Some of you may have seen the queue that formed in the wee hours of the morning on the 8th November. A huge crowd of people, waiting in excess of 6 hours, all in the hopes of claiming a ticket to Daft Friday. But why is this one celebration considered to be worth such a fuss. Well, this year marks 110 years since it all kicked off, so what better time than to take a look at its glorious history.
Some of you may have visited the Bridie Library in the Union. Named in honour of James Bridie, the nom-de-plume of Osborne Henry Mavor, who was the founder of the Citizens Theatre and was instrumental in the creation of the Edinburgh Fringe, this man also invented Daft Friday. He describes it in the book Union Ygorra by Charles Oakley. He was nursing a Clergyman’s sore throat one morning (a sore throat caused by shouting a lot, as a clergyman might) and began to demand entertainment. The President of the Union asked what he would like, and he said he would like a concert. So a piano was brought in, along with someone to play it and the impromptu concert began. Word spread around the campus and more and more people started to arrive, eventually so many that the concert was relocated to the debates chamber. Still more poured in, including a company from the local pantomime. Eventually a supper of ham and eggs was served and still the party went on until Saturday morning and, it was said “Nobody with any tincture of humanity in him attended a class that day”. This was the beginning of what would become Daft Friday.
So Daft Friday began as a concert but would not stay that way. In 1925 it was decided that a dance should be held for union members, as it was felt the old concerts had lost their appeal, as well as some of their lustre. So, the concert began to be eclipsed by a regular dance, which became bigger, more lavish and more bizarre. Daft Friday truly became more dance than concert in the 1930’s, when women were finally allowed to attend (albeit only accompanying men). But the 30’s would bring its own problems, including a notable attempt to change the dress code to more casual wear, with the Union announcing in 1933 that anyone wearing a ‘boiled shirt’ (a kind of stiff collar dress shirt) would be denied entry. This provoked a huge outcry from the students, as reported in a somewhat confusing article by the Gilmorehill Globe (which would later become the Glasgow Guardian).
Finally, let us examine what makes Daft Friday truly unique and that is The Theme. Believed to have started during the 1950’s, themes have ranged from the ambiguity of Video Games, to the specificity of Beauty and the Beast and from the antiquity of The Iliad to the futurity of Star Wars. The Theme was not always kept a secret but has always transformed the union from its old self into a place from the wildest depths of our imaginations. Today, of course, the theme is kept secret from all but the committee until the night itself. This is also why it is commonly referred to as D*** F***** on posters, as people believe using its name to be bad luck. But it is all these things, along with the months of hard work and over a century of history, that truly makes Daft Friday a night to remember (even if most people don’t by the following morning).
-Michael Cartledge, Critic-at-large