Jesters is synonymous with the South coast nightlife. Few other names resonate on such a personal level with so many young people, and the Portswood institution has had the Southampton student club market cornered for over 25 years. It’s also carried the tag of ‘Worst Nightclub in Britain’, a title which usually means it is a damn good night out.
The question is this – why does Jesters, home of the midnight Baywatch blast, the Jesticle and the 60p pint, divide opinion more vigorously than Glen Eyre & Chamberlain and how do you go about successfully navigating the world-infamous club?
Step 1 – Preparation
When the idea of going out is posited to a group of students, the following hours are usually spent lathering on make-up, fishing out your finest garbs and hammering your livers with whatever pond water you’ve filled your Asda fruit juice carton with. To get ready for Jesters, quality of time spent is far more important than quantity. Dress casual – it gets quite hot and the er…hygiene standards are a little slack. Wear appropriate footwear – high-heels aren’t exactly a Portswood staple anyway. You’ll soon designate a pair as ‘Jesters shoes’ – think worn, dirty and comfortable. You don’t actually need to pre-drink that aggressively as the drinks are so cheap. It’s probably worth getting a little rough around the edges though.
Step 2 – Getting to the club
Taxis are the easiest route, whilst some halls and student houses are within walking distance. If you live near the Highfield Campus, catch the U2C down to Lodge Road. From there, it’s a 5 minute walk. Alternatively, you can wait for the less frequent U6, which goes straight past the club. For several halls, it is your first night out in the Freshers calendar – your reps will organise transport.
Step 3 – Getting into the club
This isn’t Berghain – there aren’t any unwritten rules. However, queues can be fierce on a Monday, Wednesday (Athletic Union night) and during the two-week Fresher period. Arrive before 10:30pm for guest-list [message the club beforehand and you’ll get queue jump and reduced entry price]and always try to get there before 11 on the busiest nights. Entry is generally very reasonable – £5 on a Monday and between £2 and £3 every other night. With an elusive gold card, you get free entry every night of the week expect for Monday.
Step 4 – You’re in – now what?
As per the oddly hypnotic tradition, head for the bar. On busy nights, queues to get a famous Jesters beverage can go 6 or 7 deep. Trust me – you will want to sample some of the deals J-Town has on offer. Cocktails, pint-sized glasses containing varying degrees of inebriation, are £3 and pints are 60p on a Monday. The Jesticle is w
ell renowned as the club’s most famous cocktail, but the Classy Darcy is a personal favourite. On a Tuesday, you get a free T-Shirt for buying three cocktails.
Step 5 – The Dancefloor
Be strategic. The music will usually make you want to dance – Jesters endures on a medley of pop, chart and cheese that sets off something primal and disgusting in everyone. The outside area is a blessed relief from the carnal heat of the dancefloor, so flitting between the two is well advised. If you’ve got a big group, try to snare a table early on. Jesters is also ripe breeding ground for inter-personal relations. That’s just about as finer point as I can make.
Step 6 – The Traditions
They are too numerous to mention, but the salient ones are these. Every night, without fail or deviation, the DJ will play the Baywatch theme. Prepare yourself for a sea of half-nakedness. Students generally take their tops off for this one and belt the words as proudly as they can – embrace the noise.
The DJ’s are generally open to requests – no song choice is too silly in Jesters and Miley Cyrus’ Party in the USA can be heard on a regular basis. The graffiti in the toilets makes your loo break that bit more interesting – scrawled messages of love, hate and alcoholism are there for all to witness. Feel free to add to Southampton’s most venerable piece of artwork. Also, make sure you down a Jesticle – they’re unique to Jesters, the exact recipe is unknown to the public, and three will likely put you on your back. Finally, the DJ will tease you by switching the lights on around 1:55am. An encore is generally demanded – don’t be the prat who asks for Shut Up by Stormzy as the final song.
Step 7 – Home Time
Or is it? The night rarely ends after the curtain falls. Finish your night in style by dining at Tariq Manzils – the city’s most iconic student curry house. Open until the early hours, it is the ideal way to round off a night of debauchery. Alternatively Chicoland, a bastion of high-street takeaways, can provide a cheaper way to close proceedings.
Step 8 – Reflect
If you remember much of your time in Jesters, you’re probably doing it wrong. Some love it, some hate it. You’ll need a couple of visits to make up your mind – falling in and out of love with Jesters is part of what makes you a Southampton student.
Best of luck!