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This month we wanted to explore Scottish and St Andrews art and culture, and share it with our readers, old and new. For incoming freshers, we hope that this helps you understand some of the more elusive St. Andrews lore, and learn some things you may not already know!
All of our articles are written by our veteran writers, with experience reporting on the St. Andrews arts scene. We hope that you enjoy reading their points of view on familiar and unfamiliar topics.
Exploring Scottish literature: Iain Banks and The Wasp Factory
In this article Deia Leykind explores the importance of Scotland in Iain Banks’ controversial yet classic novel ‘The Wasp Factory’, considering how the author both affirms and challenges traditional ideas of Scottishness.
‘A silly, gloatingly sadistic and grisly yarn of a family of Scots lunatics’ –Sunday Express
Iain Banks (1954 - 2013) is a prominent Scottish author renowned for his ability to shock the most cunning reader with dexterously concocted plot twists. Born in Dunfermline, Fife, just under an hour drive from our own St Andrews, he read English Literature, Philosophy and Psychology at Stirling University, later returning to teach Creative Writing. From his first and perhaps most famous novel, The Wasp Factory (1984), it is clear that Scotland is central to much of his work, from using it as a geographical setting to both indulging in and manipulating its literary traditions.
The Wasp Factory follows the story of 16-year-old Frank Cauldhame, who lives with his tight-lipped father in a rural and isolated house on the North-East coast of Scotland. Frank is anything but the average teenage boy, informing the reader of his murder of three family members in a disconcertingly nonchalant manner; ‘Two years after I killed Blyth I murdered my young brother Paul,’ he reveals, ‘and then a year after that I did for my young cousin Esmerelda, more or less on a whim. That’s my score to date. Three. I haven’t killed anybody for years, and don’t intend to ever again. It was just a stage I was going through.’ If you reflect with alarm on different ‘stages’ you went through in younger years, you can probably take comfort in the fact that none was quite so horrific as Frank’s flirtation with murder.
As Katarzyna Więckowska points out in her essay ‘Other Borders: Nation, Gender, and Genre in Iain Banks’s The Wasp Factory’ (2016), the island on which Frank lives ‘functions as his identity badge and as the proof of his existence’. Indeed, the novel opens with Frank patrolling the borders of the island, ‘making the rounds of the Sacrifice Poles’. Later in the book, he admits he does not like to get too far from the island but prefers ‘to be able to see it if possible’ at all times. For Frank, setting becomes his identity, the Scottish island is who he is. The danger of forming such a strong nationalistic dependency, however, is revealed at the end. When Frank changes, or rather, the dawning of change is forced upon him, the island can no longer support him and he is forced to seek new horizons, which he had previously done everything in his power to keep ‘restricted’. We can thus interpret Banks as challenging the traditional and increasingly outdated view of national identity as fixed and immovable.
Banks also draws on the Scottish literary tradition of the Gothic double, which can be traced back to Hogg’s The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner (1824) and later Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886). All of these Scottish texts portray their protagonists as a ‘divided self’, and Frank adds to this trope, though perhaps with more self-awareness and naturalism, while still retaining that Gothic power to cast chills down the reader’s spine. ‘Sometimes the thoughts and feelings I had didn’t really agree with each other’, Frank notices, ‘so I decided I must be lots of different people inside my brain’. What is scary is that we can all relate to this on one level, though Frank’s confession seems to align with mental illnesses such as Bipolar Disorder or Schizophrenia. Furthermore, Banks adds to these quintessential Gothic motifs, a gendered dimension as our protagonist undergoes a gender identity crisis, thereby updating and modernising Scottish literary traditions, both in relation to a rising medical sensitivity towards mental illnesses as well as a more fluid interpretation of gender labelling.
Ultimately, The Wasp Factory marks a milestone in Scottish literature, swerving against the urban realism that predominated Scottish writing at the time with authors such as William Mcllvanney and James Kelman, instead merging brutality and violence with comic genius in a modern hybrid form. Banks seeks to recontextualise historical ideas of Scottish Nationalism and Scottish literary traditions into his contemporary world, which posed its own new set of ‘Gothic’ threats and anxieties.
