When tasked with uncovering the insatiable allure of the Wetherspoons chain, commonly dubbed “Spoons”, to the student populace, one must immediately consider its practicality before questioning whether there is something else afoot.
Is Spoons so popular merely because of the relatively cheap food and, more importantly, drink? Is it something utilised solely as an inexpensive method of “getting smashed” on a Friday night? I don’t think it’s as simple as that.
When you really get down to it, there is something different about Spoons compared to other, maybe in some cases even cheaper, chains. The camaraderie of a group of students heading to Spoons for a cheeky night out, whether it be three people or fifteen, is like no other, making Spoons, for me at least, entirely unique to the other pubs littering Oxford.
There is something inherently “un-Oxford” about Wetherspoons, whether it be the slightly fancier “Swan & Castle” or the good old “Four Candles”, and herein lies the appeal. Engrossed in the “Oxford Bubble” of constant deadlines coupled with pomp entirely unique to this university, I feel there is much to be said for something familiar, a piece of home, a touch of normality and this is exactly what can be found in Spoons.
Whether someone finds comfort in the ever-changing table organisation catered for groups of any size or just the overall informality of the somewhat dated setting, Spoons encompasses the classic “pub” atmosphere, akin to that which students might find at home.
That commonality stretches across the North-South divide (the Midlands are a myth) and captures the hearts of international students experiencing their first glimpse into the UK’s drinking culture (God help them).
Therefore, we must ask ourselves, for something so entirely un-Oxford, how and where does Spoons actually fit into Oxford’s drinking culture? If any of you have looked closely at the pubs on that random postcard/poster at your respective Fresher’s fairs, you’ll know that:
1. Oxford has a lot of pubs…like a lot, and
2. Each individual establishment has its own feel (and price list) that attracts different people. The Bear, the Crown, the Head of the River, the King’s Arms (you can tell I’m at a central college), each possesses something entirely unique.
So where does Spoons fit in? It is a truth universally acknowledged that any good student pub crawl ends at a Spoons and this is because its uniqueness entirely depends on its ability to cater for everyone and make all feel welcome, including non-drinkers.
Instead of being cast aside and barred from ever seeing the dim lights of the (aptly named) Four Candles, for those who don’t drink it’s as good as place as any for a bit of chat with your mates with some pretty decent food.
As a quick note, it’s also a laugh to order your friends random things on the app (eg. a bowl of peas) whether they drink or not. The app also prevents people exercising un-Spoonsmanlike conduct, attempting to steal your highly sought-after seat as you innocently journey to the bar, instead allowing you to chill in your seat and have a plethora of pitchers (no glasses please, just a straw) brought to you.
But, hold on – is there a chance I could be entirely wrong? Is Spoons, in reality, just a cheap pub that has, simply by luck, struck the hearts of students not only in Oxford, but in the UK as a whole? Or are we all just unimaginative sheep following along with what we know in the detrimental spiral of the aforementioned student drinking culture? Depressing thoughts really…
I’d like to think there’s something just a bit magical about Spoons, something they’ve tapped into that no other chain or individual pub really has. It holds a special place in my heart (and not because I got kicked out after spitting whiskey across a table).
As someone who simply cannot stand the claustrophobic sweat rooms that are clubs, Spoons blends the casual, “getting together with friends and having a few laughs”, and the, “actually going out in public and being sociable with people instead of sitting in your room drinking alone”, seamlessly and so, all I really have left to say is, anyone for a pint?