Don’t boycott Klute – yet

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While I was putting the finishing touches to my recent column – fantastical musings on Durham’s political apathy – a real life protest was growing rapidly across the social media channels. By the time I’d published my piece, the ‘Bring back real Klute’ campaign was close to reaching the milestone of 1,500 facebook likes, and the comment sections of articles on the scandal were filled with a potent blend of anger, despair and nostalgia. But is it all just a little premature?

The news spread with incredible speed. I first heard about a few changes to Klute from the club’s twitter feed (the huge social media push is one initial difference). Then a distressed text from an ex-Palatinate colleague and Klute-lover foreshadowed the online furore that would follow: “Have you seen all this stuff about Klute changing? No quaddies, locals in, it’s huge news.”

A week on, the problem now is that we are left with an unhelpful tangle of truths, half-truths and overreactions. Only those that have been fortunate enough to have a guided tour of the re-development, in anticipation of tomorrow night’s grand opening, truly know what lies in wait inside that dingy door. The concern is completely understandable, but people shouldn’t be so hasty to pass judgement.

Taking stock, we know just a handful of certainties. Quaddies remain, but alongside a wider menu of aids to rapid inebriation. Three bars will be open every night. College nights have been replaced by a succession of themed nights, and the club is no longer the sole preserve of the city’s students. Perhaps most strikingly of all, Klute’s fabled daily cheese offering has been relegated to ‘£1 Wednesdays’.

The question that draws all these threads together is whether Klute will still be Klute. For decades, the sticky floors, luminous quaddies, replays of vintage rugby DVDs and a playlist to rival any for the alcohol-assisted happiness it can provide, have been the quasi-religious backdrop to a Durham degree. Will Durham lose something special after this Sunday? What will we tell prospective students in place of the cheeky, tempting draw that we possess the default worst club in Europe?

But, it’s with these kind of grand, apocalyptic questions that my problem with the campaign begins. Despite new manager Andrew Golding’s admirable social media presence in the last week, as well has his commitment to interviews on Purple Radio and Durham One, there’s still a huge amount of unanswered questions. The main one: what will a night in refurbished Klute actually be like?

You will never find the true answer to that question until you go there. The problem behind the ‘Bring back real Klute’ boycott is that it doesn’t give the refurbishment a chance. The group immediately assumes the worst.

It might still be pretty grotty, just with cleaner toilets. Perhaps the music offering is actually an improvement. Yes, they’ll be a bottom bar open, but people will still gravitate to their usual haunts inside or outside, ensuring Klute is still the cramped, sweaty but incredible nightmare that we all know and love. Things will certainly have changed a little but, you never know, your favourite part of Klute might still be there.

Amusingly, the activism spawned by the Klute outrage answered the call for political activism that I made in my last article. There’s a mass social media campaign, on Friday the DUS is holding an emergency debate, and Durham’s other clubs are planning cheap and cheesy alternatives to fill a Klute-shaped void in students’ lives.

And, while that stirring action is great to see (even if it is for a night club rather than a political cause), I can’t help but feel that it is mistimed and exaggerated. I’m not a Klute-hater at all. In fact, given a free choice of Durham nightspots, I would choose the sticky-floored venue every time. Yet, because Klute clearly is such an important part of the Durham experience for so many people, a boycott is the wrong idea.

So, despite the range of ‘Klute nostalgia’ nights being offered in houses, bars and alternative clubs, I urge you to go down to the rebranded, refurbished Klute on your chosen night this week. We can’t yet be sure if the refurbishments make Klute better, or make it worse.

And, if you find that the distinctive Klute experience, so important to Durhamites past and present, has actually gone, then, by all means, boycott away and I’ll happily join you.

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