Student-led nightlife makes York vibrant


Molli Tyldesley talks to the students leading their own night time events in York

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Image by Myles Woodruff

By Molli Tyldesley

Nightlife in York is often branded as boring. But while the city is small, most of us who actually attend university here believe that the nights out are good fun. Our club nights are exclusive to students, meaning cheap drinks plus high chances of bumping into everyone you know. The feeling of relative safety and being within walking distance to your accommodation are also positives to nights out in our small city.

Notwithstanding this, it is fair to say that we do not have the same choice or variation that students in bigger cities like Leeds or Manchester do. Although we may enjoy the club nights, we have come to expect the same things when we attend them.

However, students in York are seeking to change this. Nouse spoke to Chameleon, a student-led underground dance and electronic music community, who told us how they started out based on their collective love for music and a passion for sharing it with others. They now throw regular parties and events.

When asked about the importance of student led nightlife, they told us: “having student-led events is incredibly important for the community, particularly here. Joining York, students quickly realise the music scene is less vibrant compared to neighbouring cities such as Manchester or Leeds. Student run events provide [...] students with the opportunity to meet others like them who share their interests or who they can find common ground with through community. We hope Chameleon can be the kind of place for students to come together.”

Inclusivity and diversity are valued highly by Chameleon, who want the people that attend their events to “feel they belong to something.” Certainly, the values of inclusivity and diversity are crucial when it comes to student nightlife, especially with the recent rise in spiking and harassment. Feeling part of a community is conducive to feeling safe on a night out, something which everyone deserves.

Chameleon is not the only alternative to York’s usual club nights. YorPartyNetwork, a student run organisation which emerged following the coronavirus pandemic, run their own regular, weekly club nights, one on Monday nights at Ziggy’s and one on Thursdays at Drawing Board.

Nouse asked them why they chose to set up YorPartyNetwork: “York has always had a bad reputation regarding its nightlife. There was room for other organisations like ourselves to begin putting on new events with different music, and it’s good to see others have started to do the same.”

When asked about the importance of these events being student-led, they told Nouse “it must be difficult for companies to ever really understand what students want at events. Being student led, we’re able to take a deeper look into what students value. This then has a great effect on student satisfaction and safety.”

Certainly, most things at university - whether it’s college sports teams or student media - are run exclusively by students. When we are in the Nouse office laying up print editions, the most senior people are other third year students. On all committees and in all societies, students fill the senior positions: we understand one another, and therefore can cater to one another. So why should nightlife be any different?

Venues are also a crucial part of a city’s nightlife. Since the closure of Mansion and Fibbers, York has lacked an independent venue that provides a competitive alternative to the popular Salvos and Kuda. The Crescent, York’s iconic live music venue, has always given a platform to both local and student talent; but, for a while, the city centre lacked a larger space where more regular events could be held.

Happily, it seems as though BlueBox, the newly renovated space above the Drawing Board, has now taken on this role. It is the new host of York’s indie nights, as well as being home to YorPartyNetwork’s Atomik Thursdays and many of Chameleon’s events. I recently got the opportunity to go to the Norman Rave, the after-party to the Norman Rea Gallery’s 90s rave inspired exhibition, that Sophie Norton wrote an article about for Muse last month. This took place at BlueBox and it became one of my favourite nights out at university. One of the main reasons for this was because it offered something different to the usual night out in York: it was a unique experience, and I was grateful to enjoy this with my friends around me.

The line-up consisted exclusively of student DJs: the very fact that the university’s student-led art gallery chose to give a platform to talented student DJs at their exhibition shows just how creative and innovative the students of York can be. It also shows that exciting nightlife can come from unexpected places.

Whether you’ve always been a lover of the YUSU-endorsed club nights, are excited about the new regular nights, or prefer special one off events, it is undeniably great to see more diversity and variation in York’s nightlife. No, we may not be as big as Manchester or Leeds, but due to student-led initiatives, we are just as creative and exciting.

Chameleon's next event takes place on the 3rd of December at Bluebox. Tickets are available here.