Our Perspective Editor on why the Union really is the social hub of St. Andrews, and few tips for Freshers on where to go and for what.

I’ve been granted the judicial authority to decide whether or not the Union is the ‘social hub’ of Bubble-nightlife—a thankless task of course, yet worthwhile. After all, enough debate has been thrown around about how ‘St. Andrews’ and the term ‘social hub’ are mortal enemies. I come as the Napoleon, to quell dissent and rally the troops. In fact, this is the second hardest thing I’ve ever had to decide. And after much consideration, I came to the decision that the Union should be called the ‘social hub’ of Bubble-nightlife. Yes, hold on, before you start throwing things. I know what it currently looks like. First, my negative rationale.


Against the Union’s contention for the title stand many opponents, both formidable and lacklustre. Of the latter we have The Whey Pat, The Criterion and The Central. They’re not bad places, in fact they’re great for a get together with a small group of friends who’d like a quiet night. They’re also great if you like something proper to drink, i.e. Real Ale; all of the above can provide a veritable cornucopia of choices. But seeing as how their net capacity is roughly 27 people (give or take), they are not conducive to large social gatherings which is pretty much essential to be warranted a ‘social hub’.


Next a semi-condenter: Aikmans. The reason it is a semi-contender is because it is a ‘social hub’ for a certain sect of the St Andrews population: hipsters. Nothing says ‘cool’ like a dimly lit pub with fragile wooden furniture, dirty couches and a basement bar. If you are a hipster or a wannabe hipster, this will be your stomping ground. Aikmans will give you the social capital you need to climb the hipster social ladder. But like the three institutions previously mentioned, Aikmans deserves credit; it has a great selection of European beers and fantastic live music at least once a week (though if old-timer rock n’ roll’s your thing, the Criterion’s still a better bet on a Monday night.) If that is your thing, then go for it, but to say it is the ‘social hub’ of St Andrews would be something of a misnomer.


The only other true contenders to rival the Union as the ‘social hub’ of St Andrews nightlife are The Vic and The Lizard. First, The Vic. In its favour, it is the only venue in St Andrews to have 7-day 2am licensing permit, which for St Andrews is tantamount to the Hope Diamond. More than that, it has some great DJ sets and good drinks deals throughout the week. But the reason it misses out on the coveted ‘social hub’ of St Andrews nightlife title is due to the fact that it is always so damn crowded. It always feels as though you are being shepherded around, like a sheep, or battery-farmed chicken. How can it be a ‘social hub’ when you can only talk to the 4 people directly surrounding you?


Now the infamous Lizard. If Thomas Hobbes were alive today, he would have an even worse view of human nature after encountering scenes at the Lizard. It is one of the only venues in St Andrews where any sense of morality is left at the door and inherently bad decisions become perfectly good ones. Much like Marmite, you either love it or hate it. However, the Lizard is the closest thing we have to a club in the Bubble, so we have to embrace it for what it is. If you want a loud and sweaty box to dance in, then it is most certainly the place for you. The main reason the Lizard almost deserves the right to be called the ‘social hub’ of St Andrews nightlife is because of its genuine ability to connect such a wide variety of students. Everyone has a story to tell about the Lizard. It helps weave the social fabric of the student population and for that it deserves some respect (much of which is again lost if you go to the Lizard).


At long last we’ve come to the Union. The only proper way to see the Union is the compare it to karaoke. That is, some people love it, some people hate it and the majority pretend to hate it, even though deep down, they actually love it. Yes, the Union is the venue that most love to hate, the imperfect sore (which currently looks like the pus exploded everywhere) on the aesthetically pleasing Market St, and the bastion of boppers the world over. We love to complain about the terrible events, the rising price of Tennents and the queues at the bar.  But we do not appreciate the Union enough for what it is: the undeniable ‘social hub’ of our small seaside town.


No matter where your night begins, it is bound to end at the Union. At night the building is always buzzing with activity from all cross sections of the student community and is a sanctuary for everyone’s needs. Whether you’d just like to play some pool, hop on the pub quiz machine, sit down to chat, be the true social butterfly and hop from conversation to conversation or would like to dance the night away in Venue 1, then the Union is ultimately yours for the taking.


In its favour, the Union is home to some of the cheapest drinks in town. And in true Union fashion, it takes vertical integration seriously by providing Nightline, a laudable service that is sometimes needed after having a few too many. Undeniably, the Union also plays host to a plethora of events, whether it is the Bop, a small concert in Venue 2 or even a play or musical put on by Mermaids or The Just So Society. What you want is provided by the Union. It might not be perfect, but it is what we are stuck with, for better or worse. Lets face it, the Union is the most functional place in town to have a good time at night and for that reason, it is bestowed the title of ‘social hub’ of St Andrews nightlife. Get the Tennents in. You’ve only got till 2.


Matt Steele