Almost two years after the appearance of a giant inflatable lobster in the middle of St Salvator’s Quad, Laura Bennie explores this work's connection to St Andrews as a university and a town and questions whether we may all have judged it too harshly.
It’s time to talk about the Lobster.
It says something in itself that without any further description, the vast majority of the St Andrews’ many students and staff know exactly what I am referring to.
In October of 2020, in the midst of lockdowns and outdoor covid-friendly socialising, it appeared. The Lobster. More specifically, a giant inflatable cartoon lobster, sporting pyjamas covered in fried eggs. Its appearance was seemingly random to many. Little fanfare of it being made through the University’s communication channels - at the time primarily being used to share statistics regarding the pandemic. It prompted confusion and, honestly, derision.
So what was this lobster - that appeared so obtrusively at the centre of St Salvator’s historic quad?
The work was the brainchild of St Andrews graduate Philip Colbert. Colbert is a Pop artist who has been referred to as ‘the godson of Andy Warhol’, and this work certainly evokes the bright subversive nature of some of Warhol's own work.
The Lobster was a part of a broader exhibition shown at the Wardlaw Museum in 2021: ‘The Death of Marat and the Birth of the Lobster’. Colbert’s works of neo-pop surrealism in this exhibition centred around a reworking of Jacques Louis-Davide 1793 painting, The Death of Marat. The Death of Marat depicts the final moments of French journalist and politician Jean-Paul Marat (another St Andrews graduate) in his medicinal bath after his murder. It is generally considered to be a greatly accomplished work, with influences of Michaelangelo and Carravagio seen in its composition and use of light. Davide’s Marat is exceptionally emotive and truly strikes the viewer with the depiction of its tragedy.
Colbert’s Lobster, then, serves as a harsh contrast with the pale, mournful figure of Marat in his bath. This exhibition served as a dialogue between past and present, only exemplified by the giant hyper-pop lobster standing in front of St Salvator’s Chapel, dating from 1450.
Contrasting in an understatement.
But why St Andrews? Philip Colbert is an accomplished artist who has exhibited all over the world. Why return to his alma mater to showcase this exhibition?
Colbert credits his time studying at St Andrews as vital to his artistic development, graduating with a degree in Philosophy in 2003. He says his degree really helped change his view on the world, and sparked a passion for challenging people’s perceptions of art, to in turn challenge its boundaries. Alongside Philosophy, Colbert studied Art History modules through which he was exposed to historical works of art that he has come to explore in his own work throughout his career. This includes The Death of Marat, which is still studied in a second year module today. The inflatable lobster fits perfectly within Colbert’s oeuvre. It represents a conversation between the past and future of the town and university of St Andrews, Colbert as an artist and of the visual arts themselves.
However, to Colbert, the Lobster’s meaning extends beyond this one exhibition, and the one oversized inflatable that graced St Andrews. The Lobster represents Philip Colbert’s artistic alter-ego. In the biography on his own website he says: “I became an artist when I became a Lobster”. It allows him to explore the intersection between modern life, digital culture and the art historical canon. All using this cartoon alter-ego as his narrator.
While the Lobster proved controversial, in context its appearance in St Andrews starts to make sense. Such an important Place to Colbert and to Marat, the place where their lives intersected, and houses so much history. The exhibition and the reason for the lobster could certainly have been communicated more clearly within the town. I think if more people had known why it was there, and were aware of the artist’s connection to the town it perhaps would have been met with more enthusiasm and less confusion. Although the purpose of art is to generate conversation and garner opinion, the Lobster certainly did its job. I, for one, wish I would have appreciated it more.
Disney Pixar's 'Brave': A Scottish Tale of New Beginnings
What lies behind the beautiful scenery, castles, and enchantments of Disney Pixar Brave’s imagined Scotland? In this article, Emily Garrow explores the theme of starting anew in Brave and the role of the will-o’-the-wisps.
