Friday, September 28 was the first Friday of Fresher’s Fortnight, and hundreds of new students flocked to the Cube once again, hoping to experience Chris Stark’s DJ set and take advantage of the low prices and chance to continue to meet new people. However, despite the Union’s usual reliability in putting on a good night, the event was soured by avoidable overcrowding and poor staff communication.
It would be ridiculous to pretend that the Cube hasn’t improved immensely since it rebranded earlier this year. The addition of bars and podiums to the dancefloor has shortened queues and maximised the use of the space, and newer features like the inclusion of games such as Guitar Hero, Time Crisis and XBox Kinect outside Union
Films and late-night snacks on sale at the Bridge continue to make the Union an enjoyable and varied venue on a Friday night. However, problems with capacity and organisation that were evident last week may make Freshers think twice before they return.
The issues began around 11:30pm. The dancefloor was heaving, and movement became exceedingly difficult. On leaving the Cube to get a drink from the bar, I was refused re-entry until others left for the bar as well, the bouncers having adopted a one-in-one-out policy. The situation steadily worsened as the night went on, as shown by Nick Goody, a Mechanical Engineering student:
I went out from the dancefloor to go to the toilet and faced a huge queue just to get through the doors to level 3. I didn’t think too much of it at the time, but when I tried to get back onto the dancefloor the queue had grown and nobody was being let back in. Freshers were beginning to leave, so I went to the front to ask a bouncer what was going on.
The bouncer replied that the Cube was “closed for the night”. He said that the club was over capacity as too many tickets had been sold, and he was telling all of the waiting attendees to go home because “the night was over”.
When Nick asked a different bouncer about the situation, he was told that they would all be let in when the dancefloor became less crowded. Approximately 15 minutes later, with the Cube at about two-thirds capacity, all the massed partygoers were let back in all at the same time, a rush that produced the exact same problem as before.
English and History student Sera Berksoy said that she remained cut off from her friends for almost 30 minutes after she was let back inside and the others she arrived with remained stranded on the other side of the barrier the bouncers had created.
She added that:
Letting everybody back in at the same time was really dangerous. Everyone was trying to force their way back onto the dancefloor through the same set of doors.
Nick went on to say:
I feel sorry for all the people who were forced to cut their night short through misinformation. I can’t believe the event was actually oversold.
For one of their first nights at university to be ended prematurely must have left a terrible impression on a significant number of Freshers, and the claustrophobic conditions inside the Cube didn’t warrant many to consider return visits. Fresher’s Week was always going to be busy, but the SUSU Nightlife team need to consider rethinking their strategies for coping with numbers if they hope to entice the all-important Fresher demographic into coming back to the Union every week.
SUSU President Sam Ling had this to say about Friday night’s event:
“I would like to make the following clarifications on the details. At no point during the night was the venue capacity of 1700 reached, with the maximum attendance reaching a peak at 1600.
There are a wide range of spaces available for students to enjoy, with the music being fed to all areas of the Union to give a consistent experience. At times when we have popular acts, like Chris Stark, the room they are in will hit safe capacity and a one in one out policy is enacted.
On this night at around 12:15pm, a fair amount of time after the headliner had started, the Cube room reached a safe number of students. Because of this, entrance was restricted until a time when numbers were at lower levels. This continued until 1am when the restriction could be lifted. During this time queues remained on floor two, and not floor three as suggested.
Safety will always come first.Sam LingSUSU President
Safety will always come first, and the staff on the night made the right decision, and ensured it had the minimum impact. The staff who have worked on transforming our evening events program have done a fantastic job, and the quality is growing and growing. It’s also worth noting that we always listen to feedback, but it’s hard to change things when there is none. We have received nothing but praise by email for last Friday, I will however take on board these comments and look to continue improving our experience.”
Were you at the Nightlife event last Friday? What did you think? We want to hear from you, please comment below or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.