The Life of a Drinking Society President

May Week might mean garden parties and balls for you, but for a drinking society president, it means organising a whole lot of initiations. PENNY ROBERTSON, president of The Thunderbirds gives us her verdict.

cambridge drinking societies Drinking Drinking Societies Mahal May Week president Swap swaps


A good drinking society president has to be loud, chatty, and friends with everyone – but not in a bossy, overbearing way. She has to be the focal point of the swap, and she has to be really organised.

My jobs include finding societies to swap with, as well as organising: times, venues, and themes of swaps. I normally arrive 20 minutes early to set up the tables and make sure the restaurant is aware of the potential debauchery about to take place.

On swaps, I always keep an eye on the freshers and watch out for the ‘I’m about to be sick’ face. To divert disaster, I often end up taking their fines, or diverting the attention of whoever was taking them down. After a swap, it’s the president’s responsibility to make sure freshers don’t go home alone. Plus, it’s always nice to check on them in the morning.

Enjoying a cross dressing swap


I initiate whoever is most keen and comes on most of the swaps – girls who get on with the rest of the society, are willing to make a fool of themselves, and who can drink lots without being hospitalised after the first couple of games.

The decision is also based around the days to initiate on. Some freshers can take more alcohol or humiliation than others, and you have to know that. Caesarian Sunday is for freshers who can take a lot of humiliation but less alcohol – the day is long, so you play lots of games, but alcohol is not free so it is limited. Suicide Sunday is for the freshers who can take more alcohol, because it’s free and unlimited at garden parties.

A lot of people are against drinking societies, because they have a skewed idea about how selective they are. Often the perception of girls’ societies is that we’re air heads who just like to drink and get with Blues. Now, I’m not saying that we don’t like to drink and get with Blues, but we’re so much more than that.

The T-Birds are all ridiculously smart, and so slurred conversations abut the welfare state are common place around the table of a swap. We’re a big group of friends who like to be social, look out for each other, and need to let off some steam by downing a bottle of wine and eating someone else’s curry in the Mahal.

Feeling a little worse for wear


I find it’s best to pre-prepare buckets of cocktails for initiations. For each bucket, I use: two bottle of vodka, one bottle of rum, and lots of juice.

The most humiliating thing I make my initiees do is the Marshmallow Sex Positions game. This involves enacting sex positions while keeping a long marshmallow between your two mouths. As the marshmallow melts, you have to eat it, and it gets smaller and harder to manage. This game shows which initiees are fluid in their movements between sex positions, and which are not.

I never aim to make the freshers sick. Hence, I carry a freshers’ pack: a backpack filled with mini water bottles, carby foods, plasters, tissues, baby wipes, and pain killers.

My desk after an especially messy night…


Last term, my favourite swap was a small ‘back to school’ swap at the Mahal, where one of my freshers was whipping one of the boys on the ass with his own tie just ten minutes in. I had no whipped cream, so chicken korma was licked off stomachs. Yum.

What’s more, everyone was tied to the guy next to them, which proved interesting with going to the bathroom.

A common problem on swaps is that an innocent game of Good Pants, Bad Pants is misinterpreted by the boys, and too much has come down, and too much has come out. I don’t want to talk about it.

“I fine …”


1. The Messy Swap: The Mahal. You can get away with anything there, but don’t expect to come back with your shoes, having eaten anything, or realistically – your dignity. Another good option is Spoons. My tip is to call ahead and get the area under the balcony: there’s loads of space, really cheap food, and you can be as loud as you want.

2. The Moderately Messy Swap: The Slug And Lettuce is not often used for swaps, but you can be pretty rowdy there on a Wednesday night. There’s lots of space for games, and yet the food is good… and the wine doesn’t taste like lama vomit.

3. The Civilised Swap: If you want to sip your wine instead of downing it, The Punter is really good. But, be warned: a portion of food there is smaller than my wrist, and it’s very expensive. Another option is De Luca. Again, it’s expensive, but there is a private room with tea lights and a plasma screen to play music or DVDs, which is pretty cool.

4. The Active Swap: Check out Sesame, a karaoke bar on Regents Street. The food is good, there’s lots of it, and you get a room to yourselves. Otherwise, you can head to Hemel Hemstead for paintballing, where brutally violent rivalry often leads to the start of some unusual romances…