The Mermaids Committee held their annual Christmas Ball in the Kinkell Byre, this year with a quirky theme: Harry Potter. A bold move on the Mermaids’ part, to offer up a night that so many of us book and film fans have dreamed of, and especially after the nightmare that was ticket sales, attendees were expecting magic. Overall? It was lacklustre, it was ’meh’. Across the spectrum, from music to giveaways, they offered us a night that had some entertaining moments, but was definitely flawed.
To humble us all up before this review, let’s all remember that Mermaids is only a society, not a team of professionals. It seems very easy for St Andreans to forget that the entire event is organised, designed, and managed by our own friends, the people we pass on the street. To pull off the scale and popularity that the Mermaids does consistently with each passing year is no easy feat. Some of the most dedicated and skilled students within our little Bubble commit their own time, become unpaid help, and handle the majority of the responsibility, while the actual professionals look on. It is not something to ignore.
With that said, to offer a night reminiscent of Yule Ball warrants an opportunity for criticism. Not to quote Professor Slughorn, as one often does, but the theme is something that would be ‘desperately tricky to make, disastrous should you get it wrong.’ Luckily for us avid fans, Harry Potter was integrated in every area of the marquee: Hog’s Head and The Leaky Cauldron, candles and letters hanging from the ceiling, even Chamber of Secret references and Moaning Myrtles in the bathrooms. The ‘butterbeer’ was delicious, and the themed House drinks gave everyone a subtle way to show where their allegiance lay. Kinkell spurred some awe with the beautiful decorations, particularly the fairy lights and upside down hanging Christmas trees. The front-of-house directors deserve a lot of recognition—they did a spectacular job.
However, what was perhaps the most disappointing was how quickly some of the themed giveaways came and went. Many students missed out on the Ferrero Rocher golden snitches and the Honeydukes inspired pick-n-mix stand. The amazingly fun photobooth in the ‘Great Hall’, which included props and a print of your pictures, only stayed up until 10:30, a major loss for anyone who arrived past 9:00. In fact, a large portion of people’s night was spent queueing. Coat check took some students up to half an hour, including the time spent entering the venue, prompting PTSD from that should-not-be-named horrible morning.
It was clear that those who didn’t arrive on the first buses missed out on some opportunities, and I feel Mermaids knew that going in. Press was only allowed on the very first shuttle at 7:45 so that we got first dibs at the food and drinks that were then unavailable for the later attendees. While an ‘early bird gets the worm’ argument could be made, the early birds got a very different experience than those who even arrived on the third or fourth bus, which is upsetting. For everyone to be paying for the same night, only those who arrived promptly to the union got something even close to the full value. There was a noticeable exodus a little after midnight when the return buses arrived, most likely due to what little there was to offer. However, the Blackhorn booth stayed open until late, and the bar staff were nothing but cheerful, so students were able to drink and eat their night away.
The live band, Blueswater, was spectacular, singing some oldies that got everyone dancing. Unfortunately, they, too, were gone before midnight. They were an act to remember, and hopefully they can perform in the upcoming years. The later music was hit-or-miss to some, and the dance floor noticeably cleared out with disapproval at some DJs. Or maybe it was due to the intense heat radiating throughout the venue. Us attendees have officially experienced every climate: we braved the rain for ticket sales, we were excited about the snow for ticket collections, and it was as if the committee were trying to compensate the temperature deficit by raising the Kinkell heat until everyone was sweltering.
I imagine the ball will have polarising reviews, a large divide between those who hated it and those who had the best night of their lives. Oddly enough, my night swapped back and forth, hate then love, constantly. In the end, I did have a great time, but there are many flaws that I hope Mermaids can learn from for next year. Until then, my memories of the movies and series will provide me with a more satisfying Harry Potter experience.