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Starfields 2021 – Celebrating Together and Apart

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at St. Andrews chapter.

As the hordes of colorfully dressed and glitter-drenched students poured down towards the North Haugh Lawn, I couldn’t help but think how surreal it all felt.  Two years previously, this sight would have felt as familiar as a seagull snatching your chips on Market Street, but in the wake of the pandemic, a global upheaval so profound that 19 months later we are still scraping and clawing in a desperate bid to regain our previous conception of ‘normalcy,’ the whole scenario felt strangely dreamlike.  

However, the sensation of abnormality soon faded into my subconscious as I entered the event area, becoming instantly engulfed in St Andrews party culture in all its well-remembered glory.  The overarching atmosphere was of an enormous family reunion on neon and tie-dye steroids.  Students who hadn’t seen each other for six months or more were sprinting across the field to fling themselves at unsuspecting friends.  A random presentation partner from a first year tutorial was suddenly a beloved best friend.  A nearly forgotten academic sibling was reinstated night out as a ride-or-die.  The energy was electric and joyful.  For a university that is frequently criticized for its lack of overarching community, the atmosphere of Starfields was steeped in a sense of comradery and overwhelming celebration. 

Unlike previous years, Starfields 2021 was broken up into three sessions – A Friday evening, a Saturday afternoon, and a Saturday evening, with a different headliner each day.  This was a clever innovation, allowing more students access to what is widely acknowledged to be one of the hottest events of the year, and which has traditionally sold out within moments of the ticket release, leaving many disappointed.  While the general reception of both headliners – Riton and Jax Jones – was somewhat tepid, so great was the enthusiasm to be back in a St Andrews event setting with familiar faces that the arguably uninspired setlists did not prevent attendees from dancing the night (or afternoon) away with gusto.  

For a much needed pick-me-up in between jam sessions, the traditional Starfields food stalls stood at the ready, offering a wide selection of tasty snacks, including, as my flatmate was pleasantly surprised to discover, plenty of vegan and vegetarian options.  There was some frustration over the unanticipated cash-only bar, but this was not a substantial issue.  

However, perhaps one of the greatest aspects of this year’s Sarfields was the simple amount of space available.  In previous years, Starfields has traditionally been held not at North Haugh but on Lower College Lawn, a more centrally located, but decidedly smaller venue.  This year, while the majority of attendees stayed clustered close to the stage, as is typical of any music festival, the expansive North Haugh Lawn nevertheless offered extensive areas for students to spread out and relax with friends if they so chose.  In the days of pandemic, this was an inspired innovation, for while most students are now comfortable clustering together in 601 and sitting side-by-side sans facemasks in Pret, covid claustrophobia is still very real for many.  Even disregarding the pandemic, space to spread out and decompress – a rarity at St Andrews events – is something that many students find particularly attractive for when the sensory overload so typical of big events inevitably becomes a bit overwhelming.  

All in all, whether reveling in coming together, or embracing the opportunity to spread out, Starfields 2021 hit the spot for students who had been hankering after uni events.  There was certainly plenty to celebrate as we kick off the start of an academic year that we hope will bear a slightly stronger resemblance to our pre-pandemic memories, and with any luck, the atmosphere and energy of Starfields will carry on into many future beloved St Andrews traditions. 

Alexandra is a fourth year at the University of St Andrews in Scotland studying English and Modern History. She is also the founding president and editor-in-chief for the St Andrews Her Campus chapter, and can usually be found buried in a theatre rehearsing for the next musical, opera, or play. In her spare time, she loves writing creative fiction, traveling, and generally enjoying living in Scotland!