Debate: Is Durham nightlife underrated?
YES by Emily Dillon
For all its academic prowess, Durham has long had an Achilles heel, an issue that has seen our fair city mocked by students at the larger and louder universities. The issue in question is our nightlife, a problem that has traditionally been seen as the major drawback of living in Durham. However, despite its size, I believe that Durham has a thriving and underrated nightlife, and one that is worthy of any student town.
Firstly, Durham is able to offer what most universities are not, a wide variety of college bars, each with their own unique drink and challenge. College bars provide students with places to pre-drink and meet friends before a night out, while also being perfect setting for pub golf, potentially the world’s most lethal drinking game. Moreover, college bars have the advantage of being personal to Durham. Other university towns may have a wider range of big anonymous clubs, but until you’ve squeezed into Mary’s bar and ‘enjoyed’ a shot of filth you have not had the authentic Durham experience. College bars are also perfect for a chilled night, or when it’s too cold to face the walk to Studio or Loveshack. They also embody the sense of community that is so integral to life at Durham and are where all the bops are held, where a combination of cheap drinks and no need to pay for a cab home ensures a seriously messy night. College bars are almost always the place where freshers experience their first taste of Durham nightlife, and in my opinion, are the perfect substitute for what we may lack in traditional nightlife options.
However, that is not to say that Durham’s clubs and bars are not worth mentioning. They may be small and few in number, but we love each and every one of them. At the time of writing the ‘Bring back real Klute’ Facebook group has more than 1000 members, proof that if you mess with our favourite club night, you mess with us. Wednesday night at Loveshack is practically a Durham tradition, not to mention a staple of many a sports social. Whether you’re just looking for a good night out, or you’re prowling for a rugby player dressed like a smurf, Loveshack can provide what you need.
Klute, even in its refurbished state, will forever be the worst club in Europe in our hearts, and Sunday nights would not be the same without a quaddie or two to welcome the new week. Our clubs may not be able to offer the same range of options as bigger towns like Newcastle or Manchester, but as anyone who has drunkenly danced to Steps or S Club 7 in Klute will know, that’s not always the most important thing. Durham at night is a far cry from the sedate, scholarly, world heritage sight boasting city that the tourists see during the day. Clubs and bars like Studio and Jimmy Allen’s give students the chance to have a great night out, knowing that they are never more than a 5 minute taxi away from bed.
Even if club music isn’t really your thing, Durham does not disappoint on a night out. Fishtank, Durham’s leading alternative night spot, offers poetry readings, live up-and-coming bands, and a relaxed environment to enjoy it in. Oxjam at the DSU brings Durham’s best musical talent together to raise money for a great cause, and Durham Live Lounge brings the big gig experience straight to our town. Even metalheads don’t miss out, with the fortnightly Full Collapse night held at Hild Bede, proving that there is something for everyone, regardless of how you like to spend a night out.
Finally, there is no doubt that what we may lack in clubs, we more than make up for in creativity. Socials and theme nights are everywhere, with costumes ranging from the standard superheroes or policemen to people dressed like Rubik’s cubes and the Statue of Liberty. We make the most of what we have, and although what Durham’s nightlife has to offer may not measure up to the standards set by other cities in the UK, every Durham student can attest that it does not mean you can’t have an amazing night out.
The songs might be cheesy and the floor might be sticky, and there’s no guarantee you won’t find yourself throwing up onto some historic cobblestones, but it’s what we love, and it’s what Durham is all about. We don’t have big chain clubs, but we do have a place that will sell you triples for two pounds, just around the corner from the best cheesy chips in the North East. Durham’s nightlife shouldn’t be underrated, it should be celebrated, if only because it’s the only place in the world you can see a dinosaur doing the walk of shame out of a castle.
NO by Olivia Rudgard
When I picked Durham as one of my university options, I was warned by almost everyone I know that the nightlife was rubbish. All my friends applied to Leeds because of its reputation for offering some seriously great clubbing. I scoffed at their frivolous decisions and, seeing myself as more of a ‘quiet drink in a bar’ type of girl, opted for Durham’s self-consciously cheesy approach.
At first, my decision seemed to have been vindicated. Freshers’ was incredible, the college bars were perfect for having a drink on the way down to town, Studio and Loveshack seemed perfectly acceptable clubbing fodder, and Klute was silly, cheap, and full of my friends. What could be better?
Actually, most things. Before I came to university, I never fully appreciated the joy of a dancefloor full of strangers, the anonymity of a club containing people you’ll never have to see again, and most importantly, the pleasure of losing yourself in music that you truly enjoy, not that for which the only reaction in an eyeroll and a sense of humour. I miss knowing that unless you deliberately go with a huge group of friends, you can be pretty certain that you’ll be able to blend in with the crowd and do pretty much whatever you want, without having to worry about seeing the people who may have witnessed your humiliation ever again. Some of the best nights I’ve had have been when I’ve gone out with just one or two friends to a club playing ‘our’ type of music. It means that you can really enjoy the music, you don’t have to be in a massive group of people and you don’t have to be completely wasted in order to have a good time.
Where I live, the choice and variety of nightlife is incredible. In northern university cities such as Leeds, Manchester, Newcastle and Liverpool, you can just as easily opt for a huge clubbing ‘experience’ such as Tiger Tiger, as a tiny indie club, a bar in a converted public toilet and an ex-church, all playing completely different types of music and catering for completely different tastes. I have little experience of London (apart from astronomical drinks prices in the odd bar) but I’m certain that it, too, is not lacking in eclecticism or variety.
Let’s face it, Klute, Studio and Loveshack are really all variations on exactly the same theme. They are interchangeable, tasteless and often extremely dull. The music choice is between endless top 40 songs in Studio or Loveshack, and ‘tech, deep, funky and classic house’ in Klute, which to me seems to be the same top 40 songs, but with the addition of remixes of totally unsuitable songs (dubstep Adele, anyone?) and awful 80s music. You can’t really go with one or two friends and still have an amazing night because, unless you’re completely hammered or on the pull, it’s just really boring. I can’t count the number of nights when I’ve come home early from a night out just because I decided that sitting in my kitchen eating pizza with my friends would be far more enjoyable than having vodka and coke spilled all over me by drunken clubbers, being constantly jostled and stepped on and having to listen to ‘Mr Brightside’ for the 20th time that week.
The best nights out I have in Durham now are usually socials. The opportunity to meet new people, the camaraderie and the drinking games add that extra interest that Durham nightlife itself fails to provide. Going to Boathouse or Jimmy A’s is usually the best part of a night. Bars in Durham are just as they are everywhere else; as long as the music isn’t too loud, the drinks aren’t too expensive and there’s somewhere to sit, it’s difficult to get a bar badly wrong. It’s the clubs themselves, the supposed climax of a night out, that are a disappointment.
Yes, there is Fishtank, but no-one ever goes. Itchy Feet is an occasional distraction but does not provide a viable alternative to the usual Durham night out. The DSU is a complete write-off; even they have given up trying to produce a decent night out for anyone. College bars are fun and sociable, but not really a night out; like most other aspects of Durham nightlife, they are usually tacky, dirty and cheap, and best enjoyed with a large dose of irony. Most of the time, I don’t want an ‘ironic’ night out; I don’t want to do silly dance moves in the limited space that a packed Studio usually provides, or mime ‘I can be your hero baby’ at a friend. I want decent music, a bar that I can access and an interesting crowd. Durham very rarely provides any of these.