Lancaster students share mixed feelings towards The Sugarhouse renaming
‘It may make some people feel more comfortable as their history is recognised’
It was recently announced that LUSU voted unanimously to rename The Sugarhouse. The change comes after a petition was launched last month by the student group “Why is My Curriculum White?” (WIMCW) in an effort to shed light on Lancaster’s colonial history.
Although the decision is clearly a success for the group, there have been mixed reactions from the students. There are some who are in favour of the petition and want to rename the club whilst others believe other methods could have been used to raise awareness.
We reached out to the students to hear more about how they feel about the matter.
‘This is how we deconstruct and challenge what we know’
The change was welcomed by fellow student Annie, who said: “In general the UK has been shying away from talking about its historical colonial past brushing it off as if it’s in the past when in reality the part of British history that is so relevant to the way society works today is the colonial history.”
She feels even if these efforts were met with pushback as opposed to apathy, this was still a good sign, “because this is how we deconstruct and challenge what we know – by having those difficult conversations.”
‘The act of renaming The Sugarhouse brings attention to its links with the slave trade’
Elena sees this as a first step and suggests there is “so much more that could be done to decolonise Lancaster (e.g street names named after slave traders).”
She’s aware that some students believe the change is unnecessary but emphasises how the act itself has ‘”no effect on the nightclub, and it may make some people feel more comfortable as their history is recognised.”
‘It really shouldn’t matter to non-BAME students what the club is called’
The name change is significant for Louise, because “minority students don’t want to be followed around by the generational trauma of having one of the TWO clubs in Lancaster have a name relating to slavery.”
She expressed, quite personally, how “it just really hurts to see so many fellow students, students that I know and that I’ve had nights out with… that genuinely do not have compassion and empathy for the feelings of BAME students.”
‘By changing the name, we ultimately erase the history of the building’
Not everyone feels the same though. Harry feels the name change is “entirely performative and actually undermines actual historic discussion and reflection”. He expressed his feelings further by saying: “Not many people knew the history of the building and now, instead of actually exploring this history, we are covering it up out of shame/performative ‘activism”’.
He even suggests that the building could be given a plaque instead “giving historical context to the club’s name”. Harry clearly feels that a different approach could be considered wherein we can preserve the name and its history at the same time.
‘I don’t think this is really going to change anything’
George seemed to share the same sentiment. He echoed his feelings about the change, stating: “I would say ‘virtue signalling’ acts like this are only good for making the discussion of these issues more divisive and less focused on actually solving them – by implementing actual change to the system and the like.”
He agreed with the education programme proposed by the WIMCW seeing it as “something that would be worthwhile as I’ve never heard of the slavery connection.”
He did, however, voice his concerns about this education programme taking place during Freshers’ Week, and stated probably what many of us can relate to: “I can’t say a single thing I learnt in my Freshers’ Week that wasn’t related to alcohol.”
Although George wasn’t entirely optimistic about the change, he also feels that a plaque could be just as effective. Due to the amount of time spent waiting in the queue for Sugar, he believes “if there’s something to read like a plaque out there, I’d have known it off by heart.”
‘This is a proof of support, respect and awareness from LUSU’
Bianca, an international student, seemed to be more hopeful about renaming The Sugarhouse. She was open about the fact that the change would be somewhat awkward to adjust to, simply “because it’s so iconic (and fun to say, plus the Sugarbus).”
Despite this, she goes on to explain why she doesn’t mind changing the name as she doesn’t think “what students call it is that relevant anyway, since this is a proof of support, respect and awareness from LUSU towards the minorities at Lancaster Uni.”
Bianca even shares how she’s “thankful for the petition because it made me aware of this problem and the club’s history.” Overall, someone with a positive outlook on LUSU’s decision.
‘When things are renamed people never latch on’
There was still some doubt from other students though. Max told us: “It should be renamed, but when things are renamed people never latch on.”
He suggested modifying the name instead and asked: “Without the house part is the connotation removed?”
This approach would be keeping the iconic name but soften its meaning; a compromise that students could possibly agree on.
Whilst it does seem that students can’t agree just yet on the best way to make this change, the conversations taking place are already quite hopeful. Many are putting forward their own ideas and engaging with WIMCW’s petition. Seeing as the student group’s main objective is to decolonise the curriculum, this should be seen as a positive sign.
In addition to this, the Students’ Union also plans on implementing educational programmes to inform staff and students on Lancaster’s colonial history. Steps are being taken in the right direction to make Lancaster Uni anti-racist, and conversations like these will help create understanding.
Some names in this article are fictitious at the request of students.
More information about WIMCW’s efforts can be found on their Instagram page.