Images: WikiArt, Hermann Hendrich
From Highland games to Clydesdale horses, Disney Pixar’s 2012 animation Brave incorporates countless Scottish features into a fantastical tale of figuring out who you will become. It is easy to see how Brave’s artistry was inspired by Scotland by looking around St Andrews’ castle and cliffs or taking that short trip into the countryside. Although, thankfully, we don’t need to worry about a bear chasing us down Market Street.
If I’m honest, I’m not equipped to judge the accuracy of the film, historical or otherwise. Given Dunbroch is a fictional location and the presence of magical spells, in all fairness to those who made Brave, artistic licence is to be expected. Instead, I will look into the series of new beginnings that transpire as a result of Merida’s choice to pursue the will-o’-the-wisps.
The film accompanies the strong-willed Princess Merida (Kelly Macdonald) as she rejects the arranged marriage being set up for her. To further her problems, she also refuses to behave how her mother, the scrupulous Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson), intends her to. After an argument with the Queen, Merida flees into the woods and is led to a wee cottage by will-o’-the-wisps. There she finds a witch (Julie Walters) who claims to be a woodcarver. Merida manages to convince the witch that she should give her a spell to change Elinor’s mind. The witch, however, withholds the extent of the enchantment and Merida unwittingly transforms her mother into a bear. Merida and Elinor have to secretly work together to turn the Queen human once more, as they contend with Merida’s father, the renowned bear-hunting King Fergus (Billy Connolly), and a castle packed with three visiting clans. Ultimately, Brave is the story of Merida finding a new start while maintaining relationships with those she loves most: her family.
In addition to her determined attitude, Merida is guided towards a way of procuring a fresh start by will-o’-the-wisps because their lights are what leads her to the witch. Nevertheless, the wisps’ motives for interfering with Merida’s life are left unanswered. Were they wanting to help her or did they want to cause upheaval? With the definition of ‘a delusive or elusive goal’ (“Will-o'-the-wisp.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster), it could be argued the wisps were enticing Merida with a way to achieve her ambitions with the belief that she would fail; in many myths and legends, will-o’-the-wisps intentionally cause harm to those who follow them.
Another way of interpreting the wisps is that they were sensing what Merida wanted to change most at that point in time; in their every appearance they lead her to what she is looking for - even if it would potentially endanger her. For instance: they directed her out of the forest when she was little; they pointed the way to Mor’du’s hideout so she could learn about the ramifications of her mother’s future as a bear; and most importantly, they knew where she could acquire a method to alter her mother’s mindset.
To increase the ambiguity surrounding the will-o’-the-wisps, at the film’s climax it is implied the wisps are human souls since Mor’du joins them after he is killed by the Queen. The allusion creates a deeper connection between the characters and the wisps themselves; it is no longer simply blue lights that are ushering Merida to a new beginning but the deceased. Yet, as human morals can vastly differ, this knowledge gives little support in determining the wisps’ principles. Given the happy conclusion, however, it is likely the wisps are supposed to be helpful and knew Merida needed a hand to properly reconcile with Queen Elinor - though that does not stop them causing a lot of mischief along the way. Overall, the will-o’-the-wisps in Brave are vague in terms of ethics but fundamentally push Merida on to the path of a new beginning.
Equal parts empathy growth and humour, Brave shows how going in a new direction can change your life completely and reveal what is most important to you. Embracing a new beginning can be difficult but eventually rewarding as is seen when Merida and her mother grow closer due to their new-found understanding of why they behave the way they do. They learn to listen to what the other is saying rather than only hearing their words - despite those ‘words’ turning into bear growls in the case of Elinor. Merida’s new beginning also gives her more freedom and say in her future by showing her parents that deviating from tradition does not mean a lack of respect but simply a different desire from theirs.
