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Socialising in University

The role of nightlife within student socialising is evident when we speak to several alumni, and the newly refitted SU initially played a central role. Andrew describes the initial excitement surrounding the refurbishment.

There was something on every night, but I remember that the year I joined, so 2010, and I remember students who were in older cohorts than me saying this, was how lucky we were. Because of course they hadn’t had the SU, they had joined at the time that the SU was being refurbished, so they had a tent somewhere on Tocil field and did we know how lucky we were to have the SU?Andrew, French and History, 2010-2014

The inclusion of pool tables in the SU refit was a clear hit. Early in the 2010’s the SU hosted events every night of the week. Pierre recounts his experience of one such club night, Top Banana. (Photo courtesy of Pierre, French and History, 2011-2015)

But every Friday there was something called Top Banana, which was just a standard club night, I think it started at 10 or 11, but it was quite good cause they clearly realised most people went to it as warm to going somewhere else. So at like 1ish in the morning, basically the tone of music would change completely into much more classics from the 80s and things, and that was the queue that the people who were really serious about going nightclubbing now was the time you should leave and go to Kasbah or Leam and those of you who just wanted to stay for half an hour and go home, you can have an actual half an hour of enjoyable music.Pierre, French and History, 2011-2015

However, at the end of his 1st Year Pierre begins to see a sharp decline in socialising in the SU. Andrew also, describes a similar shift to socialising beyond the SU.

[Top Banana] was always packed when I was undergrad until about mid-way through term 3 when it really started to drop off and then I think it was scrapped early in my second year. Socialising in the SU has kind of disappeared, now I don’t know if it that university has run out of the money for it, or whether interest was really that low that there is no market for it anymore.” Pierre, French and History, 2011-2015

In my first year I think there was pretty much something on at the SU ever night, and it wasn’t your kind of POP on Wednesday and then occasionally something on a Saturday. But I get the sense that our cohort was also the cohort that very early on stopped going to the SU and people would spend more time in Leamington.” Andrew, French and History, 2010-2014

The decline of the SU as a social hub has been paralleled by the rise of Leamington. As Pierre explains, Leamington has dominated as the student destination for socialising.

I thought Eliminator was alright. But Kelsey’s has gone downhill, so Kelsey’s used to be, Kelsey’s is sort of now like a deliberately dirty place, they cleaned it up enough, but ensure they don’t clean it up too much, so it still feels a bit dirty and like a dive. When I was an undergrad, it literally was a dive. So, you didn’t buy anything that wasn’t in a bottle, and make sure you watch them like a hawk making things, you pay with cash not card, you didn’t go to the toilet. The pool tables were all sticky and wonky. I think in the girl’s toilet the cubicle doors weren’t even there. But that was what made it good, you knew going into it, it was going to be horrific.” Pierre, French and History, 2011-2015

With socialising increasingly happening beyond campus, Ellie describes different changes in the drinking culture at Warwick. Though not diminishing the role of drinking and nightlife to a student’s social life, she has noticed a decline in the centrality of such socialising within societies.

The SU used to be bigger. We drink a lot less now. I think behaviours have changed quite a bit. Social life plays less of a part. 5-10 years ago, clubs were about the drinking as much as the sport but now they’re a bit more about the sport, the campaigns and the community that it brings. Even back in the day, we were never as crazy as city universities. Especially places like Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, all of those big-city universities. We were never that manic.Ellie King, Joint Oxford and Warwick PhD Candidate

Despite all these changes, POP’s position in this narrative has not diminished. Even though the SU has declined in Warwick’s nightlife, POP has remained. With tickets continuing to sell out week after week, the Wednesday night in the Copper Rooms remains a favourite of Warwick’s. The traditions of Purple and circling are recognisably Warwick, almost as much as the Dirty Duck. As Ellie explains Purple is the drink of choice for SU socialising:

I think you should only drink Purple on Wednesdays or Saturdays when “Skool Dayz” is on.Ellie King, Joint Oxford and Warwick PhD candidate

This is not to say that student nightlife was central to every Warwick student’s university experience. Mature students that we interviewed often felt a disconnect from this aspect of student life. As Karen explained her position as a mature student meant that she was unable to fully engage with society and SU socialising, that is perceived so central to the Warwick experience.

