Gutted to miss last year’s Glitterball thanks to the merciless weather, to say I was excited for this year’s event is an understatement. That said, I couldn’t help but be a little skeptical: at £35 a ticket (a £5 increase on previous years) it’s difficult to say that it’s the most inclusive price-wise, and I was worried that aside from the glitter, there might not have been much tangible difference to the typical overly pricey St Andrews event. That said, Glitterball is something I’ve been looking forward to since I first got here 2 years ago, and the night of talent, creativity, and inclusivity that I was met with on Saturday was more than worth the money and completely melted my cynical, icy heart.

In the lead up to the event I found the lack of usual pompous jargon that’s often found in St Andrews event marketing refreshing. Instead, Saints LGBT+ and the Glitterball committee ensured that their fundamental concerns of inclusivity and embracing difference were promoted in every aspect of their publicity. The beautiful graphics and photography, and even more so the variety of talented performers announced, spoke for themselves. The 15% EcoStardust discount provided to encourage guests to buy biodegradable glitter, as well as the discounts for local food outlets, were also lovely touches. Each of these aspects made me cautiously optimistic that Glitterball would be a breath of fresh air from other events I’ve been to, and it really was.

Thanks to a helpful little map from the committee, the Spanish Gardens venue was a lot less elusive than it originally seemed. Though it was a tad chilly since it was so close to the sea (at nighttime… in Fife), I loved the location – walking from the Scores over to the marquee didn’t just offer lovely views, it felt like a nice distance away from the centre of St Andrews whilst being close enough that you wouldn’t need to pay an extortionate amount for a taxi should you want to leave early.

As soon as we stepped into the tent the colourful ambience hit like a brick (in the very best way). The rainbow carpet that took up entire floor was accompanied by matching lights and equally vibrant people – everything about the event immediately exuded positivity. This wonderful, spirited atmosphere was maintained throughout the event by each of the night’s performers – it was clear that the event organisers gave a lot of thought to each one.

Following DRAG Walk I was excited to see what Amy Crackhouse would bring to Glitterball, and donned in stunning vintage attire, the reigning St Andrews drag superstar did not disappoint. Saints of Seoul were also incredible; each dancer was incredibly talented and the “emphasis on diversity and expression” that the group state to be at their heart was so well suited to the event. The night’s DJs, St Andrews’ WONT and Glasgow’s MRSBAXTER2U, ensured that the atmosphere remained vibrant by playing all the LGBT+ anthems we were promised; hundreds of glittery people belting out the lyrics to artists such as Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, and Queen really made the event.

For me, Vivacious was the perfect headliner and undoubtedly stole the night. Having been a massive fan of hers since she first appeared on RuPaul’s Drag Race, her looks were exactly the Club Kid eccentricities I was hoping for, perfectly in tune with her upbeat, artistic performances. A particularly powerful moment was her discussion of reclaiming a homophobic slur. She passionately told the audience to take the ‘f’ word and “use it as a fuel”, and with her performance of “Fierce and Gorgeous” that’s exactly what she did. In the words of the queen herself, “Sometimes we have to take the negatives that society throws at us and turn it into a positive,” and with her inspirational words and remarkable talent, Vivacious truly exemplified that.

Overall, my honest review of Glitterball can be summed up with a fundamental difference between this event and some others I’ve been to during my time here – I felt like I was genuinely part of something. There was no pompous self-promotion, no bullsh*t, just a lovely, welcoming event that from start to finish truly lived up to its aim to provide “an environment for all students to feel comfortable and celebrate their differences”. At a university that has a reputation for being judgmental and elitist, it was amazing to be part of something where everyone, irrespective of sexuality and gender identity, was happily, and unapologetically, themselves. As someone who’s not all that comfortable in their own identity sometimes, Glitterball’s warmth and positivity has really stayed with me.

Photos courtesy of Ula Rustamova and Toby Lowenstein for Lightbox St Andrews.