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A beginner’s guide to Oxford’s clubs

Ronan Lunny on Oxford's vibrant array of nightlife offerings.

So, you’ve just confirmed your place at Oxford University. You have no doubt already been told by schoolteachers, family members, and strangers alike that hard work really does pay off. Now, whilst that is certainly true, I am afraid your work is far from over. Academic work aside, I am here to remind you that you now have several gruelling years ahead of you to prove to your non-Oxford friends that Oxford students do actually have fun!

Whilst your choice of library will become the site of your academic battles (see Anya’s article for a rundown on libraries!), it will be in Oxford’s array of nightclubs that you will fight the valiant battle in defence of the social reputation of all Oxford students. 

For a university which boasts 45 colleges and permanent private halls (PPHs), Oxford certainly tends more towards minimalism in terms of their selection of clubs. However, just like colleges, you will likely end up loving whichever club you decide to pledge allegiance to; and just like colleges, they all boast their own unique flair and character which deserve to be outlined in detail.

Atik / Park End

If you want to prove that Oxford is just like any other university, Atik, also known as Park End (and occasionally Parkers), is your best chance to prove this. As a chain club, the cheaply priced drinks, sticky floors, and cheesy music unite Oxford students with their contemporaries in universities across Britain. Just as at other unis, Wednesday night is sport social night, so be ready for bizarre fancy dress, college ties, chinos, and swathes of rugby boys drinking VKs. Whilst debate continues over what to name this venerated institution, the silly vibes, affordable drinks, and predictable music are an undeniable fixture of an Oxford Wednesday night.

Bridge

After surviving the caffeine-fuelled absurdity of Wednesday night Park End, it’s time to get back up and do it all over again on Thursday. Meet Bridge! Famed for its hip and happening AstroTurfed smoking area, Bridge takes itself ever so slightly more seriously as a club, offering carefully divided sub-sections and floors to cater to all hedonistic music tastes. Whether you want to continue your Wednesday night cheese fixture on the main floor, head upstairs for some more euro-centric house, nip into the back for some RnB, or even check out some reggae in the now elusive Anuba room, multifaceted Bridge has something for everyone.

Plush

The word “plush” certainly connotes ideas of palatial interiors, expensive décor, and general luxury. Whilst the famed sweaty ceilings and (alleged) mould which define the space of Plush vastly contradict these connotations, it remains a prized landmark of the Oxford club scene. As Oxford’s only LGBTQ+ venue, Plush is a very welcome asset to Oxford nightlife. The highlight of the Plush social week is “Tuesgays”, an LGBTQ+ night dedicated simultaneously to being a safe space and to playing some of the best tunes available on the Oxford nightlife circuit. Wednesday nights also offer a chic alternative to a Park End Wednesday when student-run teams take over Plush to host DJs sure to make you feel super edgy in the red-lit sweaty mosh pit that comprises the Plush dancefloor. Regardless of whichever night you descend on Plush, their jägerbombs decrease in price by the hour and are not to be missed!

Bullingdon Club (Bully)

Having convinced the outside world that Oxford students have access to an entry-level nightclub, you are likely to want to take that a step further and show how edgy and cool Oxford students can really be!  There is no better way to do this than to head to a venue on Cowley Road, which visually marks a departure from everything quintessentially “Oxford”. Bullingdon Club, which by name pokes fun at the haughty posturing of the traditional Oxford social circuit, is an intimate music venue with an exposed and industrial appearance sure to make you believe you’ve delved into an underground Berlin Diskothek! Bully (as you will come to know it) hosts music nights such as indie Fluorescent Adolescent, house, jazz, and everything in between.

The O2

Technically speaking, this second venue on the Cowley Road is scarcely University of Oxford territory, as it is a usual haunt for Oxford Brookes students. That being said, the O2 offers the chance to see big-time acts in the flesh, so musically inclined ‘Uni of’ students are no stranger to this venue! Due to the antics of a certain Brookes-frequented Wednesday night, in which empty bottles are fired to the front of the crowd, all drinks are served in plastic bottles at the O2 – the more you know!

All in all, if clubbing is your vibe, you may disregard the rumours that Oxford students are chained to the library desks. Fun does, in fact, exist here! Just be ready to be home ever so slightly earlier than your friends elsewhere; all-nighters are sadly for essays, not clubbing.

Image credit: Mark Angelo Sampan via Pexels.

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