Although the approach of midterm exams and final papers is as inevitable as Scottish sunsets in the middle of the afternoon, one particular classic event remains a candy cane and tinsel-laden star on the horizon. The annual Mermaids Christmas Ball, a highlight of the St Andrews social calendar hosted by the university’s performing arts fund, is fast approaching as the festive and nostalgic remedy to all your winter woes.
I spoke with Sarah Garde, the Ball Convenor, Ellie Trace, the Logistics Assistant Convenor, and Francesca O’Brien, the Marketing Officer, about their exciting plans and brand-new theme for one of the most anticipated events of the year. Read on for The Stand’s exclusive preview of everything you want to know about Christmas Ball 2022.
Could you start by telling me about yourselves and your roles on the committee? What brought you to help organise one of the most popular balls of the St Andrews social calendar?
SARAH GARDE: My name is Sarah Garde and I’m this year’s Christmas Ball Convenor. I was on the Christmas Ball Executive Committee last year and it was such a positive experience, I couldn’t resist getting involved again this year! The St. Andrews ball culture is such a quintessential part of many people’s experiences at St. Andrews, and getting to help shape that is a real honour and privilege.
ELLIE TRACE: I’m Ellie, and I am this year’s Logistics Assistant Convenor. I essentially help Sarah with the more organisation-based aspects of planning the ball – things like finance, vendors and all the behind the scenes stuff you may not see on the night! The Mermaids Performing Arts Fund is a great cause, and Christmas Ball is all about fundraising so that Mermaids can give students access to the wonderful opportunities that performing arts presents.
FRANCESCA O’BRIEN: I’m Francesca! My role on the Christmas Ball committee is Marketing Officer, so I design the graphics and aspects such as the banner for the ticketing website and the wristband design. Christmas Ball is a crucial part of the St Andrews experience, so I knew that an event such as this was something I would love to be involved in. I get to watch the creative ideas I had before becoming a part of the committee come to life and it’s amazing to see everyone’s positive response!
With another year comes new ambitions and challenges alike. There’s certainly something to be said for both tradition and novelty when planning a classic event like Christmas Ball. What are you each bringing to the table in your respective roles?
SG: As the Ball Convenor, I set the vision and goals of the event. Practically, this means I manage my amazing Executive Committee and help them apply all their talents to the Ball. It can definitely be challenging but it is always rewarding to see the Ball go from just an idea in the summer to a large, beautiful event by the end of the semester!
FO: One of the primary things I bring to my role is the ability to succinctly provide extensive information surrounding the event in an accessible manner (with a creative twist) in order to create a smoother experience for all who work on and attend the event. A large part of the ball runs on the delivery of information of the ticket release, wristband collection, Pre-Event information, and bus times! If ball guests did not know this information beforehand, the event would be a mess!
ET: Just the sheer scale of Christmas Ball as an event is – I must confess – quite intimidating, but the committee has been so welcoming. I’ve been able to contribute my ideas and combine with their experience but I have definitely learnt a lot on the job. I like to think that my keeping on top of everything allows other members of the team to make their creative vision a reality.
What have been your main goals when putting together this year’s Christmas Ball?
ET: I’ve mostly been focused on making the Christmas Ball as enjoyable, smooth running, safe and accessible as possible. Of course, finding that balance between what people want and what is feasible is difficult, but know that we’re all working so hard to make the event as magical as it can be.
FO: This year, I aimed to give the Christmas Ball marketing a complete makeover. My goal was to emphasise the sophistication and elegance associated with the ball while also maintaining Christmas cheer. This year, there is a cohesive and stylish theme on all the graphics, and even a new logo!
SG: I want Christmas Ball to reflect the welcoming nature of the theatre community: anyone can come and enjoy themselves. I think I’ve achieved that in the make-up of my committee, and I hope, with our new ticketing platform, that openness is extended to our guests as well.
Of course, one of the most highly anticipated aspects of every Christmas Ball is the theme. Last year’s delightful homage to Tchaikovsky’s classic holiday ballet, A Night at the Nutcracker, was a sweet and magical success. Can you reveal what exciting theme Mermaids has in store for us this year?
SG: Yes! I’m so excited to say that this year’s theme is The Polar Express. Last year’s event was very classic Christmas, so I wanted to carry that through into this year’s event. And what’s more Christmassy than PJs, hot cocoa, spending time with friends, and the North Pole?
FO: Given this, my aim with the marketing was to incorporate the theme in subtle ways such as by adding pictures of certain elements of a train, like the wheels and carriages, into the graphics.
ET: The amount of times I’ve now watched [Polar Express] pre-December for inspiration purposes is slightly alarming, but it’s the creative team who are really going to make the theme come alive.
From Insta-worthy photo-op backgrounds, to crowd-pleasing music acts, to perfectly decorated themed areas, what aspects of the ball are you most excited for attendees to experience this year?
SG: That’s a really hard question because there are so many parts of the ball that I’m excited for! I would say my top three (in no particular order) are: JazzWorks, the giant train, and Shawarma House.
FO: I’m most excited for the live music, not only at the ball but also at the Pre-Event! We have some great acts lined up from acappella to jazz, and I can’t imagine a better way to boost the spirit for the Christmas season!
ET: We’ve got some old faces and some new ones joining us, so make sure to follow us on social media in the lead-up to the event to get yourself excited.
Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions and give our readers a preview of this year’s much-anticipated Christmas Ball! To conclude, can you each give a three-word summary of what awaits ticket holders at this year’s ball?
ET: Shiny, Nostalgia and Heartwarming.
SG: Magical. Bells. Believe.
FO: An incredible night!