Nicky Woolf Goes Way Back

The new campus is coming! New buildings! New facilities! New colleges! A massive increase in student body taking student numbers up to an eventual target of 3,000!

No, that was not a mistake. There was a time, back in the halcyon days of free love and flower power, when the campus we may soon be calling ‘old campus’ was brand-new and exciting. The first students here, known to those who followed them as the ‘stalwart 200’, were housed in King’s Manor. The first colleges on the sparkling new Heslington campus were Derwent and Langwith—even Vanbrugh was just a glint in the Chancellor’s eye. In the December 9, 1965, edition of Nouse, Nigel Fountain writes in his editorial column on a subject that may be familiar to us today: the question of new colleges and of a central student venue. Of course, such amazing luxuries were far beyond the grasp of a student body rightly more concerned with enjoying the swinging ’60s, but Fountain, in his prophetic wisdom, muses that “it will be interesting to see if, by the turn of the decade, a Union venue joins the amenities planned to surround the largest plastic lake in the world”. Heslington campus was then home to just 1000 students and a few hundred slightly deranged wildfowl.

The largest plastic lake in the world is now surrounded. The student number has increased tenfold, a development that even Fountain’s speculation does not encompass. Our Heslington campus is bursting at the seams with students, ducks, geese and colleges.

Times have changed since those golden days—in some ways for better (kitchens, iPods and dare I say Facebook?) and in some ways for worse (Hendrix played in Langwith in ’67—The Venga Boys and The Automatic don’t quite compare, do they?). But York has retained a sense of togetherness that many other Universities lack.

We stand on the brink of the biggest upheaval this University has seen since it’s founding, and somehow, I’m not worried. There is something about this place, something in the water. Something about what Fountain describes as “The York experiment” has been a great success, and I think it will continue to be even as it grows. The one thing that the new expansion was always going to have was a central Union venue. I think that Nigel Fountain, wherever he is now, would approve.

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