On The Rocks: Scotland’s largest student-run festival returns to St Andrews

© DC Thomson
Super Rich Connor Powell with his assistants Mille Postle, left, and Elizabeth Beattie, right, get ready to perform Urinetown at the On The Rocks Festival in St Andrews.

Scotland’s largest student-run arts festival has returned to St Andrews this week, with Friday marking the start of a 10-day run of 50 events at the University of St Andrews.

The annual On The Rocks festival, which is now in its ninth year, is organised entirely by St Andrews students and, for the first time this year, includes an event without a specific date and location to highlight the idea that art can occur anywhere and at any time.

The festival, which began in 2009, has the support of St Andrews honorary graduates Sir Sean Connery, Dame Judi Dench, Dame Helen Mirren and Joanna Lumley, as well as graduates Crispin Bonham Carter and Siobhan Redmond, and British actor Simon Pegg.

The programme this year covers a wide range of genres including comedy, musicals, art exhibitions, and community-wide events including an upcycling workshop and an evolving mural.

Festival director and St Andrews student Charlotte Haswell-West said: “On The Rocks allows the St Andrews community, and the larger Fife area, the opportunity to come together and define what art means to them.

“To some, art comes from thoroughly rehearsed pieces seen on a stage. To others, art is more interpretative.

“Whatever definition, On The Rocks offers events to watch, to enjoy, and even to participate in, such as a ceilidh in the grounds of St Andrews Castle.”

Venues include The Byre Theatre, Barron Theatre and Students’ Union, with performers taking to the more traditional stage as well as hitting the streets with “flash-mob” performances.

Locations also include local restaurants and popular public spaces, including the Old Union Café which will host live, acoustic ‘Music Cafés’.

One of the more unusual events, ‘Found’, is a sequence of several contemporary dance performances that will occur at unspecified times and locations around St Andrews.

The idea is that audiences can try to find them throughout the festival or stumble upon them by accident.

This year some events delve into deeper topics: ‘Medsin’ will include a photography exhibition which explores mental health in the UK, while the Culture Y Film Festival will explore culture and identity through short-films.

Other highlights include Urinetown: The Musical, King Lear and an Arts Industry Panel.

Charlotte continued: “On The Rocks truly creates a community feel, as University societies and townspeople come together to showcase their many talents and abilities.

“The committee has been working tirelessly to make this festival even stronger than the last. We are so excited for what we have planned and cannot wait to share it with the entire St Andrews community.”

The event opens on Friday and closes with a ceilidh at St Andrews Castle on Sunday April 9.

Tickets are available from the Byre Box Office.