The first ball of the year is always one to mark in the calendar. One of the few opportunities to wear a show-stopping long dress and a chance to let the stress from the first few weeks of class dissipate, the Kate Kennedy Club’s Opening Ball has always been a highlight of first semester. With tickets ranging from £40 for the ball to an eye-watering £99 for the dinner, I wanted to see if I could get my money’s worth.
Last semester’s May Ball, which ironically took place in March at Kinkell Byre, garnered numerous complaints. Attendees took issue with the music, finding fault with the event’s headliners chart-topping Scottish DJ duo LF System and Mr Shapeshifter. The list went on: the queues for the fairground-inspired rides were too long, the more expensive tickets were a waste of money with the VIP tent virtually ’empty’ and there were none of the promised crepes on offer. It was time to see if the Kate Kennedy Club could redeem themselves after the complaints of last year’s May Ball being a waste of money.
Having not been to Opening Ball since my first year, as a now-fourth year, I felt both a touch of nostalgia for the excitement of going to my first ever black-tie event at St Andrews as a fresher, and a bit of trepidation. Would it all be freshers? However, I was not to worry. What felt like a first-year mixer back in 2019 has since been transformed into an event for all years. With the addition of the dinner last year, Opening Ball has since widened its appeal to veterans of the St Andrews social scene.
Unfortunately, I arrived fashionably late, missing my complimentary glass of fizz and the opportunity to be piped into the marquee situated on the Madras rugby pitches. However, I was grateful to miss the coat check queue and it didn’t take long before I was inside the tent reminiscing about my first time underneath it. It’s always special seeing the students of St Andrews turn out in force in their black-tie evening wear, and this was no exception. If you ever need fashion inspiration, a ball is where to find it.
The set-up had definitely improved with the addition of a smaller, separate tent. This significantly eased congestion at the bars in the main marquee. It’s always irritating having to wait an age to be served, but the bar staff were quick and efficient, and I never had to wait long to get my drink, which kept spirits high.
The smaller tent also enabled the expansion of the scope of the ball’s musical offerings. Fresh from playing at the likes of Otherlands Festival and Glasgow’s Berkley Suite, the DJ collective Polka Dot Disco Club took over the smaller space with a mixture of popular dance and disco tracks. It was really refreshing to see female DJs on the decks in what is all too often a male-dominated field.
The main tent was divided into two sections, with a brightly lit space featuring two bars for mingling merging into a darkened dance floor, complete with stage and strobe lights. Attendees were treated to music from the student rock band Downstem, who previously played at May Ball and are Sounds of Sandy’s regulars. Then Dundee-based DJ Ronan Baxter took over the reins, transitioning into a house set which got people flooding to the dance floor.
The headliner, Crazy P, who has featured in the line-ups of festivals including AVA and Lost Village and is an Ibiza regular, kept up a steady stream of disco-inspired tracks to keep the crowd dancing into the early hours of the morning. As with all balls that include a dinner, the number of attendees did thin out towards the end, but it still felt busy enough.
Having danced the night away, I hobbled home. I can honestly say that I didn’t much mind having paid £40 to relive a core first year memory before my time at St Andrews comes to an end, but maybe that’s just my fourth-year mentality doing the talking.