Ever wondered what Freshers’ was like before Icebreaker and a Social Network party? A campus without Drapers, let alone Monday’s Calling? Rachel Michaella Finn & Ciara Judge present a brief history of QM Freshers’
The average 2014 Fresher was born between 1995 and 1996. To put that into context, that’s about the time that the internet as we know it was released to the general public. Toy Story was the highest grossing movie of the year. The DVD had just been invented. Ebay was brand new. The Spice Girls had scored their first No.1. And up and down the country students were studying, drinking and, hopefully, at some point, graduating. But how did Freshers spent their time at QM when you were growing up? We delved into the Student Union archives to find out:
The turn of the 1990s saw Queen Mary and Westfield College merge to form one university. Back then QMUL was known as QMW and was one of eighty full universities in the country, with the 1993 student population hitting around 6,000. For comparison, today the number of UK universities reaches closer to one hundred and sixty, and the QMUL student population is nearing 18,000.
After being abandoned by your parents in the old tower block style South Woodford halls, you’d head over to the Chirgwin Bar where, according to the 1993/1994 student manual, you’d be greeted with a place where “the intense light and severe lack of seating” made your party experience have “the air of your local youth club.”
Clutching your newly brought Freshers’ Pass, which would let you into the fortnight’s events for the bargain and strangely precise price of £19.93, you’d be treated to a Freshers’ which still contained a few of today’s favourites – an indie night and a compulsory Toga party – whilst also getting the experience of a Star Wars fancy dress party, a night dedicated to Austin Powers, and a space-themed ‘Battleship Ball’. The bars and themed nights may have been different, but the experience itself, when you were still in the womb, was pretty much identical.
The 1993/1994 Queen Mary & Westfield College Student Handbook advises that you will spend your first day “frantically trying to avoid the people you met last night” whilst dodging “pools of vomit created by those fledglings who have left the nest for the first time and have taken their newly found freedom too far”. 90s Freshers were advised to partake in a first week of “unbridled alcohol abuse”, “completely irrational snogging” and an existence that “revolve(s) solely around evening entertainments”, followed by a trip to the Octagon to “have your mugshot taken”. Even in the 90s, the consensus is the same as today; “undoubtedly”, the handbook says, “this will be the most grotesque and unflattering photo ever taken.”
Tuition fees have always been a reason to protest. 2003 saw a Freshers call to arms to demonstrate against paying for higher education, with a march against a “route to a lifetime of debt”. After you’d done taking part in the standard student protest, you’d hit one of your three student bar options: “The Drapers’ Arms”, the Student Union’s “E1” nightclub or the South Woodford halls’ social “0181.”
“Hail Mary” dates back to the early 00s, where it used to soak students’ livers every single Wednesday, rather than just the last Wednesday of each month. But not to worry if the uni’s horrendous monthly night of regrettable beer consumption and sport team hook-ups wasn’t your thing. There was always ‘Fizz’ on a Saturday. A 2004 union poster promises it can offer you all the “latest, freshest sounds”.
In 2004, the main Mile End Campus student village opened and in 2008 Drapers as we know it today opened its doors, where you could attend questionably named club nights such as Happy Mondays, KISS ME or flirt!
In the wake of your hangover, you could spend “half your grant joining clubs and societies you will never grace with your presence”. Not forgetting the standard societies – Music, Student Media and Debating – you could also try your hand at Strictly Come Dancing, Poker and Shisha.
The places Queen Mary students have gone out may have changed over your lifetime, terrible fashion choices may have come and gone, but the fresh-faced eighteen year old Freshers of yesteryear have always done what fresh-faced eighteen year old Freshers do best: wear ridiculous costumes to attend stupidly-named parties in order to make regrettable decisions that may possibly haunt them for the entirety of their QM career. We’re not too fussed about the loss of ‘Fizz’, but ‘Battleship Ball’? That can come back to Drapers any day.