The St. Andrews events calendar is marked by events which set themselves apart with their originality. Oktoberfest, Szentek, the various fashion shows, and, of course, Welly Ball. The annual November fling has fashioned itself a nationally beloved event, its allure lying in the unconventional, yet immensely comfortable footwear. Who doesn’t love wellies?
Breaking up the traditional black tie barrage, Welly Ball hosts over 2,000 students – from St. Andrews and around the United Kingdom. Following the annual clay pigeon competition, ‘The Challenge’, more than eight-hundred welly adorned guests enjoyed a drinks reception and traditional seated hog roast dinner. Following this, the dinner guests from St. Andrews, Aberdeen, Exeter, Oxford and Durham among others, are joined by nearly twelve-hundred more for the afterparty.
The Welly Ball after party was, aside from the attendees footwear, not too dissimilar from any other Kinkell Byre event. Our universal love/hate relationship with Kinkell was exacerbated by lack of crowd control and disorganisation in the coat check area. Long bathroom lines which have come to be expected from a Kinkell night out were dramatically intensified when the venue bathrooms overflowed around 12:30 AM and were closed for the night.
After having been shouted at, “the bathrooms are closed, what part of that do you all not understand?!”, guests had to make their way to the rear tents and utilise the limited number of loos outside. Speaking of the rear tents, they were strewn with garbage and food-waste. Hundreds of bags of Emily’s fruit chips covered the floor, one could scarcely go a few seconds without hearing the *POP* of bags exploding under welly-covered feet. Without a trash can in sight, floors, tables and seats were quickly covered with rubbish.
The music was pretty nondescript and most guests seemed to be more drunk than at any other ball. This seems to regularly be the case with Welly Ball, perhaps due to the lack of uncomfortable footwear.
While the recent food-poisoning fiasco seems to be avoided this year, the coat check situation seemed to be even worse than it had been in 2015. While it had been amended in 2016 with the presence of security guards and more organisation, this all seems to have been forgotten this year. Coat-collection lines lasted nearly an hour and many guests were given the wrong coats. When one guest said that they weren’t going to leave until they got their Canada Goose back, security was called on them.
Coat check staff were rude and hurled profanities at the very guests who they were withholding their own garments from. Staff seemed to blame the guests for their not being able to find the items which had been entrusted to their own care. The event page the next day had near fifty appeals for lost items, many still unresolved. Though guests had done nothing wrong themselves, many either lost garments or received them days later, covered in mud and dirt.
Many were left wondering, was it worth it? Paying £65 for dinner only to have a typical ball experience and lose ones coat for several days, enduring abuse and disarray? Is unconventional footwear enough to justify such a disorderly night?
The £65 dinner and £29 after-party prices may seem pricey enough not to warrant the disarray of the night, however it should be remembered where the proceeds went. For the fifth consecutive year, all money raised from the event was donated directly to the Charlie Waller Memorial Trust. The CWMT raises awareness and support for young adults with mental health issues, and helps to fight the associated stigma which accompanies them.
Whilst it is inevitable that Welly Ball will continue to be a popular event on the student calendar, it is hoped that the committee can redress the missteps I set out above so that in the future, we can all focus on our all-encompassing love of wellington boots.