Balreick Srai, the founder of clubbing promotion company Rock Entz, has called Oxford students “tame” in an exclusive interview with Cherwell newspaper.
It is the first time Balreick has agreed to speak to the press. He explained about his tense beginnings with Pulse Nation, his difficulties with OUSU and his doubts about the return of Filth nightclub.
Balreick founded Rock Student, which is now known as Rock Entz, in 2001. It claims to host “the biggest, best and most established Oxford University Student Nights.” Its nights include Wednesdays at Park End and Fridays at Kukui.
Experiencing the clubbing scene in Oxford for ten years, he labelled current student behaviour as “tame”.
He said, “It has got less outrageous over the years…However, lots of Oxford students act differently and clever after a few drinks. They think they can negotiate on the door especially in a competitive market.”
Balreick emphasised his dislike of sycophantic students.
“I don’t like to get played – and if people pretend to my face that they support my events but actually go elsewhere, I have to make a point with them and make them go to the back of the line. One thing I value more than anything else is loyalty. We will sort out and look after our regular customers.”
Last year, Rock Entz saw the emergence of a new competitor on the clubbing scene, Pulse Nation. It was founded by ex-reps from Balreick’s company.
“They could have done it in a more gentlemanly way but that’s life and that’s how this industry works sometimes. Sometimes everybody wants a chance to prove themselves and I guess they thought they wouldn’t have had the same opportunities or rewards working within our structure.”
However, he hinted at the superiority of Rock Entz, saying, “We have got our ideal portfolio of nights and are fortunate enough to pick and choose which venues we want to work with because of our market share and track record. To be honest in that way we are in the strongest position we have ever been in and is difficult for other competitors to come in as has been proven by this year…Pulse have done a good job, they have that history of working with us and they are young, hungry and ambitious.”
Pulse, however, have been quicker than Rock Entz to organise a partnership with OUSU. Balreick admitted, “We have always been willing to work with OUSU but every year there is a new president a new committee and a new agenda. Last summer we were planning to have talks but that is when Pulse stepped in.”
He added that he has attempted to work with OUSU in the past.
“We have offered to work with them on several occasions. They haven’t always got back to us and have not really been up for talking in the recent years but I guess is difficult sometimes to negotiate with someone you might see as a competitor, especially one that is running more successful nights.”
Balreick expressed disbelief about the rumours of Filth nightclub reopening.
“Ah, Filth. Everyone seems to miss it. There is some chat about it re-opening but I am very skeptical. It won’t ever be what it was and has missed a whole year of students who have been there. When we left Filth, it was a shell. We had to leave it because the Westgate Centre is supposed to be undergo redevelopment, and we were served notice.”
However, he recounted his happy memories at the nightclub.
“It will always have a special place in my heart. It was the first place I went out in Oxford and Worcester’s favourite club – we used to go there religiously in term time on Tuesdays and Thursdays. It was going through a bit of downturn when me and a business partner took it over a few years ago.”
Nowadays Balreick’s favourite night out is at Kukui. He prefers Oxford University nights to Brookes ones, and Fridays because “everyone tends to be in a good mood, and there’s a great crowd”.
Balreick also talked about his experience with negative press.
“I feel Kukui in particular this year has been unfairly represented by some of the stories written in Cherwell. Also, OUSU controls the Oxford Student and in the past the same person who has been running their clubbing events has also been the commercial manager of the paper so it has probably resulted in some unfair press.”
He added, “I think it is difficult for the clubs and venues to deal with the scrutiny of two weekly student papers-they have it a lot tougher than venues in other places.”
“Kukui has come under fire but it is one of the safest clubs in Oxford with one of the least number of incidents. The list of crimes that get reported tends to be mobile thefts: if I was to recommend going out in Oxford on a non-student night, I’d say Kukui…”
He also denied his notorious position as Oxford’s clubbing king.
“I get on pretty well with anyone who knows me and people who don’t know me don’t have much of an opinion. There are some dangers from having too high a profile, and I want to keep that separate from Rock Entz. I am Balreick, I am my own person.”
Balreick’s path to Rock Entz:
As a student, Balreick helped out promoting club nights, especially Wednesdays at Park End.
He graduated from Worcester College in E&M in 2001.
During the following summers, he ran events for interns in London at a venue called Rock, which was owned by the partner of Mahiki and Whisky Mist nightclubs.
Looking to venture into student clubbing, Balreick started Rock Student in Oxford in 2001.
In order to expand the company into other student cities, it was renamed Rock Oxford in 2006.
The company was forced to rebrand again in 2008 to Rock Entz after their website was hacked.