Do you remember when it was possible to walk straight into a club without the risk of streaky fake tan lines, windswept hair or suffering perpetual boredom whilst waiting in a cold, colossal queue? No, nor do I. However, this is the reality that most students in Chester have to face night after night. It seems as though Chester nightlife has somewhat developed into cattle farm with young people, particularly students at the university, being herded from one venue to the next, corralled into bars which are, undoubtedly, already at full capacity.
According to Tim Wheeler, vice chancellor at the University of Chester, the student population has increased at a rapid rate over the last 10 years, propelling the university intake to nearly 19,000. Whilst the university calls this a “healthy popularity”, it is difficult to join the chancellor and other senior management team in their celebrations.
The idea of rounding-up drunken students, enclosing them into a crowded club and prodding at them until they buy more drinks makes me feel disappointed towards the whole university experience, and unhappy that I was once, so-unknowingly, a part of the façade myself.
I have spoken to a number of residents, both old and young, and discovered a stark difference between the answers given. As expected, students in their first and second years at the university are still happy to become a part of the combine. Ellie Russell, a 22-year-old graduate and dance tutor at the University of Chester has noticed the increase in student numbers over the recent years, and has said: “A lot more student accommodation has been built recently to house more students, and I have noticed the nights are a lot busier, particularly the holidays such as Halloween and St. Patrick’s Day. Now I tend not to go out as much as I used to because queuing for an hour to get into clubs, and then queuing again for a drink, ruins my night. I prefer to stick to bars with a better atmosphere.”
She continued by reasoning that another club in the city centre would do well, as it would opportunistically dilute the cramped dancefloors and dissipate the crowded corridors.
A first year marketing student at the University of Chester, James Lee Thomas, 20, has mixed opinions on the subject matter: “There has been a large increase in numbers and this has led me not to go out as much due to crowded nightclubs, and even long waits to just get into the venue, never mind once you are in there. It’s changed now, it’s more about going out and getting drunk than enjoying time with your friends, and the numbers allowed in at one time usually seems far more than there is space for.”
He continued: “However that said, it makes it better, I guess, having more people to socialise with and meet.”
This view is shared by Ellie McGee, a 20-year-old, second year tourism management student at the university, who said: “This does not seem to affect my night out because as long as I am with my friends, it doesn’t bother me about numbers.”
I sought the opinion of another senior student, to confirm my theory of the older generation of students discovering how unsatisfying it can be drowning in the flood of students’ faces. Alys Marshall, 21, a former graduate and current postgraduate at the university has concurred that she does believe the huge increase in first year students has had an effect on her social life this year. She said: “The queues were noticeably longer, and particularly during the colder months, this put me off going out. I think this year we queued for about an hour and a half to get into [one of the clubs] which is ridiculous compared to the year before where we were able to walk straight in.”
However, she believes that as long as the nightclubs are working at a safe and manageable capacity of students, and increase their staff accordingly, the increase can be a good and profitable situation in Chester.
Yet the question is, are the clubs in Chester accommodating to this vast surge in students? Are they increasing their staff accordingly? Are they working at a safe and manageable capacity? As far as I am aware no new jobs for bar staff have been advertised, and there has definitely been no new clubs built. So it would undeniably appear that the answer to these questions is no. That being said, I can’t refute the fact that plenty of new up-market bars have been introduced into the heart of the city, over the last year. While these bars are a hub for refined social drinkers, it is no secret that they try to out-price the average student venue, by making one of the basic drinks in their establishment equal to the price of at least three Jägerbombs in some student dive.
I fail to see how this deters students, however, as this seems to only have a profound effect on binge drinking rates by forcing the young adults to drink at home, or “pre-drink”.
Sacha McIver, a 22-year-old graduate from the University of Chester, has said: “This probably helps the amount of alcohol consumed by students, it just makes them drink more before they go out and eventually leads to trouble.”
A local nightclub bouncer, Barry Williams, 29, commented: “There has been an increase in students but I don’t feel it’s made anywhere in town busier, because there are less none-student people out as well. I think older generations are put off by going into venues with a lot of students just because it makes them feel out of place.”
The locals do have new places to visit, nonetheless, far from the drunken slurs of rowdy students. Yet what happens to the students who feel “out of place” at the older, more stylish bars, and also refuse to be part of the mindless menagerie taking place at the bigger clubs? They are left in a liminal state, unable to integrate with their peers or discover a new, affordable meeting-point.
Perhaps this financial issue is actually the root of the problem. With university fees rising and the cost of living increasing also, students may not be at fault for cramming into places with the best student deals.
Third year accounting and finance student, Sam Topham, 23, said: “I believe that new students are more cautious with their money due to the cost of university life now, and the increase in students this year may not necessarily mean an increase in numbers in clubs at night.”
Mike Hannigan, 42, a student events coordinator in Chester has agreed with this statement, by saying: “Students don’t tend to want to socialise as much and are very careful where they spend their money. The bigger issue is the realisation that it is cheaper to pre-drink at home than to attend the events.”
Mr Hannigan doesn’t fail to highlight the reasons behind this, however: “I think the more the university grows the better, to be honest. I do think there needs to be more investment into more affordable student accommodation though, as I think there is a struggle given the over-capacity.”
Can students really be to blame for their sheep-like tendencies then? Perhaps they are merely the product of the changing attitudes towards the right to a university education, led by an unjust government. It seems that the reason these students flock to these clubs, is solely for their student deals. The reason they are hooked-in by said deals, is due to an inability to survive on university funds. The reason that they are unable to survive can only be pin-pointed on the tripling of the tuition fees by our current coalition government.
Whether this situation will rectify itself, remains to be seen.