Although she has some assistance from the will-o’-the-wisps, Merida’s journey to change ultimately comes from within herself and her mother. Merida would not have been able to avoid her impending engagement if Elinor had not decided to rethink her outlook and start again. Without their perseverance and developing trust, Merida and Queen Elinor’s new beginning with each other could instead have been the end of their relationship altogether.
Merida believes the wisps are ‘a chance to change your fate’ (Disney Pixar Brave) but really they only were the catalyst which encouraged a new beginning already unfolding between Merida and her mother. Elinor and Merida’s bond flourished because they knew they needed to rethink the way they perceived the world and each other. We, as a society, can learn from this message by considering others’ points of view and feelings before we make any quick judgments, lest in animosity we accidentally transfigure them into forest creatures.
Even though magic plays its part in Brave, a spell certainly isn’t necessary to make a new beginning in our own lives. We just need to find the courage within ourselves to do so. If the story of Brave is any example, sometimes a perspective adjustment is enough to set off a string of positive new beginnings. Let us only hope the will-o’-the-wisps don’t steer us into peril…
Aldwin Li introduces JazzWorks St Andrews’ Thursday jazz nights, joining the dots between jazz, funk, swing and soul.
At first glance 9pm-12am Thursday may feel a bit early in the week for a music event, but JazzWorks’ sessions at the Student Union are slightly lower-intensity than its cousins at Down To Funk and Behave. St Andrews’ own musicians take the stage at the Union to jam over anything from jazz to soul to funk to pop. For those who don’t just want to sit and watch, the stage is open to anyone who can sing, or who knows their way around a chord chart, and Swing Dance Society is there warming up the floor. If you’re a fan of music new and old (read: at most last century) and want something light as the week winds down, Jazzworks’ jazz nights may just be the thing for you.
There’s no better place to start than the classics and this is where the night usually begins, with a rotation of JazzWorks’ musicians playing standards from the fifties and back. Some of these might be less familiar outside of jazz circles, such as Miles Davis’ ‘Four’ (1954), Ray Noble’s ‘Cherokee’ (1938) or Gerald Marks’ ‘All of Me’ (1931: not the confusingly different John Legend song from 2013), but others might be more familiar – George Gershwin’s ‘Summertime’ has been covered as recently as 2021 by Lana Del Rey. If swing isn’t quite your thing, JazzWorks blends these with Latin and bossa nova tunes like Antonio Carlos Jobim’s ‘The Girl From Ipanema’ or Sonny Rollins’ ‘St Thomas’ to fill out the first half of the night.
As the crowd begins to build and warm up, the music slowly swings to the nearer half of last century. Again there are a few tunes that might be slightly less well-known – Pee Wee Ellis’ ‘The Chicken’, Herbie Hancock’s ‘Watermelon Man’ – but most songs this half of the night are by names we’ve heard before: Nina Simone, Amy Winehouse, Stevie Wonder. More and more of the space in front of the stage fills up as people dance or join their friends dancing to familiar songs – occasionally someone calls for something this century and JazzWorks is happy to oblige, although the most modern they’ve gone is ‘Uptown Funk’ (2014). As midnight nears the show builds to a finale on crowd favourites like ‘Feeling Good’ and ‘Valerie’, winding down a tour through music from the twenties to the twenties.
JazzWorks musicians have also played at gigs ranging from school mixers to residential hall events to formal balls, and sometimes host introductory jazz workshops! Follow them on Facebook (JazzWorks) or Instagram (@stajazzworks), or swing by their first Freshers’ Jam on Monday.
The Distant Echo
Val McDermid, commonly known as the ‘queen of crime’ in the literary world, has become something of a champion for ‘tartan noir’, a genre of crime fiction with a particular focus on Scotland, and Scottish writers, Eleanor Grant writes.
