The struggles of recruiting society members at Cardiff Uni this year

The freshers fair has been sorely missed

With most of uni being exclusively online this year, it’s reasonable to think people can be much more flexible with their time and actually join societies. The varying degrees of lockdown we’ve faced since the start of term, however, have made this tricky. Most societies have moved onto zoom, with some have finding  it especially difficult to entice new members when they can’t guarantee in-person meetings or socials.

Some significant changes are being made

Every year societies’ member numbers tend to fluctuate and it never normally matters, but this year there has been a significant drop in numbers.

Cat Hindson, president of the yoga society, told The Cardiff Tab that they’ve had such a significant drop in members that they’re now experiencing funding problems.  They rely solely on people buying memberships to fund the classes so can’t offer as much to the members they have got with this drop.  The amount of classes each week has been cut, a gofundme page has been created and a pay-as-you-go option has been set up as well so that they can hopefully still run a range of different classes for those who want them.

‘It’s much harder to get exposure to students’

The lack of freshers fair seems to have been the main problem for yoga as Cat points out it “wasn’t very accessible to all” so only those who already knew about the society will have sought it out to find out what it could offer.

Jamie Meade of the Re-enactment society had the same problem with the lack of a “proper” freshers fair, saying they had about 5 people come along to their zoom during the virtual fair – they normally rely on getting people’s attention as they walk past which, of course, couldn’t happen this year.

It’s impossible to promise anything at the moment

In past years the Medieval Re-enactment give-it-a-go sessions have been full with about 30 freshers but this year they only had an average of about 5 people go along to each one.  Jamie reckons this is mostly due to them not being able to offer many in-person activities or events… I mean, if you join a society wanting to act out epic sword fights you’re not going to be satisfied with a zoom call are you?

They have managed to offer something new to their members though, they’ve started having guest speakers along to their zoom meetings to give history talks.

‘We’ve tried to think of new things we can do’

The Live Music Society is another to sorely miss the in-person freshers fair but social sec Evan Bevis-Knowles say they usually rely more on word of mouth when getting new members.  The problem with this though is that they usually get noticed during their open mic nights at Gassy’s, but because of the Covid rules they haven’t been able to do any of these since the first lockdown in March.

Instead they’ve been coming up with new ideas and hosting weekly zoom calls with a mix of quizzes and virtual gigs where everyone has a chance to perform. Evan says the society has also started a Live Music blog which will hopefully give the society and its members some more publicity.

It’s not all bad though

Some societies are still thriving though – hallelujah!  President of the kayaking club, Gautam Dahale, says they’ve actually got more members this year, and when there aren’t local lockdowns going on it’s been surprisingly easy for the society to meet up and have socially distanced get-togethers.

Although they’ve had to stop most socials and can’t do pool sessions, Gautam says they’ve managed to entice quite a few freshers by giving them the opportunity to get outside and “experience nature at its finest.”  It sounds like the perfect way to get rid of the cabin fever we’re all experiencing.

Will the societies survive the rest of the year?

After the first few weeks of finding their feet it’s good to see that Cardiff’s societies are surviving – just in a different way to usual.  Most of them have moved to zoom but hopefully as we get more freedom from covid restrictions, the in-person meet-ups and the socials will come back into our lives.  As Evan said, “as long as people have a passion, they’ll find a place to pursue it.”

Related stories recommended by this writer:

• The trials and tribulations of being a Cardiff Uni Social Sec this year 

• Wannabe DJs, social secs, and druggies: All the personalities that are created in first year

• It’s going down: is the pandemic pushing the rave scene underground?