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Why don’t we go clubbing any more?

It’s a Wednesday evening and I’m curled on a JCR sofa with my friends, peppermint tea in hand. Whereas once we would have been throwing back shots, we now relegate ourselves to onlookers, marvelling at the freshers who career around the room, “Park End” bouncing from their lips.

You may already have crafted an image of my anti-social and, dare I say, boring friend group, but I implore you not to be so quick in your stereotyping (herbal teas are for everyone, ok?). As we sit on this sofa, esteemed elders that we are, I don’t feel boring. I don’t feel that I’m missing out.

But why is this? What about the sweaty caverns of Plush or the narrow corridors of Bridge has made me so immune to the allure of a club night? Perhaps it’s the notoriously bad nightlife in Oxford – “this is no Manchester, no Newcastle”, my northern friends decry. Although this is evidently true, I instinctively know that it isn’t the answer I’m seeking. A hardened Cowley veteran, my infrequent club nights this year have been at O2, Bully and Glamorous. Of these clubs, it’s the half-empty basement bar, Glamorous, in which I’ve made the best memories, dancing to Wham!’s ‘Last Christmas’ as my friends countdown to my birthday. Given that Glam can hardly be deserving of the label ‘club’, I know that it’s not more tightly packed rooms and louder DnB that I desire.

At the heart of this debate is a stark generational shift. It’s not that we don’t want to go clubbing in Oxford, it’s that we don’t want to go clubbing at all.

In February of this year, Rekom (the owner of clubs including Atik and Pryzm) went into administration. As readers will by now be aware, Atik Oxford is closing in June, a headline of such importance that it could only be topped by the northern lights and a geomagnetic storm last seen in 2003. Atik’s closure is not testament to Oxford’s questionable nightlife. Rekom had already shut the doors to 17 of its venues; the fate of Atik Oxford rested on discussions with the club’s landlord, rather than financial dire straits. Nevertheless, while Atik and Park End (Street) may not have been compatible after all, Rekom’s troubles are an indication that my lack of enthusiasm for clubbing is not unique.

Gen Zers just aren’t clubbers and there are stats to back this up. The NHS revealed in 2021 that 38% of 16-to-24-year-olds in England either don’t drink or haven’t drunk in the last 12 months. A survey by Keep Hush in 2022 found that only 25% of Gen Z would ever consider a night out. It’s my suspicion that these slightly outdated figures have only been exacerbated in the past few years.

Rekom put forward that its financial difficulty was due to the fact that one in three young Brits are socialising less. It’s a plausible argument given the aftermath of a global pandemic, a steady increase in spiking, and an ever-present cost of living crisis. Even in a city as small as Oxford, it’s impossible to go on a night out without feeling the sweaty hand of a stranger snatching at your waist or droplets of beer-breath settling on the back of your neck. A friend’s single vodka coke at a recent event cost her £16, much to our incredulity. But despite all of this, I don’t think Rekom’s conclusion captures the full picture.

I contend that we’re not socialising less, but instead socialising differently. It has become all too easy to label our generation as TikTok-obsessed internet addicts, but, in my opinion, it’s actually social media which is inspiring us to be more creative with how we spend our time. Town and Gown was all the rage this year, but this is only representative of a wider running craze sweeping social media by storm. The running frenzy isn’t purely pandemic-related: the 2025 London Marathon has received 840,000 applications, smashing the record of 578,000 set last year. From a quick scroll on Instagram, I’m led to believe that students have left nightclubs and joined running clubs.

But that’s not all. Be it crocheting, group reading, baking, swimming, travelling, picnicking, listening to live music, or painting candles and pottery, you bet my social media has suggested it to me. We’ve been told by TikTok (or, for the more refined among us, Reels) to romanticise our lives. We’re certainly not living as the ‘main character’ when shoved up against the wall of a club.

Last weekend, I went to visit my sister at her uni. Very spontaneously, we hopped on an evening train to a tiny seaside town and made our way to the seafront. It was when I resurfaced after having plunged into spearmint-fresh waters that the only other person on the beach, backlit by a soft pink sunset, said “aren’t you glad we didn’t go clubbing?”.

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