November is nearing its end. There’s a crisp chill that mingles with the sea air, the three streets are illuminated by festive lights, and the panic of revision has just begun to set in, but beyond the dreaded exam season lies the blissful promise of the winter holidays. And winter holidays mean that just around the corner lies the Mermaids Christmas Ball. As the constant rates of satisfaction and yearly scrambles for tickets indicate, this is one of the most anticipated events of the semester. I sat down with Natalie Christopher, this year’s Ball Convener, and Ramsay Bader, Head of Marketing, to chat about what’s in store for the first Christmas Ball since the beginning of the pandemic. These are the highlights from our interview.
Could you start by telling me a bit about yourselves and your roles on the committee?
NATALIE CHRISTOPHER: My name is Natalie, I’m a fourth year, and this is actually my second year holding the position of Ball Convener – but the first year it’s actually happened, so it’s been a long time coming and a lot of anticipation for this! I have worked in events all four years, but this is definitely the biggest, and I would say most exciting, thing I’ve ever worked on.
RAMSAY BADER: My name is Ramsay, I’m a fresher, and I’m running the marketing for Christmas Ball. I initially got involved because it was, at least for me, a really interesting event. Christmas has been by far one of my favorite holidays, and I saw it as an opportunity to tie together this huge Christmas celebration – essentially all of winter holidays too! Especially after about a year and a half of COVID, I think this was a really great opportunity to bring together the St Andrews community.
With such a gap between having events like this, it looks like Christmas Ball is essentially shaping up to be one of the hottest tickets on the St Andrews social calendar. The sell-out times, the crashed Union site, it only says as much! How do you feel about these expectations?
NC: I think Christmas Ball has always been one of the events that people know about, far before they come here. I don’t know if that’s in part because Christmas is so universal, or if the university advertises it quite a bit. I do feel the expectations are high, but I think we can definitely meet them. I’m really confident in everyone on my team, and I think the hiatus has taken all this energy that’s been in us for the past year and a half, and made us want to bring that to reality, especially in terms of creativity, and music, and having a good time! In terms of the crashed Union website, I think this does happen every year. It’s just a feature of the Union website because we are a subcommittee of the Student Union. We’re trying to make it a less frustrating process by facilitating our own resells form and having a waitlist. So far that’s been quite successful, but hopefully, people are excited and not too frustrated by that system.
RB: Christmas Ball was one of the events I’d heard about before I got to St. Andrews this year, and something I was definitely interested in attending. For many of my fellow classmates too, this was something they heard about. It’s always thrown in there as the quintessential St Andrews event. Obviously there’s a lot to live up to, but just by seeing the energy of the team, I think everyone is more than up to the task.
What do you think is the most exciting thing awaiting ticket holders for the ball?
NC: We’ve put a lot of effort into making the ball very, very Christmassy. Our theme, and the incredible work that our creative team is doing to make that theme manifest itself in the space, is going to be really exciting. Christmas Ball is unique in the way it gets to have fun with props, so I think that’s going to be really exciting.
On that subject, the theme for the Ball, A Night at the Nutcracker, sounds absolutely magical. Could you tell me a bit more about the theme and what it means to each of you?
NC: I actually applied for an assistant creative position for Christmas Ball in my first year at uni. The theme I proposed was The Nutcracker, because it’s just the most Christmassy, and also it makes sense because of theatre. It’s based on a classic performance. So when at the end of my second year, in the middle of COVID, I applied to be Christmas Ball Convener again, I was like, ‘This is what I want to do, this is my redemption arc!’ In a less personal sense, I think a lot of people want Christmas. They want, you know, an uncontrolled Christmas. Other themes in the past have been fun, but I don’t want to detract away from just the magic of Christmas and its potential. And I think as a performing arts fund, paying homage to our roots and our background, and also what the ball supports, is really important.
Honestly, it seems like it really takes a village to put together these big events. And even just from the two of you, I can see that there’s so much importance placed on community and working together. Would you agree with that?
NC: As a Union society, and working with so many different people throughout the performing arts, I’m keen to get people with different skills and backgrounds on our team. I’m not necessarily looking for a homogeneous kind of person. I’m looking for people with skills in press and fashion and theatre and set design and volunteering. It’s such an incredible blend of people. We’re a little, tiny representation of the community.
In the event’s Facebook page you’ve given us a taste of what’s to come, in things such as the Waltz of Snowflakes, Land of Sweets, Sugarplum Wonderland. Can you tell me more about these different areas at the venue?
NC: We’re paying homage to different scenes from The Nutcracker, trying to encapsulate the spirit of the songs and also looking at productions of The Nutcracker and its set design and lighting design and trying to emulate that in the space. And also hopefully making a backdrop where people can lose themselves in the Christmas magic.
RB: Yeah, almost create this narrative as you enter through the marquee. Now, I’m not gonna spoil too much of course, but it is meant to be this transition from place to place, and you really feel each scene is very well-intentioned to create a more magical night and stay true to The Nutcracker as well.
With a little over one week to go before the ball, what are you and your respective teams currently working on in the lead-up to Sunday?
NC: We’ve got our final meetings done, so everything is in order, but we’ve got to decorate some trees, we’ve got to plan the venue setup, and then we’re also dealing with logistics of ticket resales and exchanges, especially with COVID. We need to make sure we have the proper information for everyone, so that people stay safe and that we can check their vaccines and lateral flows tests. So that’s an additional logistical hurdle, but it’s one we’re prepared to meet.
Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me and give our readers such an exciting preview of the ball! Do you have any final comments?
NC: I’m just really excited! I think it’s always such a good end to this semester, especially after such a tough period. I think we’re bringing Christmas back in style.