Like fellow crime fiction authors Ian Rankin and William McIlvanney, McDermid sets nearly all of her novels in the same region, but whereas Rankin and McIlvanney focus on Scotland’s two biggest cities, Edinburgh and Glasgow respectively, McDermid prefers to explore the more rural and unknown Fife and, in particular, Kirkaldy, where she grew up. However, in her 2003 novel ‘The Distant Echo’ McDermid turns to St Andrews for inspiration where she paints a very different picture of the cheery coastal town that locals, students and tourists know so well.
The first part of the novel is based entirely in St Andrews which, in McDermid’s words, was too ‘irresistible’ a location to ignore. Though the novel is set in the 1970s and the town and university have since expanded, McDermid’s rich description of the town makes it entirely recognisable to anyone who knows anything about St Andrews. The streets are cobbled, the students are boisterous and politically engaged, and the town is one where everyone knows everyone. The novel opens in 1978 and launches us straight into the scene of the crime. Four final year students and former school friends Gilly, Ziggy, Mondo and Weird (each nicknamed with reference to David Bowie) are walking back from a house party when they stumble across the body of a woman called Rosie Duff who has been brutally murdered on Hallow Hill, just beyond Lade Braes. Immediately, the group find themselves in the frame and under investigation, and with their absence of alibis and loose connection to the victim, (a barmaid at their favourite pub to frequent) Gilly, Ziggy, Mondo and Weird are prime suspects in the eyes of students and locals alike. What follows their discovery of the body is an exposure of divisions – between the town and its students, the police and the public and even between the group themselves, who find their friendship tested like never before. At the premise of ‘The Distant Echo’, the story appears to be a fairly simple whodunnit, but as the plot progresses with nothing to prove the group were not involved, the story becomes increasingly psychological. The town that McDermid writes of is a small and insular one, even by St Andrews standards, and the lack of anonymity, something that had previously made the town feel so homely, begins to take its toll on the boys. There is nowhere for them to hide, which becomes increasingly difficult as the family of the victim seem determined to seek justice through violent means. Consequently, well-known and historically loved areas of town, the cathedral, the castle, even academic school buildings, become frightening in McDermid’s world, where the group are hounded as the case goes unresolved. Even their accommodation, the long since demolished Fife Park of the 70s, becomes a place of suspicion and unease. Cleverly however on McDermid’s part, the crime takes place before the invention of CCTV and DNA analysis technology, leaving the group technically innocent with nothing concrete to connect them to the crime. Still, the absence of evidence does not stop the group from turning against one another, with each changing their behaviour in a way that could be considered suspicious or prompted by a guilty conscious, with the previously atheist Weird going as far as to convert to evangelical Christianity. At the end of part one, the boys disperse from St Andrews after final year with irreparable damage done to their friendship, and not after nearly experiencing a tragedy of their own.
The second half of the novel begins with the case being reopened twenty five years later, with the memory of St Andrews a dark and unwelcome one to the group. With the development of forensics in the years following the crime, the case is considered a ‘cold’ one by the police, worthy of being reinvestigated. Though the group have long since disbanded, with only Gilly and Ziggy’s friendship standing firm, they cannot escape what happened that night on Hallow Hill and the events of their final year at St Andrews. Worryingly too, as the case garners interest with the press, the group once again find themselves targeted by people who want revenge for Rosie Duff’s murder. The standout feature of McDermid’s crime fiction is in showing the long-term impact of murder, and how it effects the lives of those touched by it. For the group, this escalates from feelings of guilt, remorse and anger on behalf of Rosie and the way they themselves were treated by the police to fearing for their own safety as the investigation goes on. When tragedy strikes the group not once but twice following the reopening of the case, and with the police reluctant to listen to their concerns, they decide they must take action themselves and find out who murdered Rosie if they are to ever move past what happened in St Andrews.
‘The Distant Echo’ provides the most startling look at St Andrews that it has possibly had in modern media. By using its looming gothic architecture, Pictish cemetery in Hallow Hill and run down student halls as the backdrop for the story, McDermid shows St Andrews in a light that is much different, and much less welcoming than the one we are commonly presented with. The story is a gripping one, with McDermid skilfully dropping red herrings every so often to keep the reader hooked, particularly in the first part of the novel. For anyone who knows St Andrews well, or just wants to consider its darker aspects, this book is a very rewarding one and is well worth the read.
