The Junk Controversy: A Local Opinion

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The popular Southampton nightclub, Junk, is having its license reviewed following various incidents that you can learn more about here

In the light of the events leading up to the incidents that have thrown Junk into a well lit, well reported corner, I decided to share my perspective, as a student and “local” – living just a stone’s throw away from the controversial epicentre.

Now you may be thinking that, as someone that lives close to the Bedford club hotspot, I would be objecting on the grounds of being woken up a few nights per month by drunk students who believe they are travelling to Narnia, seemingly attracted to the road’s many wheelie bins and causing a scene. That may well be the case, but I have sympathy for the important part of the bustling night scene in Southampton, that is coming into question. Who’s to say those drunk students stumbling by didn’t come from somewhere other than clubs too?

This position is due to, not only my valuable experience in communicating with clubs through a Halls Welfare role in SUSU, but also how the spotlight is shone selectively by those unwilling to accept that the destination upholds a very important part of the modern city scene. During my role and during the largest events, the clubs would suggest certain logistics, and my team would communicate safe routes, transport and times to traverse from halls and between clubs like Junk, using their experience of club traffic patterns and safety coverage. This would enable the most intuitive and successful planned nights out for students, which probably went unnoticed whilst everybody was enjoying themselves.

It seems that Junk has been victimised based on unfortunate circumstances, which we can only learn from. If you remember the awful events that occurred in Tokyo during last year’s Bloc Party you will gain a picture that the two clubs have been treated differently, even though they are in pretty much the same vicinity and have experienced a similar amount of violence. Both of which were well handled by the Emergency Services and door staff present. What happened on 22 January this year at Junk could have happened anywhere, (like last year’s tragic Bloc Party). It was committed by a gang who had not only orchestrated the horrible attack, but were not known in Southampton, but allegedly from the London area. Also, Junk is arguably in one of the more accessible well-lit open locations, and an acclaimed Nightclub. Along with CCTV operators, door staff keep a close eye on London road, one of the last destinations of revellers who are either seeking a taxi or one last dance at Junk, which is known for its later 4 am. closure. The club is clearly also a crowd pleaser with its many events, well-rated house DJs, and special guests.

You have to hand it to them, the Junk team are listening to Hampshire Constabulary, as is clearly evident in the Review Notice placed on the Council website. After throwing a bombardment of recommendations their way, they have already agreed to a string of safety/security upgrades on top of what they have within their budgets. This fact, set against other more lucky clubs in the city, is certainly something to boast about. The cost to the business during the aftermath is understandably large, for a venue that is constantly in competition with supermarket chains and their cheap drinks deals. You could argue that they have suffered enough. Not only does the readily available shop bought beverages allow students to drink in their own homes, but without safe monitoring. And in general, the more violent-natured people will most nights enter clubs having already drunk past the limit at which they could control themselves, regardless of any advice given through various campaigns. It would probably help if clubs had wider – whilst still safe – access to the Criminal Database and therefore the ability to pay more attention to some people based on a set criteria. Both parties have to invent ways to improve the prevention of such events, but everyone has to realise that there is no guarantee of complete prevention anywhere. Either way, for every bad night in Southampton, there are a hundred good ones to overwhelm any negativity.

It seems that some would enjoy seeing the closure of the beloved late night club Junk. But the removal of Junk will do little to assist in lowering singular atrocities, and do we really need even more housing/gelato shops to replace it? Moreover, if anyone has a hunger for violence, they will pursue any group situation regardless of place and, for Junk, it is up to the security of that venue to try to stop them. This is always going to be a game of cat and mouse, and it is not a problem which is purely endemic to Junk. To those against night-life in general, remember that it has a huge role to play in keeping venues and eateries alive, from restaurants, to attracting some of the country’s more famous visitors. Without them, happiness will fall in and antisocial behaviour in residential areas will rise with increasing drinking events in peoples’ homes.

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The letter that residents near to Junk recently received in the post (Photograph by Ben Harding)

The City Council seem to have eagerly issued a letter to residents a couple of weeks ago, close by the club in the attempt to encourage comments (especially awaiting those that object to the license). After already challenging and failing to succeed in revoking the license in Court, the joint forces of the Council and Constabulary have clearly gone the extra mile and I would only expect them to update me about every other reasonable development in the city, which obviously isn’t going to happen. (Imagine the printing bill!) So is this foul play?

The undue attention given to the club in light of the review is arguably uncalled for, especially on the behalf of the council, who don’t seem to realise that the majority of people on or near London road are not only students. Some, like me, choose to live in what is a notoriously lively part of the city. As a student myself, you could say I have my own bias, but I am not your regular night-outer. I just know that there is something not quite right about what is going on here. And this is quite a dangerous situation with regards to the social culture and night-life in the city as, if any case is successful, it threatens the future of our best cherished nights out here in Southampton! What is clear to see is that there is an inequality with orders given, and it seems sensible for safety measures to be updated and reviewed in all venues collectively, regardless of whether they are looking at a specific incident at a specific place. A tally of criminal acts can always be analysed in a critical way and should not go unattended to, but perhaps it is just misfortune to begin with. Moreover, many people will be put off Junk. Indeed the lessened freedom of traversing the club entry, and increased queuing outside may only incite negative behaviour.

The full review notice is available to read, which has full details of the incidents, what Junk has done in the light of Constabulary advice, and the summary of recommendations that the Constabulary want to further impose on the club: http://www.southampton.gov.uk/business-licensing/licensing/licensing-act-2003/public-registers/junk-club.aspx

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The Oceanography Student with an opinion, concerning local issues and global environmental cases.

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