I’ll admit that I knew very little about Starfields prior to attending the event on Saturday 9th September at Lower College Lawn. I had a vague awareness of the importance of the fashion show scene to St Andrews – mostly because of those famous photos of Kate Middleton on the runway at DONT WALK – and so I thought that was the sort of event that I would be going to when I was invited by the St Andrews Charity Fashion Show (FS) to attend Starfields. Very ignorant, I know. But I think that this review will be helpful for those fashion show-newbies like myself, providing an entirely unbiased perspective of attending an FS event without being ‘in the know’ about this dynamic and exciting St Andrews tradition.
Of course, having attended Starfields, I am now aware of the size and scale of the St Andrews Charity Fashion Show and their events. There are over sixty-five committee members in FS and at least a thousand people came last Saturday to party with friends and enjoy the headlining musical acts of Starfields. So that was the first revelation for me when I arrived at 4:30 in the afternoon – Starfields is not, in fact, a fashion show, but rather a festival fundraiser for the main event that will be taking place in February.
The event took place on the centrally-located Lower College Lawn, with a large stage for the musical acts underneath a tent-like contraption more reminiscent of a Glastonbury or Reading stage rather than a St Andrews student-run event. More centrally placed on the lawn was a gazebo with a transparent plastic covering, housing the bar. The bar was impressively large, a square counter placed in the round to maximise the space available for people to be served. Decorating the place were draped light bulbs, colourful bunting, and lanterns scattered everywhere. For seating, there were a handful of bench tables and more playful and thematically coherent beanbags placed strategically – but scarcely – around the lawn. As the venue got busier, most people who wished to sit down resorted to simply sitting on the grass; this got a lot muddier as the night went on, with my friend completely destroying her white Air Forces. I guess that’s the real festival experience, right?
Truthfully, it was a bit intimidating to see just how cool the crowd at Starfields looked. The FS committee and the attendees of their events have made themselves a well-deserved name as the fashion representatives and trendsetters of St Andrews. Vibrant and mismatching patterns and silvery metallics seemed to be the order of the evening for Starfields 2023, and many festival-goers rocked statement pieces and funky accessories in addition to more basic streetwear looks.
This year, Starfields hosted an impressive array of DJs playing house and electronic music, with headlining acts including Silk (Watford-based with 732.2k monthly Spotify listeners), COEO (German-based with 705.7k monthly listeners) and the star of the show, Edinburgh-born Barry Can’t Swim – who has an impressive two million monthly listeners and was voted by Billboard as one of their ‘10 Dance Artists to Watch in 2022’. The overall vibe at Starfields was infectious, and I ultimately didn’t end up caring that I couldn’t really sing along to these songs (my usual favourite pastime on a dancefloor) as I was too busy dancing with friends instead.
As if the drinks, socialising, and music wasn’t enough, the FS events team was not finished with all the surprises that Starfields had to offer. Beside the bar, there were a few small stands with all sorts of extras on offer. The hairstyling stall, where one could get their hair braided or glittered up in true festival fashion, was by far the most popular stall at the beginning of the night. If people fancied a coffee, there were iced matcha or chai lattes and more available next door, courtesy of Spoiled Life Café, with stands for La Crêperie and Saint Sizzle also nearby. Saint Sizzle grew in popularity over the night, with a wait time of around twenty minutes to get your burger at its peak. But wait – there’s more! I was surprised to discover that behind the DJ tent were two more stalls hidden away with churros and fish and chips respectively on offer. It seems like not many people knew about this, as I ended up informing many of my friends of its existence. It should also be noted that these stalls all charged normal prices, nothing discounted or free for the event attendees.
Initially upon arriving at Starfields, I felt very out of place. This is mostly down to the time I had chosen to arrive, as it seemed that despite the event being open from 4 in the afternoon, only really the committee members themselves populated the place for a while – at least until quarter to 6. I had asked a few people – including committee members – why the times chosen for the event were so awkward, but no one seemed to be able to give me a reason for this. It felt quite inefficient seeing as no one wanted to arrive at 4 PM and once the clock turned struck 10, most people didn’t want to leave.
Pretty much the bulk of attendees had arrived by 6 PM, and the bar was immediately overwhelmed with speople wanting drinks. I think that maybe a few more bartenders were needed to handle the demand, as it would take at least fifteen to twenty minutes to be able to reach the front of the crowd and grab the attention of one of the bartenders. The bartenders were great at handling it all, though – one, in particular, was able to remember ridiculously long orders from many people – and they never wavered under the persistent pressure of alcohol-craving students.
I’ll now end my review of Starfields with an oft-ignored but incredibly important aspect of any event – bathrooms. As someone with a pretty weak bladder, the available bathrooms at these kinds of functions matter a lot to me. FS had a small number of portaloos positioned in a fairly narrow alleyway behind Lower College Hall. This queuing area was very busy and chaotic deep into the evening, but there was an alternative. It seemed not many of the freshers knew this, but if they had just entered the school buildings from the door right next to the portaloos and walked up a small spiral staircase, they would reach the hall bathrooms. Just call me the @got2gonyc of St Andrews – you’re welcome!
All in all, from my first-time impression of Starfields, I think I have been strongly convinced to attend the main fashion show event next semester. That being said, if it were possible to push back the start time of the event so that the awkwardness of the beginning was eliminated and the fun part towards the end of the night could continue longer, the already excellent Starfields would earn another star in my books.