SUSU Nightlife: Victim of its Own Success?

Is Nightlife at the cube doomed as a weekly event?

The new academic year is only a few weeks old but a pattern has emerged which is worrying for anyone who had been impressed with Sam Ling’s relaunch of the Union’s night time events on a Friday.

It's gone from this...

The Friday event of freshers week became a victim of its own success and struggled to cope with overcrowding with reports from attendees of huge queues to get into SUSU itself, with the dancefloor operating a one in one out policy by 11pm. One attendant found that the door staff weren’t the best, noting

One bouncer just picked up a girl and threw her backwards and another shoved a girl half his size into a crowd when she was trying to get out! …Normally been a big fan of the cube but that wasn’t what I’d expect after some good nights there!

However even more worrying is that both Saturday night events this term have already been cancelled due to lack of interest and ticket sales. Many students who have been in Southampton for three or more years may view these cancellations with a wariness about the future of SUSU nightlife, especially occuring so early in a semester when Freshers are more likely to visit the Union rather then explore other locations in town

We spoke to Steph Marshall who was due to attend the Rock vs Rave night and is yet to receive a refund:

We got an e-mail on the 27th to say it was being postponed and that to compensate for it they were offering to put us on the Platinum Guest list for another event the following Friday, which we couldn’t make as it was someones birthday. We got told to e-mail the box office but we never got a reply from them or the Facebook group when we both posted to them that we hadn’t got a reply. Decidedly unhelpful overall so we just gave up and wrote it off as a bad situation. Although I’ll be honest, I’m probably just going to stick with the Hobbit/Jesters/Sobar or Bedford Place for the rest of the year.

Since I started in 2008 there have been several nights cancelled due to lack of student interest when Sobar and Jesters seem to become a better option. This was particularly noticeable last Friday when SUSU was so short of ticket sales they offered 450 free tickets to entice students in. Even then they couldn’t seem to give them away! This resulted in a quiet Friday night even with a big name DJ like Charlie Sloth.

To something like this

External promoters tried events such as Glamourpuss and Boogaloo  on Saturday nights each year since time began, often packing up a few weeks into term once they died a death. There was also the ill-fated I Love College nights on Wednesdays, which basically bullied union sports teams into socialising at the Cube to draw trade from Jesters. This was met with a huge backlash and was abandoned by non-sports students and sports teams alike unimpressed by being forced to  a venue which was dead as a dodo! Combined together stories of the poor attendance and failed nights out soon meant that students stopped attending Friday nights, killing events such as Twisted and Kinki dead. Worryingly, a extremely scientific poll on our Facebook page showed that there is a big student attitude against the Cube to contend with and issues like those seen this year aren’t going to help.

We contacted Union president Sam Ling, the regenerator of the Cube in 2011/2012 to try and get some answers to the issues raised last Friday and by the two cancellations of Saturday events. With regard to the freshers event Sam reiterated his comments made on the Wessex Scene and talked about what they are trying to achieve in the union experience.

The quality of experience delivered by front facing staff is something we’re working on … We’ve been working with them since the re-launch on this, and so although I don’t expect it to be perfect yet, but my experience has been that it is much improved.

Sam also spoke about the reasons for cancelling Rock and Rave and also why he feels that night-life at the Union isn’t in trouble!

With Rock vs Rave, we put on a wide range of events during Freshers week, and attempt to put forward activities that will suit a wide range of students. By the mid point of the week before we found that Rock Vs Rave had undersold to a level where we took the decision to postpone the event to when there was so much happening at the same time which was dividing the audiences, rather than try and push an event which many students would have enjoyed but may not have been able to attend. All those effected were contacted, and offered a refund and attendance at another upcoming event as compensation.

Aside from that one event we’ve had excellent attendance at all of our freshers week, selling thousands more tickets than the previous year. We’re looking forward to a strong events program for the coming year, and will continue to listen to students in order to shape our on going program. Something I’m always keen on is to continue to innovate and try new things and take risks in order to keep the events program new and relevant to our students.

David Gunns, Chamberlain JCR president had this to say about the decision to cancel Masquerave;

We took the decision to move our third in-house event as we were not anticipating a capacity crowd on this particular night. Instead we chose to collaborate with another JCR for another in-house event the day before (honouring our commitment of free entry with a Freshers wristband). We also offered half price entry to The Wonder Emporium as an alternative event on the Saturday and directed people towards it.

The Union does not have geography on its side, most students live down in Portswood and a trip up to campus isn’t as appealing as a 5 minute stumble down Bevois Valley. The Union is always fighting a losing battle unlike some unions in the country with the benefit of being the only nightclub for miles around. Thus a reputation is so important for SUSU to maintain Friday nights as a viable operation. We here at the Soton Tab have been wary of criticising the night-life project too quickly, as like many students we were impressed at the rejuvenation. However without some good reasons for why the Saturday nights have been cancelled and what the events team are doing to stop this becoming a regular occurrence, the union might as well stop trying to run events on a regular basis and simply focus on one offs.