Doing the 50: There ain't no party like an entirely sober conga-line in Sheffield on a Wednesday night

Sheffield third-year James Ashford is determined to do all 50 things The Independent once witlessly suggested all students should do before they leave uni. The results are... cruel and unusual

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The Independent Online

A few months ago, I stumbled across a list of 50 things to do before you leave university. The list was utterly bland and entirely patronising, but it finally gave me some direction in my life. In that moment, I decided to complete all fifty things, write about them, and in the process have some 'life-changing experiences'.

I'm 15 things down so far. The next five couldn't come soon enough.

25. Go out sober and dance all night
20. Start a conga at a big union night. See how long you can get it, before leading it as far from the music as possible.
31. Dress up! As a fictional character, an animal - anything

Every October - at least since cultural milestone Mean Girls was released - there will always be someone who finds it helpful to discuss girls' seasonal outfits: 'they dress like [favourite misogynistic insult] on Halloween and not like scary things!’

These deep feminist thinkers will usually dress their thesis up in an unashamedly pompous semblance of knowledge, a professed deeper understanding of the zeitgeist, an ability to see what others simply cannot.

Their number grows every year, more and more of them finding themselves obliged to share this wisdom. Often you can catch fellow scholars exclaiming ‘I was just saying the same thing!’ - if you hear this then you have encountered what is known colloquially as ‘a pair of wankers’ and it is vitally important you leave the area immediately.

With this weighing on my mind, determined to suffer for my art (this article) I arranged to spend my Halloween night sober, in amongst the cream of Sheffield’s most insufferable [people - ed.], at popular union night ‘Roar’. Held every Wednesday, this is the night that caters specifically for the university sports community, who all congregate around a sweaty underpaid student dressed up as our mascot Rory the tiger. I'll let the fliers set the scene:

Expect to hear DJ Mark Smith play all the biggest chart anthems in the Big Room, from Rihanna to Rita Ora, Chase & Status to Skrillex, Flo Rida to Nicky Minaj! Plus in the Little Room, Dave 'the Hitman' Hunter will be playing all your guilty pleasures at the 'Ultimate Request Party!'


After pre-drinking heavily on orange squash, I arrived at the club dressed unconvincingly as Hiawatha. Whilst my friends set about enjoying themselves, I began mentally preparing conga tactics.

The sober hours passed slowly until eventually it was time to strike. I grabbed hold of my friend who was sporting an impressive false moustache. After convincing him to jump in a fountain with me a few weeks earlier, he was suspicious of what I had planned next. He soon realised that I was merely attempting to kick off a spot of congaing and got on board, linking up with another friend.

Drunk people love a good conga and before long we had over four people in our line. We headed outside where someone saw another person they knew and left, leaving the line decimated. Traction firmly gained, we called it a day and went back inside.

The rest of the night was pretty much as normal, lots of good natured jibes about what I was wearing mixed with a few attempts at physical violence.

34. Give your parents an in depth tour of all the great stuff you do and love at University (It'll make for an amazing trip for them, and make them feel happy whenever they think of you at uni)

47. Go inside (and have a little explore of) every building that is part of the university

For this more genteel task, I invited my mother to visit me, and explained I would be giving her a tour of Sheffield. She seemed excited. This will be because whenever she's visited my grand adopted city in the past, she's only ever been allowed to see my house, the supermarket, and the road between my house and the supermarket.

The best place to give mother an authentic taste of Sheffield was at West Street’s Bloo88. Freshly made 2-4-1 pizza is one of the best things that can happen to a student, and as a result it’s become a popular destination for a lot them, particularly me.

I gave her a glimpse inside the various university buildings that are scattered along various roads off West St. It was when exiting the lobby of The Sir Frederick Mappin Building that I realised how boring these 50 supposedly essential tasks really were. I had imagined that on their own they would be quite monotonous, but together they went beyond this, deep into the realms of spectacularly tedious.

My mother, an enthusiastic person on the dullest of days, had given up suppressing her tedium and was openly yawning. I decided to take her to one last building and call it a day. We strolled up towards the Students’ Union and into Interval, the more glamorous of our two union bars.

After finding a seat and getting a round in, I was approached by someone who asked me if I had conga’d him out of the union a few nights previous. I was forced to deny it and he went away apologising.

You couldn’t write it. Except that I did.

James Ashford is quite pushy if you don't publish his articles to his own exacting schedule. Follow him on Twitter: @iamjamesashford