Following my first ever Refreshers’ Week, I must confess to feeling rather confused. Scrolling through infamous St Andrews meme page St Feudrews, Refreshers Week would appear to be a dull, unexciting week devoid of fun or liveliness. References to last year’s Refreshers’, which included Cascada headlining (as opposed to this year’s Hypnodog and the Stickmen, neither of whom I had heard of until recently) were often part of complaints, and much of the criticism was directed at this year’s Director of Events and Services Hannah Jacobs. Whilst as a first year I am unable to compare my own experience with anything, besides the non-equivalent of Freshers’ Week, I must say I am not convinced that the level of criticism is appropriate.
Whilst bearing in mind that on anonymous platforms such as St Feudrews, it is possible for a single person posting multiple times to create the illusion of an issue being more popular than it really is, there were significant numbers of posts complaining about the issue of Refreshers’ Week. One post stated that “Last year the events were great throughout the year. It’s embarrassing for you really that while last year they got Cascada this year the headline was a dog.”
Notably, prior to this there had been a request for “actually decent events for Refreshers Week, because Freshers was a bit shit to be honest.” Based on St Feuddrews, and quite frankly the impression I got from many people in real life, this request was not fulfilled in the eyes of most. One person wrote, quite bluntly, “DoES you failed,” and this sentiment was repeated in multiple other posts.
But what should we expect from Refreshers’ Week? Unlike Freshers’, most tutorials and lectures were scheduled to begin in Refreshers’, meaning of a week of nonstop parties and late nights was far less feasible for most. By going out seven nights in a row, I was heavily risking missing my tutorials and lectures the following day, and for many third and fourth years that sort of risk is simply no longer appealing. Sure, there was not necessarily a noteworthy event held at the Union on each day (or, arguably, any day) but that does not at all damn Refreshers’ Weeks to an uninteresting, anticlimactic week of nothing. No one spends every night at the Union, be it the bar or 601, and the Vic certainly offered multiple fun alternatives to university organised events.
The popularity of the Wednesday night Rodeo can’t be denied, and the astonishing queue outside the Union on the Friday of Refreshers’ (which resulted in the Union closing its doors until the queue was reduced) is surely evidence of a certain level of liveliness. St Andrews is not a university that specialises in the events that most other universities fill their Refreshers’ Weeks with. We don’t host reality TV stars as DJs and we are restricted to the single, largely ridiculed, “Club” 601. St Andrews, does, however, excel at putting on events that have far more significance, involve far more organisation and money, and are arguably more suited to the student population of our university.
With such a large number of American students, hosting Alex Mytton as a guest DJ (as Newcastle University did for Refreshers) would perhaps be a misstep, whilst throwing an extravagant ball at incredibly low ticket prices (£10 for residents) for each and every hall of residence is, to me at least, a far more exciting contribution to St Andrews’ nightlife. These may be organised by different people with different funds but, as a consumer, the vast array of other, non Union-based events, makes the arguably disappointing Refreshers’ Week easier to swallow.