The first Saturday evening of October saw dottings of besuited students loitering around North Street, the shelves of Tesco bare of prosecco: evidence of the run up to the first black tie event of the academic year. At the end of Week Three, the Kate Kennedy Club’s Opening Ball historically sets the tone for a string of formal events in the weeks to follow, and is considered an unmissable event for any new St Andrews student.
This was my third year as a guest at Opening Ball. A seemingly experienced third year, I remember attending as a fresher: a little more naive, bright eyed and unexpecting. Now a little tired of the black-tie culture in this town, I had my doubts, however I was struck as usual by the enchantment of a lit-up Sallie’s quad before making my way towards the stone steps to the main event. Dominated by hubbles of champagne-armed first years posing in front of professional photographers or extravagantly introducing mutual friends, the ball was very much the same as I remember it attending two years ago: as stereotypically “St Andrews” as you could imagine.
The main action of the ball took place in a large, high ceilinged marquee, dazzling with fairy lights and rolled out in red carpet. A piper and champagne reception greeted early arrivals, whilst free treats of candy-floss and popcorn were available for the majority of the night with many students helping themselves to several servings. The bar, busy at times though efficiently run by the Union, was thoughtfully set up in a cube arrangement, allowing for even dispersal of the many, many ticket-holders in the wide marquee space. As in previous years, the drinks came at very reasonable prices, and the surrounding area remained a popular spot for people to mill around before dispersing onto one of the two dance floors.
Inside, the main stage hosted ‘Ryzy’ and Expats, which appeared to cater to the younger crowd. Although slow to start with, the production was impressive, with workings of light and smoke creating a charged atmosphere which compensated for the relatively mediocre music. Outside in the so-called open air tent, student music collective Bpm hosted the smaller stage to a comparably more hyped crowd which remained busy until the end despite the rather harsh lighting.
Away from the music, guests could rest their dancing feet on aesthetically lit-up seating alongside much-needed outdoor heaters. Whilst a few students mourned over the absence of previous years crowd-pleaser Blackhorn, the food vendours Wild Fire Pizza and La Creperie remained busy throughout the evening, providing drunken scran for all hungry party-goers.
Undeniably, the ball was very well managed, and overall, a good production. However, in my third year attending, it seemed to lack sparkle and really did not have any stand out features which differentiated it from one year to the next. This may in part be down to my own personal disenchantment with the ritual of black-tie events: but looking to the future, it certainly would be refreshing to see some sort of interesting upheaval or creative innovation to keep returning students interested. I understand that Opening Ball has established itself as an iconic event and that it is its seemless structure which ensures its success each year: if it’s not broken, don’t fix it. However, with the many, many black tie events which we have on offer, a little change wouldn’t go a miss.
Regardless, Opening Ball succeeded in supplying its target crowd with a dazzling first taste of traditional St Andrean nightlife. Ball convenor Yasmina Souaid did an excellent job – and as always, the money from ticket sales will go towards the benefit of the KK’s three chosen charities: Autism Rocks Fife, Toby’s Magical Journey, and Home-Start East Fife.