It has been a big week for this small town as the Netflix entourage arrived in full force. Hope Street became a movie set, Tesco closed for eight hours, and North Point transformed into a pizzeria— it’s safe to say the three streets are going global.
Transforming the town back to the 2000s has been both chaos and a treat to watch. For students who spend their days wandering aimlessly, hopping café to café (which is all too familiar to me), the monotonous routine has just gotten more exciting. Even a typical Tuesday evening library sesh turned into floods of actors, camera crews, and paparazzi.
The media frenzy is reminiscent of the early days when heir to the throne and fresher William stepped foot into Sallies in 2001. When William announced his decision to attend St Andrews, the media went wild. It was absolutely unprecedented days as access to William had been limited after his late mother Diana had tragically died four years prior. The British tabloids were thirsting for new stories on their young prince and notoriously so, they found every avenue to invade his personal life. Within weeks of the announcement, multiple central St Andrews houses were purchased by major press associations in order to have a permanent station for the paparazzi.
From the arrival of Prince Charles dropping off William on his first day, the Palace and British media had come to a compromising agreement to provide both privacy and publicity. At the end of each term, the palace would provide details and photos of William and supplement that with occasional interviews, updating the public on his ventures. However, in typical vulture media fashion, the press broke that promise a few times with famous photos of him grocery shopping at Tesco, for example. For the most part, he was treated like a normal student with accounts of him feeling content and at home in St Andrews.
However, while the prince might’ve had a perfectly normal experience— as ordinary as you can get as heir to the throne— the deeper influence of his attendance was seen in years after. Following his time at St Andrews, it was reported that the university experienced a 44% increase in applications— namely young American women (…guilty!). This caused rent to skyrocket, single rooms turned into doubles, and produced an overcrowded student population.
The public coined this as the “Prince William Effect.” It was hard to ignore the undeniable effect of an attractive and eligible royal attending a previously lesser-known yet highly prestigious university. The university couldn’t keep up with the influx of sudden media attention and interest in enrolment. This theme is still seen in the university with the recent and alarming housing crisis. Even with the construction of DRA and Fife Park, two larger and more modern housing options, there are many students who have to cross their fingers that they even get accepted into university housing as second years.
The Prince William Effect has been replaced with what I’m inclined to pre-emptively call “The Crown Effect.” With the mass media frenzy and front-page headlines surrounding the new and final season of The Crown, self-proclaiming as ‘one of the world’s biggest TV shows’, one has to wonder what effect this spotlight will have on St Andrews— both town and gown.
Every large media outlet has already covered the filming this past week and has most likely been in town getting the paparazzi shots themselves. So what happens when this new season is aired on Netflix? Netflix is the largest video streaming service in the world as they boast over 220 million subscribers worldwide. With millions of people tuning into The Crown and binging the episodes (as I proudly would admit to as well), it isn’t absurd to question what is going to happen with this upcoming season’s focus on William and Kate’s time in St Andrews. The Crown brings a vibrant level of interest to the royals and their inner, private lives. We can only predict what the spotlight on St Andrews will do to application numbers and acceptances – because we know all too well that this university isn’t afraid to over-accept even if the town can’t keep up with the demand.
However, tourism and overpopulation are no stranger to St Andrews, with The Open taking place over the summer of 2022. Near 300,000 golf-enthusiasts came into the small town during the week, with Airbnb prices rising 250%. As a town not even home to a mere train station, it is a blessing and a curse for St Andrews to be the ‘home of golf.’ It is almost as if this is a small town that doesn’t even know how famous it is; the cobblestoned streets and tiny pubs are painfully and charmingly oblivious to how popular this little place really is.
This is a town that can’t accommodate the staggering numbers of interest and amazement the world has for it. Although it feels like the cliché bubble we all lovingly refer to it as, it’s become more than a bubble recently. Media attention reminds us all that we aren’t as secluded in middle-of-nowhere Scotland as we like to think. From royal alumni and students to the largest golf championships, this town is a lot bigger than the three streets in the eyes of the world.