Creating a space for students who don’t drink: An interview with Lancs Sober Society

‘As a society we are offering a community as well as events that are a completely alcohol free zone!’

The 2020/21 academic year has been the most difficult year to date for Lancs students to go out and get involved in society life as the lack of in-person engagement has left us feeling more isolated than any year beforehand.

This fact hasn’t stopped Lancs student Ophelia Chidgey and the rest of the sober society from coming together to create an environment where all are welcome and feel safe together with an alcohol-free experience of university life.

The sober society said that creating a society in the middle of a pandemic has “been really strange, and a bit of a struggle!” They also added: “It’s hard to go out there and find members when you can’t go and meet people”, not being able to meet in-person has been an issue that has been solved easily with the platform that every Lancs student is accustomed with, Microsoft Teams. They said: “It’s been great to meet people over Teams as it’s a really accessible platform”, taking advantage of the opportunities that are available to meet new people.

‘Keep an eye on our social media’

The sober society said: “We are currently reaching out to find members”, adding that “We are also looking to put together an exec so we’d love people to reach out on Facebook, Instagram or email to get involved!” They are providing an opportunity for students who want to become further involved in the admin side of society life.

The social side of society life is also starting soon. The sober society said: “Keep an eye on our social media as we’re having our next meeting soon and also gearing up for our first event.” They said that this event “will be mocktails and chat”, encouraging those that attend “to get to know other non-drinkers and share great non-alcoholic recipes.” The date of this event is soon to be released.

‘Our main focus is creating a society that focuses on having fun’

The sober society are “offering a community as well as events that are a completely alcohol free zone!” They told us that those involved in the society don’t have to be completely alcohol-free in their lifestyle as events are “welcome to all of those who don’t drink, drink sometimes or always, and those who don’t feel comfortable around alcohol for a variety of reasons.”

They went on to say that the society provides an opportunity for those who don’t drink to have a break and get involved in activities that aren’t centred around alcohol. They said: “We are for those who do drink but sometimes feel like attending events that don’t centre around alcohol.”

Having fun and being easy to engage with is the main aim of the sober society. They said: “We are offering an inclusive environment to all as well as hopefully a fun community of students with fun events. Our main focus is creating a society that focuses on having fun.” Having fun with others is something that as students we definitely deserve following the year we have suffered through.

‘Right now we are focusing on Teams based events’

The pandemic has had an effect on the socials the society is providing. They said that Teams is the main location of socials at the moment. Teams socials aren’t the only thing to look forward to however, the sober society said: “As we move out of COVID restrictions we are looking at a variety of different events such as BYOB (bring your own blanket) picnic in the park, non-alcoholic brunches, painting nights, walking with alpacas, and mini golf.”

They are also planning on changing the typical university pub crawl into “cake crawls” which sound just as fun but much more delicious. They are also thinking of going “sky diving”, telling us that they “basically want to try everything!”

‘I’m excited to see what happens’

On creating a society in the midst of a pandemic, Ophelia from the sober society said: “Starting a society is not something I ever thought I’d be doing, it’s quite challenging with COVID and reaching people.” But she has noticed the support Lancs uni provides as a community. She said: “On the most part the university, and overall people have been really receptive, the colleges and lots of other societies have been really helpful and supportive.” She added that she is “excited to see what happens.”

The sober society said: “Different aspects of the university are involved, we have talked to colleges as well as societies and the chaplaincy centre who we are excited to work with in the future.” But the society is “not affiliated at this time, the SU has said they are not taking on any new societies at this time.” This isn’t stopping their hopes for the development of the society.

‘I don’t want to separate us from ‘student life’’

A university society that focuses on non-alcoholic events is something that contradicts the stereotypical idea of student life. The sober society said: “I think in some ways this society does go against the typical societies and events at university, and to an extend British drinking culture.” This isn’t something that is an apparent problem for the Sober Society as “there are so many students who don’t drink” and that as a Sober Society they won’t be separated from “student life””.

Ophelia added: “I think we are just being inclusive and creating a space for our students who don’t drink but are just as much a part of university and student life as those who do.”

Lancaster’s Sober Society is open to all online, with events being announced on their various social medias, they encourage as many people to get involved now as much as after the COVID restrictions are being loosened.

To get involved with the Sober Society you can contact them by email [email protected], or through Instagram and Facebook.

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