Photo: Mika's Photography

ELAGA: The Word, The Myth, The Legend

Natasha Franks reviews the most controversial event of the year.

A year ago, it did not exist. Today, aided by word of mouth and meme page St Feuddrews (among others), Elaga has firmly established itself in the St Andrews vernacular. In the months leading up to Saturday 7th April, the word was often spoken with derision, a reluctance tinged with skepticism. Part of this wariness stemmed from the alleged scale of the fledgling festival: Organisers promised a 2500+ person event in an “undisclosed location,” set to feature jacuzzis, neck massages and, of all things, a French chef.

Photo: Mika’s Photography

The initial ad campaign targeted fans of such luxuries – the hallowed words VIP table ballot attracted guests of similarly structured fashion shows. It was only after VIP sold out that Elaga faced its first troubles. While a certain segment of St Andrews is willing to pay £100 for a private tent, the majority of young people balk at the notion of giving £50 to an unknown committee. As the event’s apparent struggle to sell Standard tickets became evident, students revelled in mocking our own Fyre Festival. Rumours of cancellation spread across Facebook. Even with Rudimental and Sigala headlining, the general public remained doubtful. Popular opinion seemed to shift between “too good to be true” and “bound to fail.”

The answer, I discovered, was more the former than the latter. There were no jacuzzis or neck massages or even a French chef. The venue did not host 2500+ people – rather, closer to 1200+ people. There was indeed free sushi in the VIP tent, and fairground rides were available for guests with spare cash. The musical acts fully delivered on their reputations, with Sigala in particular working the crowd into a Sweet Lovin’ frenzy. Food vendors were plentiful, and delicious. When not dancing, guests could be found resting on the grass or at a picnic bench, taking in the relaxed vibe.

Photo: Mika’s Photography

Ultimately, Elaga was not as bad as its detractors claimed it would be, nor as good as the committee promised. My own experience was predominantly positive. The atmosphere lacked the frantic nature of Lower College Lawn during Starfields, and the venue, while intimate, avoided the claustrophobia that sometimes permeates Kinkell Byre. Above all, I admire the tenacity required to create, from scratch, a St Andrews event. Elaga checked all the requirements of an amazing day: fully stocked bars and food trucks, along with genuinely impressive musical acts and ample space to dance. It would have benefited greatly from increased attendance; yet both Standard and VIP guests witnessed what can only be described as a success. Elaga finally happened, and it was no disaster.

One criticism that this reviewer dismisses is the concern over Elaga’s non-charitable status. It is, frankly, surprising that students resent the idea of fellow students taking on part-time jobs. While the marketing material may be glamorous, any event requires hundreds of hours of collective effort from its organisers, at times being more demanding than a full-time job. Philanthropic events, such as FS and May Ball, incur no official profit, with any residual funds going directly to charity. Elaga, as a privately organised festival, is under obligation to make a donation.

Photo: Mika’s Photography

As the memes become memories and the mud washes from our boots, guests and non-guests may reflect upon this era of Elaga. It remains to be seen if the festival will return for 2019. I, for one, hope it does. As much as we complain about the saturated St Andrews events scene, choice is good for the consumer. We attend events because they are the best of the best, not because they are our only options. Despite its flaws, Elaga unquestionably strove to be the best option – and that is worth commending.

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