Marija Vysniauskaite met up with one of the Oktoberfest committee members, Laurence Cardwell, to chat about the upcoming event over a nice glass of Weissbier.
MV: What can you tell us about the Tayside Center for Cancer and Leukaemia (TCCL), the chosen charity of Oktoberfest, and your overall success in raising money?
LC: Every year Oktoberfest raises money for the TCCL charity and over the last ten years that we have been running, we have raised a healthy £300,000. Last year we donated £19,000! Although it may not sound like an enormous amount in comparison to other events such as FS that not only charge £90 per ticket, but also host additional events (Starfields), it is a great achievement. The amount donated to charity would, of course, increase if we could track some of the black market money that people spend on resell tickets.
MV: I was offered a ticket for £200 just the other day!
LC: Yes, that one is a classic.
MV: Why Oktoberfest and why in St Andrews?
LC: I think the principle of Oktoberfest is incredible: it happens in March in a secluded Scottish town by the sea with people wearing kilts, Lederhosen and Dirndls. It’s the surreal aspect of it that makes it so wonderful. On top of that, it’s a foreign invasion, as most of our guests are international. I’d like to think that most of our guests are also interested in the charity aspect of Oktoberfest, which is ultimately what makes the event so special.
MV: Why are more than half of Oktoberfest tickets sold to international guests and how do you advertise it abroad?
LC: The great thing about it is that at this point we do not have to do any advertising due to our established name abroad – it is all done by ‘word of mouth’. We are by far the most international event in St Andrews and while we easily could devote most of the tickets to local students, the event is interested in importing a foreign culture. Although St Andrews students are multicultural, foreign attendees create part of the ambience that has made the event so successful.
MV: Oktoberfest has been rumored to be one of the more ‘exclusive’ events in St Andrews. Could you comment on that?
LC: Oddly enough, we are quite egalitarian, as we don’t have VIP sections and all the tickets are priced the same. The exclusivity part of it only comes through the black market resale, which makes it impossible for others to attend the event. At the end, however, it all comes down to supply and demand. We only have a limited amount of tickets that we can offer and year after year the demand is very high.
MV: Is the traditional wear only encouraged or is it expected?
LC: The rules of it are exaggerated a lot, but personally I can’t escape the strict perspective – I am half Austrian. I’ve had my Lederhosen for seven years now, they are covered with all sorts of things and they definitely have character. The Scandinavians, on the other hand, always rock up in, what to me look like plastic bags, but perhaps it’s part of their culture? I’m not sure. The Dirndl is also quite a serious affair and St Andrews has got quite a wide range of them (laughs). Last year I saw a brothel version of Cinderella who wore knee-high socks with an odd Victoria Secret bow on them and blue curtains to cover her exposed cleavage. Even though I will sound like a snob, I have to say that it all comes down to good taste. The truth is that a nice, pastel-coloured, buttoned-up Dirndl will make any girl look stunning. Stay away from screaming colours, laced waists and short skirts. But then again, while it is fun to be critical, generally I don’t mean it seriously. The variety of costume interpretations just adds to the fun.
MV: Is there anything different this year that we can look forward to?
There are a couple of tweaks and the biggest of those is concerning the toilets (laughs). It sounds very petty, but I am quite proud of it. Last year everyone wasted a lot of their time waiting in queues for toilets and we wanted to make sure it doesn’t happen again. This year we have brought in a lot of porter-loos and portable urinals. This is the least glamorous part of the event, but it is a great improvement.
We are also introducing new drinks as well as upgrading our Jägermeister bar.
LC: Is the infamous band returning?
Yes! The excellent band from Munich that has been playing in Oktoberfest for years are indeed coming back, even though last year there was a little incident with a bent trumpet that we ended up having to replace.
MV: Is the food imported from Germany?
LC: Some of the food is sourced externally – Bratwurst is going to be brought straight from Germany. But there are also a couple of local people who are going to bring in Bavarian/Austrian themed food in cartels. I try to stay away from the term ‘Germanic’; it sounds aggressive.
MV: Have you been to Oktoberfest yourself? What’s the difference between the one in Munich and the one in St Andrews?
LC: I have, of course! I had so much fun. We haven’t copied it – I would say that our event is a more intimate interpretation of the one in Munich. It still has the essence of the original Oktoberfest, but it is improved with the beautiful location as well as the people, as most of the attendees are your friends. And even if you don’t know anyone, the beer will surely help you out!
Featured images courtesy of Lightbox Creative