit as eclectic as it described itself. Having now established such a solid foundation, we can hope that the committee will return next year on an even larger scale.