Queer Fashion: Reviewing St Andrews
A survey of Queer fashion within and without St. Andrews, written by Claire Short and Collaborators.
From the high fashion to St Andrews’ Glitterball, queerness and fashion are intangibly intertwined.
With some of the biggest brands in fashion being created by queer men, we can explore the evolution of the queer man in high fashion. Christian Dior entered the Paris fashion scene in 1938 and by 1946 created his luxury fashion brand. He designed iconic silhouettes such as the A-Line, H-Line, and Y-Line, revolutionizing fashion. His post World War II ambition was for women to enjoy luxury, beauty, and elegance again. His designs were structured, creating shapes as if he were an architect. One of his most iconic looks is the Bar jacket, which is still a staple of the Dior brand.
Dior was a closeted gay man until his death in 1957, as fashion was not the openly queer place it is now. His apprentice Yves Saint Laurent became head of Dior, before breaking off in 1960 creating his own fashion house. Saint Laurent was an openly gay man his entire life, in a relationsip with Pierre Berge for a majority of it. His most famous design (which lesbians across the world thank him for) is Le Smoking, the first female tuxedo. It proved a controversial design, with places banning women from wearing it in their establishments. Nan Kemper, a New York socialite, once removed her trousers and wore the jacket as a dress after being denied entrance into a restaurant.
Dior and Saint Laurent are some of the first gay men who started to revolutionize high fashion. Since then, the fashion world seems to be dominated by queer men, including Karl Lagerford, Tom Ford, and Gianni Versace. So, why are there so many gay men in fashion?
Sadly, in my research, no one really had an answer. Some people assume it’s because gay men just intrinsically have a better fashion sense than straight men. Others think it’s because women only design what they see in themselves, whereas men can design objectively. Or maybe it’s because gay men are not welcome in big law or banking, they feel more comfortable in fashion. Whatever the reason, many people would argue that the high fashion world has become a queer place.
I would agree, but it is a very comfortable type of queer: Only gay men. There are no lesbian, trans, or nonbinary designers at any major fashion house. With a multitude of straight female designers entering the scene in the 90’s among the AIDS crisis, why have we seen no further diversity? Partly, the answer lies in the fact that queer women are seen as unfashionable. Harriet Nicholson, a stylist who has dressed Bridgerton’s Nicola Coughlan and musician Masie Peters, said, “There’s an idea that gay women won’t be interested in fashion because they don’t care as much about how they look, which is just ridiculous.” Beyond the fact that this completely erases the femme lesbian, queer women and non-binary people have always been fashionable, expressing themselves through the clothes they wear.
When you look beyond the high fashion, we can see a more diverse queer space. From drag queens to sustainable street fashion, queer people are making an impact. Drag Queens have created their own niche in the fashion world. Drag was once a practice across numerous societies including ancient Native Americans, indigenous South Americans, showing up in Egyptian ceremonies and Japanese theater, as well. The first ‘queen of drag’ was William Dorsey Swann, who was a former slave turned LGBTQ+ activist. His arrests marked the first imprisonment for ‘female impersonation.’
The beginning of drag and trans awareness started in 1969 with the Stonewall Riots. Marsha P. Johnson, trans woman and self-identified drag queen, became the face of these riots, helping to make the drag scene a safer place. Now, drag is a celebrated art form, with extravagant dress, heels, and performance, drag queens have made a ‘runway’ of sorts. RuPaul has become the face of Drag, creating her series RuPaul’s Drag Race.The queens from his show have started numerous trends in fashion and beauty. Make-up trends, such as contouring and the cut-crease started with Drag Queens.
Make-up artist for Gabrielle Union and JLo, Renny Vasquez said, “I don’t think that the drag community gets the credit they deserve for the trends that are happening with makeup—so many trends started within the drag community.” Even now, fashion houses have started to hire Drag Queens to showcase female fashion, because of their influence.
