State of the unions: The cheap beer and hep band experience is spreading as student unions open their doors to a wider public. Alister Morgan reports

University . . . the best days of your life? Perhaps it's the sporting opportunities that you remember; or maybe those two- hour philosophy lectures on Wittgenstein? Whatever the case, few graduates can forget that unique blend of college discos and cheap alcohol. For many, such nights are little more than a blurred memory (more often the result of past inebriation than passed time). Now many of those spartan gym halls you left behind have been transformed into some of the nation's most attractive night-spots.

As many student unions expand, their individual entertainment programmes are often at the forefront of national trends. Consequently, the more successful unions, like Manchester, Sheffield and Swansea, compete directly with other night-spots by operating under 'open licences', and often dominate the night-life in their particular city or town.

Cardiff University Union runs an extensive entertainment programme that varies from live acts to discos and can boast INXS and the Crash Test Dummies as two of the numerous bands to have performed there. Five pounds will secure you admission to the union's fortnightly rave - roughly the cost of three lemonades in a London club. However, the attraction of student venues extends far beyond the fiscal. Mick Bowles, assistant entertainment manager at Cardiff, believes college venues offer a different atmosphere from other clubs. 'The focus is on fun. As a student union we take care of our members and this is translated to our non-student customers.'

King's College London Student Union has attracted names like Paul Weller, Paul Oakenfold and Tim Westwood to its venue, Tutu's (named after a famous Theology graduate, one Desmond). In addition to regular live entertainment, the union also provides a club night on Saturdays and manages to keep admission prices to a fraction of what other city-based clubs charge. 'You feel it's safer and friendlier at a student venue,' Andrea Hotter, vice- president of KCLSU, observes. 'You know that the people there will just be out to have a good night.'

The new breed of student venue often possesses state-of-the-art sound and lighting while rarely imposing any kind of dress code for patrons. The former distinction creates a measure of technical parity with other nightclubs, while the latter reflects the unpretentious attitude characteristic of much of its clientele. 'Few pretentious people come to our events, so our success is not dependent on prestige,' Andrea agrees. 'It's all about fun, so you don't feel intimidated. You don't have to dress to impress.'

Fun appears to be the common denominator within this kind of student entertainment. While there may often be marked differences between the kind of music you'd encounter at Manchester University or at Leeds, this kind of student union offers an assorted range of professional attractions to suit a wide range of tastes.

Matt Williams, entertainments manager at the National Union of Students, believes this phenomenon is set to increase. 'This kind of development is good for the student unions as it often generates much-needed funds, but, more importantly, it often forges links with the local community. The mixture of people that you find at these kind of events always adds to the feel of the gig.'

If you wish to experience entertainment that differs from your usual routine then a student venue may suit your tastes. At the very least, cheap beer and the opportunity to spy on your niece or nephew may be too tempting an opportunity to pass up.

University of Bristol Union, Queens Rd, Clifton, (0272-735 035); Cardiff USU: Park Place, (0222-874 000); King's College London SU: Macadam Building, Surrey St, WC2 (071-836 7132); Leicester Arena (De Montfort USU), Newarke Close, (0802-483 456); Manchester USU: Oxford Road, (061-275 2930); Glasgow Caledonian University, Cowladdens Rd, (041-332 0681); Sheffield USU: Western Bank, (0742- 753 300); Swansea USU: Singleton Park (0792-295 466)

(Photograph omitted)

Arts and Entertainment
Wonder.land Musical by Damon Albarn

Theatre

Arts and Entertainment

Film review

Arts and Entertainment
Innocent victim: Oli, a 13-year-old from Cornwall, featured in ‘Kids in Crisis?’
TV review
News
Northern exposure: social housing in Edinburgh, where Hassiba now works in a takeaway
books An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop
Arts and Entertainment
Terminator Genisys: Arnie remains doggedly true to his word as the man who said 'I'll be back', returning once more to protect Sarah Connor in a new instalment

 

film review
Arts and Entertainment

festivals
Arts and Entertainment

Final Top Gear review

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Carl Barat perform at Glastonbury 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Richie performs live on the Pyramid stage during the third day of Glastonbury Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Williamson, left, and Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods
musicYou are nobody in public life until you have been soundly insulted by Sleaford Mods
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dew (Jess) in Bend It Like Beckham The Musical
theatreReview: Bend It Like Beckham hits back of the net on opening night
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

    Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

    Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
    Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

    'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

    Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
    Compton Cricket Club

    Compton Cricket Club

    Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
    London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

    Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

    'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

    It helps a winner keep on winning
    Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

    Is this the future of flying?

    Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
    Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

    Isis are barbarians

    but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
    The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

    Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

    Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
    Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

    'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

    Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
    Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

    Call of the wild

    How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
    Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

    'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

    If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
    The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

    The science of swearing

    What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
    Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

    Africa on the menu

    Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
    Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

    Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

    The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'