Image Description: a picture of a night out in Oxford with lots of students definitely having lots of fun.
Never been clubbing in Oxford? Yeah, neither have we. Let two second years impart their wisdom on the local nightlife scene, formulated over a lockdown Michaelmas, a virtual Hilary, and a sort-of normal Trinity. Useless trivia and half-baked assumptions abound.
ATIK / Park End
Because there were no clubs open in first year, I spent far too long making an error that most people are corrected on within one week of arriving at Oxford: thinking that Park End and ATIK were two different venues and not, in fact, the same place.
Why is this? Does the Oxford branch of ATIK have some sort of Pitbull/Mr Worldwide complex going on? I asked an older student*, wizened by years of spending more hours in clubs than lectures** and a true social butterfly***, who told me that this confusion arises because the club used to be called Park End, is situated on Park End Street, and is only called Park End by Oxford students – Brookes people just refer to it as ATIK.
If you think this sort of Oxford linguistics is confusing, give up hope now: if this is too much, how are you meant to tackle the chaotic world of battels/Blues/stash/chirpsing/Pret/Anvee Bhutani/hustings?
* a jaded fourth year
** individual in question was papped in the ballpit at Park End that one time they put one in
*** a Christ Church engineering student
One could make a tired joke about a certain all-boys club here. Not for me, a man of taste – instead you will listen to me whinge about the halcyon days of youth. Picture it: February 2020, one month before [CENSORED]. A birthday party at Oxford, a university I was not yet matriculated at and studying in. We were meant to be going to the ‘That’s So Fetch: 2000s Night’ at The Bullingdon Club. My first night out at Oxford – but surely, surely, not to be my last.
But alas, disaster of a monetary form struck. I burnt much more than a tenner in front of the Queen’s College bar staff, within whose walls we were pre-drinking. The next thing I knew, I was in the lap of a middle-aged Indian man in the Be At One on Magdalen Street, trying to take photos of other middle-aged men at the bar with my phone, which was out of charge. I did not make it to the club.
I think of that night often. Where did it go wrong? What is it like to go on a night out in Oxford? Is the middle-aged Indian man okay? All these questions remain unanswered, but I remain happy to talk about them in further detail with the police and/or my college welfare officers.
On my gap year a friend invited me up to Oxford for their birthday. “It’s Bridge Thursdays!” they cried. “You absolutely have to come! I won’t take no for an answer.”
“That’s nice, but I’m actually living in France at the moment,” I said.
“But it’s BRIDGE THURSDAYS!!!!” they bellowed in outrage, as if the mention alone was enough to persuade me to drop £50 on a Ryanair flight that I may or may not survive and abandon my job midweek. All to attend some club night! I was scornful. Little did I know that the Bridge Thursday in question I was being invited to was one of the last of 2020.
Do I regret turning this offer down? Maybe. I am yet to visit Bridge, which exists in my mind as a hedonistic blur where euphoric bodies swirl around the esteemed smoking area, drunkenly declaring their love for each other whilst wondering if they’ll make it into the background of an Eve Bennett vlog.
And so it will remain, at least until Refreshers’ Week, where this fantasy will invariably be disappointed the moment someone vomits on my shoes, or they choose to play any song performed by, featuring, or vaguely reminiscent of, Ed Sheeran.
In the past year, Plush, as Oxford’s only gay club, has become the subject of heated Oxfess discourse: has it been appropriated by The Straights? Should a safe space for the LGBT community be invaded by drugged-out humanities students downing VKs in an attempt to forget their employment prospects, when they could go somewhere else? Or is it ok to visit, regardless of your sexuality, so long as you go around loudly telling everyone in earshot that you love RuPaul’s Drag Race, and thought Call Me By Your Name was ‘a brave piece of cinema’? Only #oxfess8342 possesses the answers.
On top of this topical minefield, it might also be worth noting that my college husband once did poppers in Plush and went blind in one eye for a week afterwards. The choice is yours.
Those with covid are known to lose their taste, and that is probably why you would see them at Fever. With patients/clubbers experiencing extreme heat, dripping sweat, and blurry vision following their nights out, it remains unfortunate that Fever shut down during the pandemic. We will forever be wondering what lies behind the hallowed doors, so close to a Costa Coffee and a second-hand bookshop. We will forever be looking for an answer.
A certain breed of person dominates the Varsity, the sort who will pipe up in the group chat and say, “why don’t we throw ___ into the mix”, meaning “that’s what we’re doing”. When drinks are in discussion, and everyone else is suggesting Spoons, or the Slug and Lettuce, or anywhere in Cowley, this person (of a certain financial background, dressed from the Boden catalogue, studying Law, possibly with French Law if they’re pretentious – I mean, so inclined) will say, “why don’t we throw Varsity into the mix”?
The group chat lights up. Ah, yes, the Varsity Club! Such cool cocktails! Such great views! We will all feel like main characters!
No, you won’t. You will arrive, already halfway smashed from pres, and from the lovely rooftop terrace you will not care whether you are looking at All Souls or Magdalen Tower. Nor will you care about the fact that cocktails are £10, until the following morning when you wake up and check your bank statement in horror. Also, you’ve forgotten that roof terraces thirty feet in the air are only enjoyable on the most balmy of summer months, and sitting up there buffeted by the wind and rain is somewhat akin to taking a voyage on the world’s most inebriated sailing ship.
And the stairs. So many stairs. Good luck getting yourself, or any of your friends, back down those after a Cosmopolitan (or seven).
The Turf Tavern
Remember the ‘substantial meal with your drink’ era of the pandemic? My bank account still does. Both Spoons establishments are full, the college bar is closed: prepare to inhale this time – and deeply. Two plates of chips per pint of beer: fifteen quid, at least. Every. Single. Pint. Take THAT into your lungs; it’s essentially a war crime.
Such capitalist excess almost explains why the Tavern’s wikipedia page lists Margaret Thatcher, Tony Blair, and Bill Clinton as previous patrons. But the menu at The Turf represents a bigger, more negative contribution to world history than any of the aforementioned. Don’t take 20 years to leave The Turf. Do yourself a favour, and don’t turn up in the first place.
Your friend’s room in Michaelmas 2020
Everything was easier in Michaelmas 2020. And by easier, I mean like a university-themed Metal Gear Solid. On methamphetamines. Porters would patrol the corridors with tasers. The president of the college would have snipers installed on the rooftop of your clapped mid-70s first year accommodation block. You’d have to triple flip your way through a laser maze to get into your college bar (which was, of course, festooned with plastic screens and chairs separated by a mile and a half of safe anti-covid distancing). It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.
All this, of course, lent a certain allure of illegality to downing half a bottle of vodka in the second floor room of a college peer socially adjacent to your own covid-inflicted clique. Yes, you’d listen to the same three songs that white people inexplicably get turnt to. Yes, you’d hide in a small cupboard when the porters came knocking and three people harmonised a sultry ‘PORTERS’ for the musically-attuned ears of all present. Yes, you’d come out of the closet (and funnily enough, again in Plush during Trinity) to find someone had chucked up raw Bailey’s into the sink. It sounds cursed. It was.
Would I do it again? No. Could I do it again? Also no. But one must follow the class of 2020 through the first gate, into the first world: the picture that emerges of that first term is one of drifting and nervous souls brought together by the circumstances of that temporal point, in the chaos of history unfettered from chains of predetermination. Just for a moment does that moment return.
And then it is gone. It is but a good thing: what might have been and what has been point to one end, which is always present. And that present lies in Plush, or Bridge (but hopefully not Varsity). Go forth and conquer, O class of 2021.
Image Credit: The Oxford Mail