Town versus Gown: The Tragic Love Story

And you thought there was just one Cambridge bubble

Cambridge Cindies Town versus Gown Tragic Van of Life wetherspoons

God knows why Shakespeare chose Verona for his classic Romeo and Juliet when he had home-grown drama just up the road in Cambridge. 

Any Cambridge student will tell you that the friction between Cambridge residents (townies) and students (gownies?) is unrivalled in the world of tragedy, even by Montague and Capulet standards.

The Basics (proudly sponsored by Wikipedia)

Let’s just pretend for a second that I’m not completely failing my degree, and that I am perfectly qualified to give you a thoroughly accurate lesson on Cambridge history.

Anyone with the slightest interest in Cambridge’s past (the Cambs wiki page is great procrastination, alright?) will tell you that the city has been divided between academics and locals for the most part of its history.

Even when the plague hit in 1630, Cambridge colleges refused to help those affected by shutting their gates to the city population. As far as first dates go, it wasn’t really a great success. Although relations are much better today (you’d hope so, anyway), there are still a few things you should know before venturing beyond that ancient line in the sand.

Town versus Gown

Wetherspoons and spoon

Let’s just set the scene: tired of nights in with cheap Sainsbury’s wine, you’ve decided to break the cardinal rule of being a Cambridge student – never go out on a Saturday night. Ten minutes later you find that your veins which used to run red with Cambridge Merlot (or blood, but which Cam student is healthy enough for that?) now blaze neon yellow with Wetherpoons’ own Pornstar Martini pitchers.

Never did you think that ‘you are what you eat’ (or drink) could be so relevant.

It’s all well and good having a bit of flanter with some townie by the bar, but you will inevitably find yourself sending some twenty-something on the long walk of shame back to some unknown university in the depths of Bedfordshire.

They may be doing the walk of shame, but you’ll be the one feeling it.

As Cambridge students we don’t really have many taboos, but sleeping with a townie is right up there with prematurely drinking from your port glass at formal. Avert your eyes, children.


We’ve all ventured into the murky depths of ‘Danger Spoons’ (and felt pretty damn smug about it), but only the hardcore will club on a townie night. You might’ve scraped your way into Cambridge, but one victory that’ll never be yours is winning a fight against drunk townie insisting that Cindies is Ballare or that Life is Kuda.

Although you do both agree that the Van of Life will always be superior to Uncle Frank’s. Contempt for unmelted cheese is probably the best shot this town has at coming together.

Cambridge’s last hope

On townie nights, the club atmosphere changes completely. Sure, you may be surrounded by a crowd of hungry cougars, but it definitely adds to the wild ambience when you all start chanting to Circle of Life.

If you think about it, townies are pretty much a reflection of ourselves in a few years’ time: we’re all just pretending that we don’t have that essay or work deadline just around the corner.

Building (Cam)bridges

In all seriousness, in the grand hierarchy of ten centuries worth of Cambridge grudges, townies don’t even really feature. At a university where John is no longer considered a saint but instead the root of all evil, or where we’ve become so used to the bubble that a walk to Girton is the equivalent of a marathon, the town versus gown debacle pales in comparison.

Building bridges

If we can’t even sort out our own family drama, we probably shouldn’t be waging war on townies. If we want to knock Oxford from the top spot, we really need to form a unified community.

And if that doesn’t do it for you, who else is going to sort you out at the Van of Life when you’re a complete and utter mess?

Let’s face it, townies probably have it together a lot better than we do. If your room is as messy as your life, you shouldn’t really be bringing them back to your room anyway.