There is a particularly poignant moment near the end of The Fellowship of the Ring, where Aragorn attempts to comfort Boromir in his dying moments. His attempts are in vain, however, as Boromir’s deep pessimism triumphs over hope; in Boromir’s words: “The World of Men will fall, and all will come to darkness, my city to ruin”. It is a tragically beautiful line and it is a quote that I often think about when reading articles about, say, a potential nuclear war between Russia and NATO, or about the global environmental crisis, as it epitomises my own extreme pessimism about our Planet’s future. And this line was roused once again in my mind recently, as I read that Willow is to close its doors forever at the end of July.
I remember very clearly the first time I was told about Willow. It was in Fresher’s week back in the distant past: October, 2011. The trees surrounding D block, Derwent College, were battling against the stern Autumn winds, cold determined rain was smattering against the windows of my floor’s kitchen and one of our STYCs was explaining York’s nightlife to us. I remember being initially rather unimpressed at the small offering of generic nightclubs that she first talked about, but then there was a moment where she suddenly yet gracefully moved her hands close together, and spread her thumbs and index fingers in a manner that produced the letter W- then she shouted the word “Willow”. The other STYCs’ eyes lit up, in the way that young children glow with excitement when discussing their next birthday party. I was intrigued; all of our STYCs were brimming with enthusiasm because of this word; what was she talking about? After she had explained what Willow was, I was entranced; cash registers covered in cling film, cheesy music, tequila shots, a place dedicated to the dark art of drunken debauchery- it sounded fantastic.
It is certainly hard to summarise Willow’s brilliance in just a few words, although I think that the title of one Trip Advisor review is particularly astute: “sticky floors, smells funny, free prawn crackers, wtf?!”. For Willow was something of a paradox; it had everything that should make one hate clubbing (bad smells and horrendous toilets, to name just a few) and yet these things were part of Willow’s soul; part of its metaphysical essence. If they had revamped the loos, if they properly mopped the floor, if they had smartened the place up, then the natural order of the world would have been severely disrupted. But they didn’t and Willow never changed, it was an oasis of hedonistic continuity in a world of rapid change.
I weep for the next generation of students at York; they will still get drunk, go to clubs and live up to their stereotype. But at the end of their nights out, the gates of heaven will be shut; the Willow disco will be empty, dark, quiet and locked up for the rest of eternity. Where else will they go to drink shots with strangers, smash prawn crackers into each others’ hair and sing along to cheesy 90s hits, where will the bar crawls end? History will become legend and legend will become myth- in just a few years time no students at York will have ever have been to Willow and in decades none will have even heard of it, and this is an absolute tragedy.
But many eulogies end positively and this one will too. Thank you Willow, thanks for making York’s nightlife bearable, thanks for all the crazy nights, thanks for teaching me the lyrics to lots of awful songs, thanks for making me appreciate clean toilets, and lastly: thanks for all the prawn crackers.