As most St Andrews students will gleefully remind you, we’re number one in student satisfaction in the UK. (And did you know we passed Oxford in the Guardian ranking?!) From first years during freshers to a fourth year student at their grad dinner, most would agree that St Andrews has become such an engaging place due to the diversity of events and enthusiasm of those who organise them.
The Martinmas semester is nicely broken up by iconic events – Opening Ball, Welly Ball, Szentek and Christmas Ball, to name a few. Hundreds of students attend these distinctly unique and warmly regarded soirees as milestones throughout their academic year. And, once again, Welly Ball has proven that it is not just another generic black tie event, nor one simply notable for the dress code of wellies. But then again, who doesn’t love wellies?
As if it wasn’t obvious that this was the largest black tie dinner event in St Andrews, with eight-hundred and fifty dinner guests and an additional eleven-hundred and fifty after party guests packing Kinkell, you only need to have been looking at any of the class pages in the days leading up to the event. Tickets were a hot commodity this year, after party tickets, which were priced at £29, sold out in less than an hour and a half. Kinkell was packed to the gills, with guests spilling out into side marquees and outdoor areas throughout the night. This tight space was compounded by the widely rumoured unauthorised, third-party printing of sixty additional bands, a sad act of malfeasance which resulted in the loss of nearly eighteen-hundred pounds to the charity donation.
The event, which hosted hundreds of non-St Andreans from universities around the country including Oxford, Imperial & Cambridge, in town for the legendary “St Andrews Challenge” shooting tournament, was put on in support of the Charlie Waller Memorial Trust – a charity which raises awareness about depression in young people and reduces associated stigmas. In 2018, the committee were able to donate over twenty-thousand pounds, and this year with dinner tickets raising in price to seventy pounds, they were no doubt able to donate even more. The charitable donation was also buoyed by an astounding raffle which included treats such as a five-hundred pound voucher to Hunter, dinner at Vine Leaf, Polo tickets, tea at the Fairmont and Balgove dinner.
On all accounts, the Welly Ball dinner has earned the title of largest black tie dinner. Avoiding food poisoning drama of years past, the traditional hog roast was complemented by popular sharing platters and fine-wine abounding. Once the night crept on and the after party guests arrived, the Welly Ball we all know it to be came fully into itself. It was difficult to get quotes for this article as so many people had such raucous nights, they weren’t in full possession of their memories the next day. Welly Ball is notorious for this, I’m not sure if its due to the comfortable footwear or the reputation alone licensing people to get into states they universally regret the next morning. With one guest describing the atmosphere as “violent”, tears, fights and falls were seen wherever one was to look. One fight in the mens bathroom resulted in a bouncer being stationed in the room for the rest of the night. People being brought down by their wellies, with their friends not being able to help them up without losing their own balance was not an uncommon scene.
A specific highlight of the night was the music, complementing the atmosphere throughout the event and creating a perfect vibe. The live music during the dinner was a big favourite, with St Andrews staples Too This For That and The Roundabout Midnights playing throughout the meal. After the dinner, the whole venue was rocked by the tunes of Max Dupa, biglöts & acquires. The dance floor was consistently packed throughout the evening, as was the side marquee – with guests of all years and all universities cutting shapes together.
A new element this year was the “Welly Ball Martini Brunch” held the next morning at the Adamson. For just £15, you were treated to Eggs Florentine or Benedict as well as some hair of the dog in the form of the Welly Ball Martini (Ketel One Vodka, Kailua & Espresso). This add-on brunch was a cute and classy way of continuing the event, as well as a (perhaps futile) attempt at abating crippling hangovers.
Welly Ball is a consistently growing event, welcoming two-thousand guests this year, up from fifteen-hundred in my first year. They’re consistently improving the event as well, in this, the twelfth annual event, there was scant an issue or element overlooked on the part of the committee.
Welly Ball is well-known throughout the UK and well-beloved within the St Andrews community for good reason. It is a unique, innovative and kitschy (in just the right way) event. As a graduating fourth year, I will no doubt be having the instinctive urge to don wellies around this time in November each year from now on.