As the saying goes: when you play the game of the yourunion.com ticket checkout, you win or you die. For those of us who won, at 5pm, Tuesday the 5th of February, it seemed winter was coming as we joined the queue reaching from the doors of Younger Hall to the gates of St Salvator’s Quad on a cold, wet and dark North Street.
The students huddling under umbrellas and hurriedly calling friends to give location updates were waiting to attend a talk given by Maisie Williams, one of the young stars of Game of Thrones. Organised as part of Career Week, this talk brought Arya to our humble Bubble to give an insight into her explosive career in the creative industry, and to promote her latest venture, an app called Daisie that functions as a social media tool to unite young creatives, allowing them to collaborate and showcase their work through the site.
The wait wasn’t long. The queue soon zipped through the doors: those with silver wristbands were ushered to the stairs, those with gold ones continued into the downstairs section. Cameramen hung around the sides of the room as we were directed to seats, upon which lay questionnaires, which were presumably to do with Miss Williams’ app, although it didn’t say.
A lectern stood ominously in the centre of the stage, surrounded by not one, but four University of St Andrews banners. This was a surprise – I was expecting two seats for a discussion between Miss Williams and a host. I suddenly had a vision of Arya delivering an academic lecture on some complicated culture theory: having just come from two such lectures, I had an irrational desire to leave. Running.
Yet, I stayed. My fears disappeared as the star strolled onstage, pink ponytail swinging and a friendly smile on her face. Beginning with a thanks for her invitation, Miss Williams immediately seemed sincere, humble and enthusiastic. Aged 21 and wearing a sweater and high-top boots, she could easily have been taken for a student herself. She launched in with a run-down of her career so far: from humble beginnings, to her Billy Elliot-esque dreams of being a dancer, then her audition process for Game of Thrones. This was followed by an explanation of how Daisie came about and the motivations behind it. She lost her place during a rousing ending, and anyone who has ever done a presentation felt her struggle as she flicked through pages muttering, “I mean, it’s really not that complicated”. #relatable.
Her initial talk lasted about 20 minutes, which was worrying given the two hours runtime advertised. She asked for questions, somewhat apprehensively. The first hand went up. After that question, some more were raised. And then more and more and more. Most questions were illuminating, asking about both working in the arts and her app (and one about her dinner plans). Her answers were genuine, thoughtful and showed clear passion for what she was talking about.
This may sound far-fetched, but I had had a hunch that not all attendees were necessarily pursuing a creative career. This was confirmed by my hard-won source (the friend I attended with, who studies medicine), as she covertly identified intruding scientists hidden amongst us humanities students. But if they were expecting a discussion about Game of Thrones in all its bawdy glory, they were mistaken.
By the end, her fame didn’t matter. Her sly wit and down-to-earth sense of humour, wise-beyond-her-years advice and insight into one of the world’s most elusive industries made an event that could have been merely a spectacle informative, motivating and fantastic opportunity for students pursuing a career in the arts, and for that Maisie Williams should be highly commended. My medic friend equally enjoyed it, and if people weren’t taking photos, they were downloading Daisie, making it a successful night all-round.
The bar has been set: I don’t envy the speaker set to follow during Careers’ Week 2020.