Like old male golfers or hungry seagulls, the Union – and the notorious 601 – is a constant that you can always count on in St Andrews. No matter where your night takes you, it will always be there to beckon you in, should you so wish. Because of this, however, the Union is an ever-evolving location that seems to be always implementing new events. To this end, how does the Union space and Union events hold up this semester compared to semesters past? Have there been improvements? In what ways is it better or worse?
First of all, a shoutout must be made to whomever plays the music in Main Bar on quiet nights and afternoons, as their taste is impeccable. Up there with life’s greatest mysteries, it will never cease to bemuse me that the music in the afternoon in the Union will often be enjoyable but then, come club night, the music descends to indiscernible beats. As I say, I think this is fated to remain an unsolved mystery. Moving past this, I’ve noticed this year that the Union on Sundays and most weeknights has been a nice, mellow, and popular space to do some light work and have a casual drink with friends (although this may also be a sign that I’m no longer a fresher, as I prefer a calmer night to a chaotic one). Particularly considering the big heating dilemma many households will face this year, and the unavoidable fact that after a while the library can no longer be romanticized as a study space, I’ve found myself turning more and more to Main Bar as a social space for this purpose. It seems to me that Main Bar, with its ambient music and lighting as well as hot drink options, is making a conscious effort to be a hybrid social and study space.
On the events side of the Union, I would say the it does seem to be making a more of a conscious effort this year to throw events that students want to attend. Many of the fan favourites still remain, such as Jazz Night and Karaoke, but the Bops seem to have more exciting themes and it feels to me that more people are excited for Sinners and weekend nights at the Union than in the past. It is also worth noting that the new ticket purchasing software is generally easy to use and it feels like the long queues to collect tickets for events have subsided, without this being a consequence of less enthusiasm.
I must also pay homage to the best night of the week – Jazz Night – which is still very much going strong. It has moved back into 601 and the new musicians have been hitting all the right notes, bringing a large crowd of dancers every Thursday. They do seem to be playing more crowd-pleasers (I’m thinking ‘Valerie’ and ‘Just The Two of Us’) towards the start of the evening, meaning people are dancing earlier than on previous occasions. In my opinion, this is nothing but a welcome improvement to a Union night that I love for its conviviality and laid back vibe. It is always fun to look around on Jazz Night and see all the different levels of formality in terms of outfit choice and levels of intoxication. In short, it’s an event that works no matter what kind of night you are trying to have.
Nevertheless, particularly with Halloween coming up, the big controversy with Union events remains the prices. The consensus seems to be that, even if there is a special attraction one night, ultimately the Union is still just the Union and so ten pound price tags are difficult to justify. An example of this would be the Rewinds Night which, for a hefty tenner on a Wednesday, was poorly attended. The whole concept of the Union is that it is meant to provide cheaper nightlife for students and, therefore, the Union’s whole ethos becomes undermined when events at the Rule and the Vic are cheaper. It then becomes a vicious circle in which higher priced events are not worth the money because they are poorly attended and thus have no atmosphere. It really does speak volumes that jazz, a great Union night and free before ten thirty, is one of the most well-attended.
Overall, despite its flaws, the Union we knew and love is going strong and remains a fun and reliable place for a night out.