So, I went to Warwick to do my English degree as a full-time student. It was really great from my point of view, I did have the whole student experience in an academic sense. So, I really enjoyed chatting to the students in the seminars and the lectures, but I didn’t have the university experience because I wasn’t going to Top Banana. I had children to look after at home and stuff like that. In a way, it was a bit odd to be there. There were a lot of mature students who came to the lectures and seminars who were doing it on a part-time basis. So, I would meet them but, of course, the problem with that was they would come for a lecture and then they would go home. There was very little interaction and it wasn’t until my final term that I discovered that they (mature students) actually had a common room that I could have been using all that time in the humanities building.

I think most people assumed I was a professor rather than a student. There was the age barrier there. The perception of what I was and why I was there. I would go over to the Dirty Duck, certainly with some colleagues from the Mead Gallery because I got to know them quite well. They would know that I wasn’t just an old fussy professor and that I could have a laugh with them. But not on a regular basis, perhaps once a term. It was quite difficult to be involved in the societies and things, really.Karen Parker, Alumni and Gallery Assistant at the Mead Gallery

For Karen, her ability to enjoy the social side of university was dampened by her position as a mature student. The focus on evening socialising within Warwick societies made it more difficult for Karen to become involved with this part of the student experience. This issue was reiterated by Katherine who began her degree as a mature student in 1990. However, Katherine was less concerned by her distance from Warwick’s social life.

Partly it was awkward because I was on Westwood campus. Until the last year when some of my English lectures were on the main campus, I was totally on Westwood campus. I remember going over to one of the induction things and finding the band society and discovering that basically they were all heavy metal types and it just wasn’t gonna be my scene at all and so basically, I gave up after that, cause I’d got a social life. I was heavily involved in folk music, apart from the cèilidh band, I was signing in folk clubs several times a week, so um I’d got my friends and my social life and I kind of didn’t need it.” Katherine, Education, English and RE with QTS, 1990-1994

Poster produced in 1975 showing the Winter Terms top SU events, some only cost 30p Warwick Digital Collection.  Poster promoting SU events produced in 1975 - for only £5 you could attend them all. Warwick Digital Collection.
Clash. The Boar 1977, Issue 76. Warwick Digital Collection. Clash. The Boar 1977, Issue 76. Warwick Digital Collection.
Sex Pistols. The Boar 1978, Issue 90. Warwick Digital Collection. The Boar reporting on the rising musical talents set to play the university in its 27 June 1990 edition. Warwick Digital Collection.
Handbook 1973. Despite struggling for funds for the 'ents' the team has arranged performances from a range of acts on campus. Warwick Digital Collection. 8. The Student Handbook describes societies catering for the different kinds of drinking culture at Warwick in 1982-83. Warwick Digital Collection.
Leam-On Soc. SU Handbook, 1982-83. Warwick Digital Collection. Leam-On Soc. SU Handbook, 1982-83. Warwick Digital Collection.
Venues. Warwick Life 1992-93. Warwick Digital Collection. Drinking in the Union. SU Handbook, 1982-83. Warwick Digital Collection.
13. Drugs. SU Handbook, p 69, 1977-78. Warwick Digital Collection. Description of SU as a place to socialise and hub for nightlife in the 2006 prospectus. Warwick Digital Collection.
Students With Children. Warwick Life, 1990-91. Warwick Digital Collection. Westwood. Warwick Life, 1992-93. Warwick Digital Collection.
The 2002 prospectus describes the vast array of nightlife that was available on campus- with reference to Top Banana Continuation of 2002 prospectus detailing SU events that were held every week.
Accompanying photos of SU nightlife in the 2006 prospectus.

Mature Students Society. The Big Week Out. 9th October 1994. WDC

Mature Students Society. Warwick Life, 1992-93. WDC