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Southampton ups its Halloween game each year, and in 2018, with the openings of Rebel and Kiss, there are more locations than ever to spend the spooky season. The best places to find yourself currently look like Le Château Orange at Orange Rooms in Bedford Place and the Monster Ball at Popworld.
However one nightclub attracting unexpected attention in the run up to university students’ most loved ghostly festival is the three-storey, £6 million, 3000-capacity super club of the South, Oceana. On Thursday lunchtime the club caused a stir amongst University of Southampton students after the announcement of what they are dubbing ‘the biggest Halloween party in the City’, the Lunatic Asylum. With the offer of a ‘free psycho shot for everyone in fancy dress’ and an advertising cover photo featuring a nurse in a gas mask, some have pointed out the disappointing irony of the name ‘student therapy’. Accompanying images of bleeding hearts, brains, and bottles of medication have prompted some students to accuse the nightclub, located at Leisure World, West Quay, of exploiting the sensitive topic of mental illness which targets over one fifth of students.
— OCEANA Southampton (@OceanaSoton) 18 October 2018
As a long-term sufferer of mental illness, I find these reservations about the night both absurd and offensive. Firstly, the parodying of the modern-day treatment of mental illness would look nothing like a Victorian-themed lunatic asylum – the notion that the concept for the night would resonate with me as a sufferer enough to upset me is ridiculous. When students began to argue that Oceana are contributing to the undeniably widespread stigma surrounding mental health, this was the first time mental health was brought to my consciousness in relation to the event – because it is nothing to do with mental health. The very idea of a lunatic asylum is so antiquated and juxtaposed to our treatment of mental health today, and the natural extension of this illogical collective outrage would surely be to ban the Tudor torture method sketches in Horrible Histories – how dare we satirise and be intrigued by those who suffered before us? Oceana have now submitted to their misguided critics by cancelling this supposedly controversial event (see above tweet), but what will be the next victim? Soon, will they be pressured into turning off the hits from the eighties in the disco room because students accuse them of appropriating the culture of our parents?
Should Oceana turn into a teetotal nightclub because the drinking of alcohol is insensitive to those who may know sufferers of alcohol addiction? Should Oceana cancel their Day of the Dead event because of the appropriation of a Mexican festival? Nobody with a history of poor mental health will be upset by this event – it is a time to come together as lunatics for one night, to lose our minds, and to down a few psycho shots – let us not problematise and stigmatise words which need not have such connotations of solemnity and difficult, sensitive topics.