Throughout my four years at St Andrews, the premier ball of the first semester in the St Andrews social calendar has always been Mermaids Christmas Ball. This year was no different.
The meticulously planned and coordinated event, with its decidedly quirky Willy Wonka theme, treated guests to an unforgettable and highly calorific night of sweet merriment. I must admit that I was a bit trepidatious of the night ahead as I arrived at The Rule’s pre-event at around 9pm. The practice of marking guests’ hands with an ‘X’ in highlighter in order that they could board the bus was seemingly without explanation, and had no precedent (from what I can remember) from former years. The pre-event itself also seemed like a sideshow to the night rather than anything else, though the opportunity to stock up on cocktails before boarding for Kinkell was certainly greeted by the majority as a fun way to start the evening.
Upon walking into the Kinkell, guests were given a red carpet treatment and were, literally and figuratively, greeted with a cornucopia of food and drink. A perennial classic of the Christmas Ball —gingerbread men— were offered in great abundance; as were waffles, decorated with chocolate syrup and other sweet treats. And as if this was not enough, arriving guests were also spoiled with free glasses of cava. Other Bubble balls have been notoriously stingy when it comes to getting your money’s worth, but the Christmas Ball this year has seemingly set a new precedent for what guests ought to receive for the price of a rather expensive £35 ticket.
After leaving the entrance area, my eyes and ears were both immediately impressed. The distinctive sound of the Blueswater Collective belting out a rocky and soulful inspired tune set the mood for an eclectic music-filled night. Equally, Kinkell was a venue possessed by the creative imagination of the organising committee; it was transformed with an impressive display of fairy lights cascading from the ceiling, a structurally-sound bridge that proved to be a great perch from which to locate friends on the dance floor, and a massive Wonka Bar for photo opportunities and general props-giving.
The transition between the Collective and the dance anthems of BBC Radio 1 DJ Danny Howard provided a fantastic opportunity to explore all of the nooks and crannies of the venue. The first destination, Santa’s Grotto, was fantastic and featured a Wonka-inspired sleigh that was a great setting for memorable pictures. Moving through other rooms, I was mesmerised by the chocolate fountains that satisfied the sweet-tooth. Most importantly, however, I was both happy and relieved to find the Janetta’s Ice Cream stand—which has featured in years past and has always been incredibly popular.
As I made my way back to the dance floor, I stopped at one of the several bars throughout the venue to see the offerings. Upon happenstance, I found myself at a cocktail bar that offered Wonka cocktails including the minty-milky ‘Augustus Gloop’, and the liquid-jaffa cake ‘Oompa Loompa’. Though tasty and novel, the cocktails were fairly expensive for what they actually contained. The mixed drinks, however, were reasonably priced at £2.50.
The tunes supplied by Howard kept the dance floor vibrant with merrymakers for his roughly 2-hour set. Howard’s mixes, coupled with the dazzling light-show accompaniment, truly brought Kinkell to life. The crowd was certainly pleased by his performance as there was nary space on the dance floor at the height of his set. This positive energy for the ball made it even more special and, as he signed off for Joe Jones, the vibe carried through to the culmination of the event.
Jones’ set included all the cheese expected of the finale of a truly memorable night—everything ranging from ‘Jailhouse Rock’ to Slade’s classic ‘Merry Xmas Everybody’. All in all, for a fourth-year dreading exams and the culmination of studies in just one semester, the Christmas Ball took my mind away from stressful realities of everyday student life and was a great opportunity to relax and enjoy myself. I’m sure Charlie Bucket and Grandpa Joe would have been impressed by what the Christmas Ball Committee did to make the night magical. I certainly was.
Image Credits: Matt Steele