Aside from Drag, queer females and non-binary individuals have been making an impact in streetwear. Nicole ZiZi, who uses she/they pronouns has created a unisex sustainable fashion brand. Their mission is to reduce waste in the fashion industry while making clothing that targets masc-presenting individuals. Her brand, Nicole ZiZi Studio, has created the perfect streetwear for all genders.
Being a masc lesbian has the connotation of just dressing in men’s clothing, begging the question, why don’t queer women just shop in the men’s section? Queer Designer and founder of WildFang, Emma McIlroy addresses this exact question. Upon shopping at Urban Outfitters, Emma found herself drawn to the men’s section, but feeling awkward to buy anything labeled ‘male.' Walking away from that, McIlroy realized clothing shouldn’t be gendered, female identifying individuals should be allowed to wear whatever they want, whenever they want. Thus, Wildfang was born, a streetwear brand catering to women who dress how they want.
Brooklyn based couple, Laura and Kelly Moffat, created Kirrin Finch after being frustrated with being unable to find men’s clothing that fit their bodies. They have designed a menswear-inspired line for a range of female and non-binary bodies.
Though not high fashion, these queer designers have created brands meant to focus on queer individuals. Queer individuals have used fashion to signify their sexuality, creating a ‘code’ of sorts.
The handkerchief code, popularized in the 1970’s, was a way to signify sexuality and preferences. Despite Target’s idea that all queer people must live in rainbow clothing, queer signaling is a much subtler art. From things such as a multitude of rings to cuffed jeans, queers are using fashion to signify their sexuality. Clothes are the first thing people can see, making it all that much more important for queer individuals to express themselves. While the world still assumes straight first, being queer must be translated across in fashion.
Reviewing Glitterball 2022
Within our small town of St Andrews, Glitterball highlights the queer scene of fashion. The Glitterball committee spoke to us about their plan, “When we were organizing Glitterball, it was so important to us to make sure it was so important to make sure it was a space in which people could express themselves as freely as they wanted. Queer people have been restricted in so many spaces and places throughout their lives, so just to provide one place where this could be as far from their mind as possible was the ultimate goal! It was so lovely and refreshing to see everyone turn up on Saturday looking their most authentic selves!”
Glitterball exists to fill the void that the LGBTQ+ community, as well as those who just want to dress in a more expressionistic and carefree way, that the other balls and events in St Andrews have created, whether subconsciously or not. In an atmosphere that is safe and non-judgemental. Personally I have never seen and heard so many compliments between strangers on their appearances, outfits and makeup. Bringing a cohort of queers together inherently means bringing a mixing pot of fashion styles, drag culture and individual self-expression into one room that exuded joy and expression.
There was a plethora of women dressed in suits and whatever other items of clothing they wanted to wear, not a stereotypical black satin maxi dress (stamped to death throughout other balls) seen in sight. A flurry of drag and gender-bending outfits stamped 20th Century gender myths & rules into the ground one stiletto at a time.
Another noteworthy observation was that everyone in attendance was comfortable, particularly with what they were wearing. The confidence of the room was palpable which only further encouraged mingling and flamboyant dancing – this was a judgment free room, and we knew it. This is something that the queer scene in St Andrews especially needs, with no ‘gay bars’ or spaces, Glitterball provides everything you could hope for, all in one spectacularly gay night.
Something also worth mentioning about the designs and looks seen that night is their uniqueness. People put a lot more effort into their outfits, and how it was presenting their expression of themselves, with some individuals even designing their own garments (shout-out to the illuminating light up cloud dress!). This elevation of individual style and expression follows no norms and cares nothing about what the ‘vibe is’ upon planning a ball outfit, here it was simply - whatever you want. This freedom was fully embraced by all who attended, showing that even in our small town the queer scene has a huge effect on the direction and expression of fashion and style seen worldwide throughout history, and there no sign of this stopping anytime soon – thank God.