Gabriella Romney reviews the Kate Kennedy Club’s main annual event: May Ball, and critiques our ‘ball culture’ here in St Andrews. 


The Kate Kennedy Club has excelled in making May Ball a St Andrews’ institution, one of the most popular events even in the midst of revision. At £100 a head for a table, £70 for VIP, and £45 for a classic ticket (fortunately sold online this year), the pressure is tangible to create a unique and unforgettable event, especially as the KKC celebrate their 90th anniversary.  The KKC, showed organisational finesse throughout the evening, despite the initial problems with ensuring the event was sold out.

The buses were limited from Younger Hall, at specified times depending on the ticket, leading to many standard ticket holders having to arrive via taxi, although buses were timely arriving to the venue. Table ticket holders left at 5, and arrived to a tastefully decorated and well laid-out tent overlooking the sea. Service was quick and friendly with a selection of canapés and entrees, as well as pick and mix. Some questioned the ticket price as there were only 4 bottles of wine per table, but most enjoyed the ambiance and attended more for the experience than the alcohol.kkVIP ticket holders were greeted with a champagne reception of Piper Heidsieck, far nicer than the usual ball champagne fare. The dinner tent was converted to the exclusive VIP tent, complete with a separate bar far less crowded than the main, their own live band and DJ, and treats such as champagne popsicles and pies brought out towards the end of the night. Classic ticket holders received no such treats, neither a free drink, nor the food -which is a standard of other balls- was provided. While VIP holders could enjoy the exclusivity and short bar lines of their tent, they were still subjected to the same extensive bathroom and ride lines as standard ticket holders.

Standard ticket holders lacked a champagne reception, instead instantly subjected to a congested coat queue, or rather, lack of a queue. The mass throng mobbing the poor coat-check workers resulted in many choosing to hide their belongings behind couches. Similarly, while there were workers diligently manning the bathrooms, lines were long and pushy, even with alternative outdoor toilets. The main bar staff were also expedient, but there was no way of truly controlling the shoving masses as they pushed their way up to the bar.

The main stage acts were disappointing to most, with the dance floor remaining essentially bare until the main act, DJ Ben Pearce, eventually arrived. With most having consumed peak amounts of alcohol by that point, the dance floor was packed and frenzied. However, the highlight of the night for many, and the most unique feature of the ball, was the carnival rides. Despite being an expected part of May ball, it is also a favourite, as the break from repetition of the standard ball is one of the most appealing features of the event. While students were forced to wait in monitored lines in the cold, often for extended periods of time, many viewed the carnival aspect as their favourite part of the night and what fundamentally made the high ticket price worth it.ridesA large covered smoking area was located directly next to the various food stands, resulting in a relaxed atmosphere for students to escape the packed mania of inside for food or a cigarette, as well as being near a line for a ride. As the main stage initially lacked popularity, this was a more attractive option for many, and offered some of the best opportunities of the night to socialise. The end of the night resulted, in typical and predictable Kinkell fashion, a chaotic bus and taxi situation, as students all eager to return home were forced to queue in painfully long lines among their rowdy and intoxicated peers.

While May Ball had its shortcomings, the Kate Kennedy Club once again met high expectations. Most of the problems of the night occurred not because of poor planning, but are rather problems perpetuated at every large ball, something one comes to expect. This perhaps highlights the largest problems with balls, in that they are predictable. While balls are a cornerstone of St Andrews social life and are not going anywhere soon, it becomes hard to justify exorbitant ticket prices only to experience the same event over and over again. While the KKC continue to put on smooth and successful events, they fail in bringing anything new to the table.


Gabriella Romney

Photos courtesy of Lightbox.