St Andrews certainly has no shortage of balls; however, the first black-tie evening in the student-run social calendar is arguably the most unique. Welly Ball, in essence, is the formal ball that follows The Challenge (the largest university clay pigeon shooting competition in the UK), and this year – the 15th anniversary of the tournament – will see over 10 university teams brought to compete in St Andrews.
Cleverly, this ball sets itself apart in the hectic St Andrews social schedule by playing to an amusing stereotype, yet it does so without any pretentiousness.Seeing the Kinkell Byre, where Welly Ball is held each year, completely filled with black-tie under tweed blazers and stuffed into rubber boots (…often Hunter, if previous fashion trends are anything to go by) juxtaposed with floor-length dresses is an aesthetic that no other event comes close to replicating.Don’t be fooled – the dress code is by far more self-satirical than intimidating. Unlike other balls – which either echo established events at other universities or troublesomely have to concoct a new theme from thin air year in and out – Welly has an almost carefree environment which helps set it a cut above the rest.
Creating such an atmosphere while coordinating an event of such a scale requires massive amounts of organisation, which started during the last term. Welly Ball’s director, India Lyons, who has been involved in the ball throughout her time as a student, explains this process: “We’ve got such an integrated committee and this understandably allows for great communication between different members, regardless of their positions, to create a fluid event which really speaks through the smooth, yet challenging, transition between after party and dinner.”
If this doesn’t sound completely convincing already – the food is pretty awesome as well. The demand for a dinner ticket far exceeds the supply, making balloting for tables necessary. Those lucky enough to get hold of a ticket can expect to be treated to a hog-roast complete with trimmings and a plenty of other surprises. However, if you missed the deadline for this feast or are simply looking for something more casual, the after party is an event in its own right.
Charity is something Welly Ball has taken a completely new direction this year. Previously, Welly has had a tradition of supporting farming or rural-based charities, including RHET & Farm Africa; this year the ball will support a prominent mental health charity – The Charlie Waller Memorial Trust. The CWMT supports young people affected with depression through raising awareness, reducing stigma, and breaking down the barriers which hinder young persons seeking help. This is without a doubt a highly positive transition in Welly Ball’s charitable giving, as well as a subject for which Isa is a particularly passionate advocate: “When the idea, to support the CWMT, was proposed, the entire committee automatically identified with the need to support this charity. With statistics showing that depression effects 1 in 4 British adults, guests can no doubt feel that the charity they’re supporting is highly relevant, on a personal and universal level.”
Things to look out for…
…For returning guests
With a new approach to Front of House, guests can expect a more intimate evening which will allow those dining to spend more time socialising with their tables. The increase in marquee size, compared to the previous year, will provide a welcome opportunity for guests to drift between the main dance floor and tent without feeling claustrophobic.
….For freshers and first-timers
As the first full-evening event at Kinkell, Welly Ball will be subject to some high expectations and, based on my experience of the ball last year, these will be met – if not exceeded. If you look at the previous reviews of the ball and after party, you’ll see that the cost of the ticket was certainly justified.
For anyone who would like to be directly involved in helping to organise the ball, working alongside members of committee, India encourages eager first-years to look out for the stall in the Freshers Fayre or, alternatively, email email@example.com.
Photo credit: Emma Raventos