Uni societies: join the club

Natalie Truswell gets the lowdown on a selection of award-winning societies

One of the best things about university is the opportunity to join any of the vast array of clubs and societies on offer. Whether it’s sport, culture, music or gardening, more than likely your university will have it. Just to tickle your fancy, here are some examples of clubs and societies that have won awards at their respective institutions, with feedback from members about what makes them so special.

Sussex Roots, University of Sussex, Best New Society 2008

Members of Sussex Roots took over a plot of overgrown land and made it into an allotment and community garden. Novices and a few experienced student gardeners came together to clear the plot, making way for a crop of potatoes, garlic, rocket, onions, peppers, pumpkins, cucumbers and berries.

“It’s a very relaxing place and we all get involved and discuss what we’ll do – no one is in charge,” says Ben Lewis, a member and firstyear student. “It’s very democratic. Everyone works on the plot when they have time but most people come along on Sunday afternoons.

“The idea is that the garden is as sustainable as possible. It’s based on the principle of permaculture: we make the most of the space by growing potatoes in stacks of tyres rather than just in flat beds, for example.”

Snowriders, University of Liverpool, Top Club award in 2008

This ski and snowboarding society increased its members from just 28 to a whopping 130 this year. They meet twice a week at indoor snow centres in Leeds or Manchester; one trip a week is for beginners and the other for more experienced members. The group went to Austria and Scotland this year and their race teams did very well in competitions, qualifying for the Dry Slope Championships and the National Championships. The group also has fortnightly socials and a ball every year.

“Every level of skier and snowboarder can get involved,“ says former president Joe Campbell. “The social scene is amazing – everyone is really friendly and we always welcome new recruits.

The night where we received the award for top club was an incredible achievement for the club and possibly the best night out of the year.”

Music Society, Bristol University, Best Society 2008

Bristol University’s Bums has nothing to do with backsides. It is, in fact, the acronym of the highly refined Bristol University Music Society. “Bums is one of the most active of all 190 societies at the university,” says former president and bass singer Owen Peachy. "We have a great social side, as well as some really great performances.”

The society meets once a week, with 100 students across four groups: a chamber orchestra, chamber choir, wind orchestra and string orchestra. Bums performs at many events, with the biggest this year being a performance with the leading vocal group Tallis Scholars at St Georges Church in Bristol.

The society is very active socially and welcomes musicians of any standard, but it can be quite competitive and there are auditions for the chamber choir and orchestra.

Afro-Caribbean Society, Oxford Brookes University, Best Overall Society and Best Cultural Society 2008

The Afro-Caribbean Society is a vast and active society – with members of all races – that aims to create awareness of Afro- Caribbean culture in Oxford. “It is great to be voted best by the students in these awards,” says former President Abeiku Sarbh. “W e want to promote awareness of other cultures within the British environment, but we also have the craziest parties!”

The society holds weekly movie screenings, a dance club, a singing group, talks from artist and historians during Black History Month and a meet-and-greet to welcome freshers. The society also had a masquerade ball and a traffic-light party to celebrate the Nigerian anniversary of independence, where people wore the colours of the Nigerian flag.

Bummit, University of Sheffield, Charity Event of the Year 2008

And so to the second society in our list with posterior connotations. In the 2008 Easter holidays, 300 students set off in groups of three on a nine-day trip with just £15. Their goal was to hitchhike more than 18,000 miles to Talin, Estonia, with a halfway party in Leipzig, Germany. This year Bummit – and by now the society’s name should be making more sense – raised £66,000, which was donated to chosen charities in Estonia and beyond.

The society has been running for six years and each year there is a different destination. There must be at least one male in each group of three for safety, they have to phone in every day and the groups can also text a service that tracks their progress on a map website.

“It is a really good experience,” says this year’s president Nick Stanton, who has been on the last two trips. “It’s unique – you will never get to do it again – and you get to meet some great characters.