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Clubbing in Culture: Rituals of Community-Finding

Clubbing is more than just sweatily gyrating to a heavy bass on a Park End Wednesday or smoking and socialising in Bridge on a Thursday; clubbing is an act of community-finding. There are distinct communities, especially in Oxford, divided by club and then sub-divided again by floor. While people’s tastes are never so clear-cut between music types as the floors themselves, some group differentiation occurs as partiers cluster in different floors: the Cheese Floor devotees, the R&B fans, the heavy house enthusiasts. There are the frequenters of Fever, a club I have heard described on more than one occasion as like a sweaty velvet dungeon – endearing, isn’t it? There are also, of course, the staunch Bridge supporters, going through the ritual of queueing up in the cold and the rain in order to quickly whip through the dance floor, grabbing a drink if possible, before being ejected out into the overpopulated smoking areas to drift on the miniature quest for a lighter, huddling together and chatting about the inane and superficial which, in the foggy nicotine haze, seems of the utmost importance. 

            Clubbing is so much more than a night out. It feeds a deep part of our soul. There’s something almost animalistic about the desire to move in a dark, pulsating room, feeling the beat reverberate through our bodies, touching our hearts literally and our souls spiritually. As we unite with all parts of Oxford’s population, strangers for the most part, there is an ecstasy that can only be reached by moving to a song that simply takes over you in an inexplicable way, deciding and guiding your feelings and physical reactions. Zedd’s and Selena Gomez’s hit ‘I Want You To Know’ hit the nail on the head with the club-focused music video and the lines ‘You and me bleed the same light’. There is an innate connection with those around you in a club that just can’t be found elsewhere. 

            With the pandemic still raging, these communities have dissipated. They wander a club-less desert aimlessly, trying to rediscover the secret wells and boltholes of their ancestors, but find nothing except closed doors, silent streets, and tatty posters advertising nights that lie dormant. Where are these oases now? They exist only in our hazy memories and social media profile pictures. What the reaction will be when the clubs finally and thankfully reopen is difficult to predict. Excitement and chaos are certainly a possibility, with hordes of new and old descending to these sacred places to experience for the first time, or to rediscover, the joys of letting your body instinctively react to the music surrounded by like-minded strangers. For the Freshers who missed out this Michaelmas and Hilary, it will most likely be a baptism of fire as the crush begins.

It’s possible that we’re over clubs and we’ve found other ways to tap into that deep desire to dance, but in this bleak midwinter I find that difficult to believe. We may have made the slap decision to invest in a disco ball way back in March for those Zoom cocktail parties, but now they lie dusty and unused in a dark corner. A memento of times gone by, but never a real contender for the sparkling lights of the nightclub life which, like the star that guided the Wise Men, will take us back to our holy place: our redemption and our sin.

On the dancefloor is where you find your people in the deepest sense. The ones you are connected to on a higher plain, where conversation and detail is irrelevant. All that matters is the music and the dancing.

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