For every student, the start of the academic year inevitably means the start of a string of centuries-old St Andrews traditions. We hear all about them before we even step foot on these cobblestone streets; Raisin, rowdy nights at the Union filled with Pablos, red and somewhat cult-y floor length gowns, and most importantly, balls. For many freshers, bright eyed and bushy tailed, the Kate Kennedy Opening Ball marks the first of these traditions, the earliest taste of what the classy life here in St Andrews is really about. Filled with long flowing gowns and flutes of champagne, the charity gala promises endless elegance and grandeur.
Arriving on classically British double-decker busses, guests were offered champagne and greeted by members of the Kate Kennedy Club themselves. The venue, composed of several tents encompassing a field buzzed with the sounds of live jazz and dance music. Food options were few but mighty, with the infamous Blackhorn Burgers, Wildfire Pizza, and La Creperie food trucks catering the event, with several guests even reporting receiving free crepe vouchers with their ticket, an unexpected but welcome surprise.
This year saw a new venue for Kate Kennedy’s year opening bash, rather than being held at the usual Lower College Lawn, the ball was moved to Station Park, a never before used venue situated near the Old Course Hotel. Although allowing for bigger attendance and perhaps a welcome change of scenery from the usual three streets of town, the venue itself lacked the usual Hogwarts-esque charm of our well-loved Sallies Quad and Lower College Lawn. The large space felt at times, a little empty and lacking in energy. Furthermore, shortage of seating left many shivering under heat lamps. While complementary buses were provided to and from the event, their necessity posed somewhat of an inconvenience for late attendees, or those wishing to leave early to grab their much-needed Dervish.
However, what the outside space lacked in charm, the inside made up with the vibrant atmosphere of students indulging in drinks and dancing the night away. While bars were consistently surrounded by large crowds, the large number of bartenders ensured slightly reduced wait times from previous years. Music in the main tent, provided by St Andrews’ popular collectives BPM and On and On, maintained a consistently energetic vibe throughout the night. However, some guests expressed disappointed in its lack of variety, with many saying that they ‘wished there was more familiar music they could sing along to.’ A separate small tent filled with live jazz music by Jazzworks also proved to be a crowd-pleaser, with students enjoying the smaller, less crowded dance floor and the jubilant, dulcet tones of saxophone and keys.
Overall, changes in venue perhaps detracted from the usual glamour and charm of previous years. But nevertheless, the Kate Kennedy Club delivered an enjoyable time for those seeking a classic ball experience. A lovely evening spent under the stars, Opening Ball was a night that said clearly to first years, ‘welcome to St Andrews,’ and to returnees, a night that said ‘welcome back.’