The On the Rocks Festival has returned to St Andrews, and with it a whole host of new events which bring sunshine, crafts, dancing, and theatre to the arts scene of the town. Co-directed by Natalie Christopher and Britton Struthers, the festival has brought together a wide variety of societies, as well as various venues around town such as the Botanic Gardens, Byre Theatre, Lupo’s, and the Heritage Museum to create a truly immersive experience of the arts lasting over a week.
The festival opened at the Launch Party hosted at Lupo’s, where three musical acts delighted audiences as they mingled over cocktails. The signature drink of the night was, fittingly, the On the Rocks, a mix of Grand Marnier and orange over ice, and was one of the more popular libations of the night – each bartender giving their own spin on the drink from orange slices to decorative flowers. The three musicians performing that night were Geena Kaye, a singer-songwriter with a gorgeous soulful voice, electronic musician and St Andrews student Brendan Head, and Dundee psychedelic rock duo Neil and Ali from Midnight Alleys. In the simultaneously busy and cosy atmosphere, On the Rocks had all their usual artistic touches, including a large sketchbook which attendees could doodle everything from portraits of their friends, to flowers, to supportive messages. All in all, the launch set the tone for a wonderful range of events ahead.
My two favourite events of the Festival thus far have been the candle making workshop at the Heritage Museum, and the Lawn Party at the Botanic Gardens. The large group crowding into the museum garden fazed the festival volunteers only momentarily before they sprung into action, organising the queue for visitors to mix, pour, colour, and scent their own candle, and even buying extra candle holders – some of the most popular being tiny patterned espresso cups. By the end of the process, I had one lovely sea-green eucalyptus scented candle that I decorated with fallen flower petals and leaves from the garden. Each person brought their own creative vision to their candles, with one visitor making a tiny zen garden of pebbles and twigs and another taking the idea of a teacup candle to heart as they mixed light brown wax. The Lawn Party hosted at the Botanic Gardens was another triumph from the OTR team. The weather was magnificent on the Friday afternoon where, hidden behind the hedges, students mingled under the sun while playing lawn games, painting with watercolours, and listening to another excellently curated selection of acoustic music from student performers including the lovely voice and guitar-playing of Will Grabowski, the folksy sound of Georgina Beeby, eclectic and engaging song choices from Eli Thayer and Oliver Frank, and the ever-popular Ukelear Fusion, playing mash-ups of crowd-pleasing songs on their ukuleles. One of my favourite touches of the event were the bubble wands passed around between attendees, adding a nostalgic and ethereal touch to an already wonderful afternoon.
One of the highlights of the On the Rocks Festival has always been the large range of student theatre shows, and this year has been no exception. From popular plays, to student-written work, to comedy shows, OTR has it all. The week opened with Eurydice on the StAge, Sarah Ruhl’s reworking of the Orpheus and Eurydice myth developed under the auspices of the student-led Quite Nice Productions. Two student-written productions followed closely: the musical mystery Double Crossed, which was impressively featured on STV before its premiere, and the absurdist one-act play In Memoriam, opening to a fully sold-out run. The sketch comedy troupe The St Andrews Revue is also back with a show that promises to ‘get serious’, No Laughing Matter, while Theatre, Lime, & Salt will be a new juried mini-festival of ten minute plays.
Of course, OTR has a whole host of other events packed into the next few days. These include the highly awaited Strictly Come Dancing, where experienced ballroom dancers from BALLADS are paired with a familiar newcomer to the dancing scene, a spring ceilidh hosted by the Celtic Society at Boys Brigade Hall, and a night of live music at Lupo’s, all happening on Sunday March 20th – how can you pick just one to attend? For the more crafty, there are plenty of workshops in everything from friendship bracelets in St Mary’s Quad, to rock painting on Castle Sands, to linocut print-making at the Student Union.
In the middle of its run, On the Rocks has already delighted every kind of festival-goer with their wide range of exciting events in theatre, art, dance, and more. From bringing back summertime nostalgia, to introducing new student writing, it is an ideal downtime for students looking for a productive break between tutorials, and also the perfect way to ring in the long-awaited return of warm weather to the Bubble.