Tara Atkins interviews Thomas Curry about this year’s Masquerade.

You founded Masquerade with Mafalda de Freitas a couple of years ago, what made you decide to launch an event like this?

A couple of summers ago, a close friend of ours asked us what we thought about putting on our own event to raise money for a cause that they were particularly passionate about, and even thought neither of us knew much about the charity at the time, we decided to go for it! We’ve both always really enjoyed attending a variety of different events whilst we’ve been studying here, and thought we’d see what it would be like to launch our own fundraiser.

Your main charity is the Cystic Fibrosis Trust, why did you decide to go with this charity?

We were initially introduced to the Trust and their work by a friend of ours who has developed a close relationship with them over the years. We’ve now been working with them for the past two years, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future, as we are keen to support an extremely worthwhile cause that doesn’t always get the exposure we feel it deserves. There have been huge advances made in the last 20 years as a result of the Trust’s research, and we feel that our contribution, no matter how modest, is making a real difference to the lives of those who suffer with Cystic Fibrosis and that’s something we’re extremely proud of.

You have changed the event up a bit this year with the new venue etc. Tell us a bit about the changes.

Our first two years were spent making sure the event was a profitable success, so, now that we’re confident we’ve managed to build something which will continue to raise money for a charity we’re really passionate about, we’ve turned our attention to making sure we host one of the best events in town. There is certainly still got some tough competition out there, but we’ve worked hard to make sure that this year’s event is less formal, and more enjoyable all round for everyone who attends. This year we’ll be hosting the Masquerade at a brand new venue (St. Mary’s Quad) which has never been used before, and will be hosting some fantastic music acts (The Correspondents as well as mixes by Edinburgh-based White Mink), with loads of extra smaller touches that will really make it a night to remember.

We have had other dance events such as Itchy Feet and An Evening of Dance, since you have put a large emphasis on the music, why did you choose swing and jazz? What makes the Correspondents the ultimate headline act?

The Correspondents are an absolutely incredible act to be working with on this year’s event. Having played at Bestival, Glastonbury and Secret Garden Party as well as a lots of other smaller, boutique festivals we’re really pleased to be hosting them at this year’s Masquerade. They are the perfect blend of jazz and vintage swing with a stronger DJ production element to it. All you have to do is watch some of the teaser videos we’ve posted to see how much atmosphere they generate at their live performances, it’s phenomenal!

It is obviously a big change from last year, would you say that they biggest change is going from the ball aspect to more of a music-orientated laid-back atmosphere?

Definitely. Sometimes the idea of a Masquerade Ball can sound a little stuffy, even quite period-drama-esque, so this year we’ve spent a lot of time making sure we create the right atmosphere; the music is obviously a big part of that, but it’s something that is effected by every aspect of an event, so we’ve changed the venue, introduced new sponsors like Joe & Seph’s Gourmet Popcorn and added a couple of extra little surprises to make the whole evening something people will be talking about for a long time after the last guests have left.

Organising an event as big as Masquerade, which seems to be getting bigger every year, comes with problems, what would you say is a typical day in planning?

I can’t remember a day gone by since term started in September that I’ve not had to call somebody back about something! Sponsors are always tricky to pin down, but you can normally get hold of them if you’re persistent enough. We have a fantastic committee this year and everyone has worked extremely hard to make sure they’re pulling their weight. I’m excited to see how the event grows after we’ve all left, and they take hold of the reigns.

Despite the hardship of setting up, what would you say is the most rewarding experience to come from it so far?

Without a doubt the best experience to come from our event so far is calculating the final figures after last year’s Masquerade and being able to announce that, of all the money we generated from ticket sales, we were able to donate exactly 50% of our total revenue directly to charity. That’s something that not every event can do, and it’s something we’ve definitely set as a goal to work towards for all our future events.

I know you said that you are moving away from the period masquerade ball, but what was the thinking behind the initial idea?

We all spent a long time thinking how to differentiate our event from all the competition, and in the end a Masquerade seemed the easiest way to develop a strong visual identity that would stand out from the crowd. This year we’ve drawn a lot of our inspiration from the 1920s boom years, from Capote’s 1966 Masquerade Ball and the fun and excitement of the UK’s festival scene (Secret Garden Party in particular).

Do you think in past years people have made the extra effort to conform to the event?

All our guests have always made a huge effort for the event each year which has been really rewarding to see. Hopefully this year will be no exception!

Finally, could you tell our readers why, with all the other events going on in April, they should spend money on a ticket to Masquerade?

After all our hard work we’ll definitely have an atmosphere completely different to any of the other big events in St Andrews. The Correspondents are truly fantastic, and our sponsors have been extremely generous this year so there will be plenty of goodies for everyone who attends. At only £25 a ticket, I think you’d be hard pressed for a reason not to go to this year’s Masquerade!


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Tara Atkins 

Image courtesy of Masquerade