Remember remember the 5th of November… when I ate the best pizza I have ever had, slipped over in my (borrowed) Welly’s seven times, and was home by one with no blisters.
The Welly Ball Afterparty. The sheer mass of people who attended underscores that this event is one of the biggest events on the St Andrew’s, and (apparently) thirteen other universities, calendar. The attendees showed up in classic suits, glittering dresses, and, of course, Wellies. The combination says a lot about the attendees as a whole: dressed to the nines, but ready to party. I have to conclude it is the comfiest night on the social calendar.
Putting on an event this big takes a team dedicated to organisation and the guest experience, and the Welly Ball After Party was carefully curated in so many ways. The decision to play different music in two different rooms was a commitment to the guest experience – if you had a taste for techno, straight on down to the marquee, if you wanted to dance to the classics (Dancing Queen, Party in the USA, the good ones), the beautiful stone venue accommodated to that too, with incredible acoustics. They had toilets outside (devastating for the girls who spent ages in the line to the indoors one) to help with the lines, and the multiple bar options meant you weren’t missing the music while waiting to get a drink.
The venue itself was beautiful – decked in twinkling lights, with spaces to move inside and outside meant it didn’t feel overcrowded, despite the amount of people in attendance. Falkside Mill’s stone walls and timber roofing mimicked the rustic energy of everyone’s choice of footwear.
An event like this, with so many moving parts, is bound to have a little chaos, of course. Traditionally, Welly Ball’s specific brand of chaos has a reputation for being fun, alcohol-infused, and a little bit silly. You could feel this reputation mimicked in the atmosphere – people wove in and out of groups, calling out to friends and joining other stranger’s photos. I have over twenty photos on my phone of my roommates with a group of girls we had never before met. The camaraderie created by a good night out was at its finest.
And yet, Welly Ball’s chaos took a turn for the worse. Plastic cups smashed into shards littered the dance floor, while the bathrooms flooded, turning the part of the dance floor that was not covered in plastic into concrete so slippery, the wellies were not only an unlikely fashion statement but a gripping necessity.
I arrived back in St Andrews that night by one am, bought cheesy chips and gravy from Big Boss, and wandered home, safe and happy with my flatmate in tow. However, events of this size always risk this not being everyone’s ending. It’s incredibly difficult to manage the safety and wellbeing of over 2,000 people. For most, the night ended with them stranded at Falside Mill, waiting for buses, after the bouncers knocked off and went home at three am. In the disorganisation, guests started walking along the road to get back to St Andrews, blocking the paths of the buses that were coming along the road. The safety issues of the night did not begin or end there.
Upon entering the Welly Ball Afterparty, my press pass was checked and I walked past the security. Which seemed – odd. Usually, I am nervous about security finding the gin bottle I have stashed somewhere on my person. Because I was ‘with the press’ – I had decided to behave myself. For anyone who had been packing alcohol, this was a dream come true. No pat down, no bag check – come on in, we’re practically BYO. However, it meant that things came into Welly ball that absolutely shouldn’t have, and it soured the night in my memory. Not only did a boy proudly show me (a total stranger) the engraved knife he had brought with him, but there were also cases of spiking by injection. One case left a girl bedridden for two days before receiving confirmation from the police that she had been spiked. The knowledge that a lapse in security can lead to serious personal harm is chilling.
When I found this out, I reviewed my entire night. I thought of how I had spoken to strangers, ran across the expansive dance floors to try and find my friends, stood next to strangers at the bar, on the dance floor, in the bathrooms. I revisited the whole event in my mind, and I knew that no party, no matter how big, how grand, how comfortable the footwear, would have been worth being spiked.
The fault is not Welly Ball’s entirely. Spiking is a heinous epidemic that has found its way into St Andrews. But we need to be aware of it. And every event should be doing everything they can to prevent it, starting with basic security checks at the door. When events put every attendee’s safety first, that is when they will be providing a truly guest-oriented experience.
Welly Ball Afterparty was a joy for me to attend because I was lucky. In the future, I would like it to be a joy for everyone.