Hunter Pruitt on FS, Polo, and Committee Culture

Natasha Franks interviews a town mover-and-shaker.

Activism is not uncommon in St Andrews. Take any given member of the Big Four – FS, Polo, May Ball, and Christmas Ball – and expect to see them sat on at least one other committee. Glancing through the names of our esteemed student executives, it would appear that the bulk of large-scale local events are the handiwork of a core group of overachievers. The majority of students are consumers, logically so: It takes more people to attend an event than it does to organise one.

Perched upon this echelon of enterprisers, third year Management student Hunter Pruitt emits a quiet competence. He lists his extracurricular activities without hesitation – Events teams for House of Horror and the St Andrews Charity Fashion Show, Head of Events for cult hit Expats, President of Management Society, and Executive Director of the St Andrews Charity Polo Tournament.

At the DNC 2016

“It’s a lot of words, but I don’t look at one event as better than another. They all have a completely different vibe.” As a longtime Back Of House resident, Hunter swiftly identifies the pulse of each brand. “FS can be creative, but also more business-orientated. Management Society is very professional. Expats was more laidback. Polo is sporty and young. HoH is wacky, and quirky, and fun.”

Non-freshers will recall the Goat House, a “house party” that sold out The Rule in November 2016. The American-style night was Hunter’s first foray into masterminding a St Andrean event; however, it was by no means his first challenge. That past summer, Hunter had cut his teeth at the Democratic National Convention, interning in Operations & Logistics alongside seasoned college graduates. He attributes his current equanimity to this baptism by fire. “I was just coming out of my first year at university, and I had to figure out how to manage a massive stadium filled with fifty thousand people twice my age. After that week, I felt I had just grown so much as an individual. I learned that now, whether it’s a small house party or it’s Starfields, you just gotta keep your composure.”

Prudent and practical, Hunter admits to a certain inability to rest on any laurels. On the heels of its 2016 relaunch, last semester’s House of Horror solidified its comeback with a sold-out night at Kinkell Byre. Even as the dust settled, Hunter recalls his mind already shifting to the next step. “It’s a young event, so nothing can go wrong, or it could kill the event forever. That’s something to watch for until we’re at least ten years old. And even shorter term than that, we need to think about next year’s committee. People should go to this event, and it should be so enjoyable that they want to be a part of it.”

BTS HoH Committee Shoot

In contrast to the more delicate nature of a burgeoning event, the St Andrews Charity Fashion Show carries with it the weight of a longstanding reputation, which presents its own logistical issues. Once again, Hunter emphasises the future: “It’s been amazing for the past twenty-five years, but we need to keep moving forward. What about the next twenty-five years?” He is evasive with details of this Saturday’s show, but confirms that “FS 2018 is completely reimagined in every regard. Our fashion team, headed up by Astrid Lavigne and Ruby Redstone, has sourced some incredible collections, while our choreography team has scrapped any walk or movement reminiscent of previous shows. Moreover our biggest addition, literally and figuratively, will be the ‘set,’ which will visually blow you away. Our aim for this year is to have guests consistently exclaim, ‘Wow – this is not FS!'”

As the most notorious spectacle on the university calendar, FS is widely considered to be the progenitor of contemporary St Andrews events – preceding even the Kate Kennedy Club Charity May Ball. “I saw it in first year,” Hunter remembers, “And I was just blown away. It’s unlike anything you’ll ever see, student or not. From an organisational standpoint, it provides a really nice hybrid of theatre and fashion, which I absolutely love – to combine the creative stuff with the logistical stuff.”

Despite his proclivity for the theatrical, Hunter denies any desire to be in the spotlight. He prefers the heightened sense of excitement garnered from being backstage, and the sense of satisfaction at witnessing a job well done. “Even if it’s just one person whose life changes and who walks away with a smile on their face, that makes it worth it.”

Similarly, he dismisses the notion of Committee Culture, a St Andrews phenomenon characterised by a fixation with monogrammed letterman jackets. “If people are in it for the jacket, that’s stupid. For me, the jacket symbolises a group of people that have worked their asses off and are not getting paid to do it. If people look at me like, ‘Oh, he’s wearing an FS jacket,’ my response is, ‘Do you know that over the summer I was waking up at 5 am taking phone calls from Edinburgh to go over Starfields production?’ This is what I want to do with my life. I absolutely love it.” He adds wryly, “The jacket isn’t even free.”

With FS on the horizon and Polo rising to join it, Hunter appears to be fully in his element. Although FS tables are long sold out, guests can anticipate Polo’s ticket release in advance of the April event. Hunter informs us that increased demand has led to a slightly increased capacity at the Errol Park Estate, which will feature a stunning VVIP Garden and plenty of food vendors (BlackHorn and Cheesy Toast Shack are confirmed). Between vast quantities of champagne and a refined aesthetic, the 2018 Tournament will not be one to miss. Polo is scheduled for Saturday 21 April.

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