Durham’s expansion is jeopardising our nightlife


As Durham’s student population booms, the city’s clubs are bursting with bodies.

When the University’s 2017-2027 strategy proposed an additional six thousand students, and a relocation from Stockton Campus to Durham City, concerns over the consequences of overcrowding were raised.

Jimmy Allen’s crushing dancefloor has expanded to all Durham’s clubs

The race for city centre space between residents and students, as well as between students for private accommodation, has stoked the city’s famed class tensions. However, this mad scramble for student housing takes on an increasingly haunting potency in the clambering crowds of Durham’s club scene. Surging University expansions are posing possible safety risks for students trying to enjoy a night out in the stifled clubs of Durham City.

Increasingly choked with students, the once unbearable crush of Jimmy Allen’s dancefloor has pushed its way into almost all of Durham’s nightclubs. That one night when the crowds became uncontrollable and insufferable – far too sweaty and scarily disordered – has become an all too common occurrence within Durham nightlife.

Clubs should be offering hard-working students stress relief

Many deterred students have taken to Durfess to express their anxious experiences of agitated club atmospheres, arguing that the situation is becoming “ridiculous”, “out of hand”, and is making many feel unsafe when out clubbing. This is far from the stress-relieving spirit that clubs and bars should be offering Durham’s hard-working students who want to head out and celebrate.

The tragic events at Missoula in early February fomented fears of the consequences of Durham’s overcrowding upon the clubbing scene. The devastating loss of a student’s life outside a night club has shaken the supposed safety of students enjoying a night out in the city, leaving many scared and disillusioned by Durham’s nightlife.

This has too been followed by reports of aggressive Klute bouncers taking advantage of their authority to aggravate agitated crowds of clubbers. Footage has been released by The Tab Durham that shows bouncers exhibiting aggressive behaviour. The situation everywhere appears dangerously desperate.

The city is scuffling under a surge it cannot withstand

This string of events seems to hint at a much wider problem: the threat that overcrowding poses to the safety and wellbeing of students in bars and clubs. As expansion plans push on, it seems as though this squeeze will only worsen under the current University strategy.

The fatal failure of the glass barriers that February evening, buckling under crowds of students, seems in many ways symptomatic of the city – its venues and its authorities – scuffling under a surge of students it is unable to withstand.

Is the University’s expansion even safe?

While the student consumption of the city poses threats for the University’s fragile alliance with the local community and its residents amid an alarming accommodation crisis, it takes on an increasingly dangerous dimension through the lens of Durham’s nightlife. Swollen with students, these small clubs cannot contain the number of visitors they attract and recent failures probe worrying questions as to whether further expansion is, not only necessary, but even safe.

Alarming rather than alluring students, the increasingly anarchic atmosphere of many clubs has started to alienate some students from wanting to go on a night out in Durham at all. While the sirens of emergency services may seem distant as we move beyond the tragic events of this year, they echo with haunting proximity as we enter Durham’s infamous ‘three weeks of nothing’. The questions they have raised over the consequences of Durham’s crowding problem for its partiers are particularly potent during a time in which all of Durham’s students descend on its oversubscribed clubs and fit-to-burst bars as they celebrate and commemorate another year.

Such concerns are pertinent in Durham’s ‘three weeks of nothing’

Agitations over expansion and overcrowding possess a particularly worrying power in the clubbing scene, and many are overlooking the dangerous impact it could have upon student safety, as expansion threatens to compromise the wellbeing of our students as well as community feeling. As we find ourselves in the ‘three weeks of nothing’ but non-stop clubbing, and amid expansion plans continuing to push forward, the dangers are becoming increasingly apparent.

Durham’s choked clubbing scene is a threat to student safety and endangers the security of the city’s nightlife. In light of the disappointing failure of authorities in recent events, it begs the question of what further student influx will mean for an already-bulging nightclub scene.


Photograph: Zoë Boothby

4 thoughts on “Durham’s expansion is jeopardising our nightlife

  • If clubs in Durham don’t want to address the problem, do the obvious thing. Stop using them, and go to Newcastle instead. It’s what we did when I was a student (but for different reasons, most obviously that what we wanted simply didn’t really exist in Durham at all then). Newcastle is a ton better anyway, and if enough people do it, it will be noticed.

    • I suppose the counter to that would be two-fold:
      a) it’s not only the responsibility of the clubs to expand and adapt, especially due to the very limited real estate, but also the responsibility of the university to consider the practicality of its ambitious expansion plans, and the impact it will have on this tiny city and the safety of its community, both of students and other residents
      b) to have to leave to a different city to enjoy a safe and satisfying night out seems like a drastic solution, when instead the conversation should be about ways to improve the nightlife in the city in question

      • a. I don’t disagree. I think the expansion plans cause a whole bunch of complex issues that should have been examined by the current VC’s predecessors, but weren’t all that well. My options about the expansion are fairly easy to discern from my other comments on here)
        b. It’s a 20 minute ride in the train, and a minibus for a group wouldn’t be much longer (or expansive). If you were in London, how much would a 20-30 minute tube ride throw you? Or even a 20 minute bus ride in many larger cities? It’s almost routine. It’s the downside of the cost, small town feel. It’s actually an advantage that it’s so close in relative terms.


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