At a certain time in August, Wetherspoon’s gets a bit more crowded. Johnny the weaver is dreaming about the girl he was courting in 1966 with strawberry blonde hair and velvet skin. However, he can’t help but notice something strange. Who are these abominable creatures who have suddenly appeared en masse, drinking weird drinks like WKD and Desperados and with strange things poking out of their noses and trousers?
Johnny the weaver is observing something very particular: soon-to-be university students are partying for their dear lives. They’ve scraped their three As or three Cs and have made it into the universities of their choice, despite their daddy issues and their kleptomania. Yet beyond their watered-down double vodka and cokes lies a deep anxiety. What will university actually be like? “It was the best time of my life!”, their alcoholic, misogynistic uncle tells them. Should they believe him?
To accommodate this anxiety, we existing York students reassure them with mounds of advice from our wise hearts, but I have a couple of concerns with the advice we give. We often promote a very generic university experience; over-emphasise the college system, which really doesn’t matter other than as something to avoid awkwardness. There are no strict rules for who you must be, who you must interact with or what you must do in a certain environment.
My other concern is that we are encouraging freshers to spend time in clubs like Tokyo, Willow, Revolution, etc.
These places appeal to some people, and if you like them, great! But a lot of people I met last year simply went to them because it was what everyone else was doing and they weren’t really enjoying themselves, or because they thought it was something that they must do as University of York students. They were going there, standing in the dance floor and not really dancing, aware that they weren’t really having as good of a time as they could.
This crowd mentality is what destroys a lot of the sense of finding yourself that university is about. Yes, I went to these places at first. I had some good times but I discovered that often I would go to Willow and not enjoy myself at all (yes, even if I was off my tits and had no concept of the world, time and life). So I decided to delve into other things, regardless of whether or not anyone else was doing them.
The city of York is small, but it has some incredible things. For its size, it has an excellent, burgeoning electronic music scene. Events like Milli Vanilli and Bangers and Mash, which take place at the independently-run and communal-feeling Fibbers, take place on a small scale yet are as energetic and climactic as you’d hope for. Breaks, which take place in the slightly more chaotic and meandering Mansion, is ruthlessly dynamic and will grind you into episodes of collective self-realisation like you never knew you could experience.
DubLounge, an event which took place every term in The Courtyard last year, was amazing. There were three distinct stages, with reggae and funk juxtaposed beautifully with house, and it was earnestly and whole-heartedly appreciated by everybody that went.
And that’s not all – there is much, much more. There is a great folk scene, an amazing jazz scene (V Bar on Mondays is Ella Fitzgerald’s wet dream), and even a psychedelic and spoken word scene.
If you find yourself disenchanted with the stuff that is forced down your throat in freshers’ week, then stop doing it. Don’t be afraid to create a new culture. York doesn’t have an avant-garde dance scene or a black metal scene? Get one going, there is not much stopping you if you have the willpower.
Have the confidence to try new things and admit to yourself if you do not enjoy something. I am perplexed by people who go to Tokyo and blatantly do not enjoy it. Johnny the weaver from your local Wetherspoon’s will look upon you and be proud that the youth of today have the flair and originality that he wishes they had in his heart.