What’s the verdict on Christmas Ball 2014? Was it a fun evening? I suppose that is the central question a review is supposed to answer. In as few words as possible then: excellent music, a wide appeal to many segments of St Andrews student body, and really good food. I can’t speak for everybody who attended but I personally had a great time. On the one hand, if you wore especially uncomfortable heels and had to wait in the daunting queue for the toilet on several occasions, then this might not have been the best night of your life. On the other hand, at one point I saw a couple slow dancing together and gazing into each other’s eyes so intently they blocked out everything around them. They just radiated love for each other. I bet they had a pretty good night. I hope they did.
I showed up on one of the last busses and promptly abused the power of my press pass to interrogate all of the people serving food and alcohol. My conclusion? Drinks were reasonably priced, the cava was readily available, and the grilled cheeses were amazing, especially the ones with the homemade peach chutney. Several people told me they were the best grilled cheeses of their life. I suspect alcohol might have played a role in the responses they gave me, but nonetheless, that is high praise for the Fine Food Society, who made said grilled cheeses. The ice cream, provided by Jannetta’s, was also stellar, especially the raspberry ripple. My only complaint there is that mine melted. I guess I should have seen that coming, but it’s Scotland and I haven’t had ice cream on a cone in a while, so I kind of forgot that would happen. Notably, there seemed to be adequate supply at all food and drink venues, which I think is key to a successful ball.
After examining the food and alcohol options, I went straight for the dance floor. The opening act was the Alleycats, followed by Jazzworks. I thought this was an interesting addition to the music lineup, and provided a more relaxed musical opening to the ball. This is part of what makes Christmas Ball so popular; it appeals to a wide selection of people, not just those who might self identify as hard partiers.
The arrival of the Black Sheep on stage coincided with a time when the majority of the crowd seemed ready for some serious dancing, and the Black Sheep obliged with their upbeat take on some classic songs. They reprised their version of Killing in the Name Of from last year, and also played Sir Mix-a-Lots Baby Got Back, which went down especially well with the crowd. The Black Sheep are a St Andrews ball standard, but I think they really elevated their performance for Christmas Ball this year. I kept trying to interview people and ask their opinions, but suddenly another awesome song would interrupt the conversation while we all got back to dancing.
This trend only accelerated when The Correspondents took the stage. The energy and style of music was perfect for a ball. The people around me kept saying things like, ‘this is so “freaking” cool!’ It got a bit frenzied on the dance floor. In fact, one girl bit me on the shoulder in what I can only imagine was her best Luis Suarez impression. I wasn’t sure how I felt about that, so I decided to take a break from the dance floor and investigate the extra venue Mermaids set up for the ball.
It was, as promised, very laid back. The entrance had a bit of a step up involved, and it was most definitely not drunk-proof. It seemed everyone was tripping on his or her way in the door. But once inside the additional space offered more seating, more food venues, hot chocolate (which was delicious!) a photo booth, and a bar. I think the prices deserve a mention, because they were decidedly reasonable, with the most expensive item topping out at 3 quid. While some people said the extra space was a little difficult to find, they generally expressed a positive reaction.
I think this tent was a great addition to the event. It was quiet, relaxed, and conducive to actual conversation. Again, it made Christmas ball more accessible to all of St Andrews, including those who don’t identify with the high-energy craziness that usually accompanies a ball, or who might want to take the occasional break from the noise of the dance floor.
I had a wonderful time at Christmas Ball and was very impressed with the food, the music, and the general atmosphere, which seemed conducive to a great night for all St Andreans. These balls where we get to wear black tie and dance around with friends people all our own age seem to be a rather unique type of event at a unique time in our lives. While they have their unpleasant aspects, for example the endless queuing for tickets, busses and the toilet, and a limited supply of tickets that was far outstripped by demand, these certainly didn’t seem to get in the way of general enjoyment of the night. It was easy to see why Christmas Ball is such a long running and popular event. Maybe balls are your thing, maybe they aren’t, and maybe I’m getting sappy as a fourth year, but I really think that we need to enjoy these amazing events while we can, and remember to not take them for granted.
In any case, I would wholeheartedly recommend that everyone give Christmas Ball a go next year. It offers an evening of classy fun for people with a wide range of interests, and a welcome diversion from the fact that it is now revision week. Well done Mermaids!
Photos courtesy of Hannah Jeffrey.