Being in my fourth year at UEA (gasp, when did that happen?) I’d like to think I’ve built up a pretty good knowledge of local nightlife.
For the last six semesters, come rain or shine (and a few times even heavy snow) you’d be able to find me and a group of friends somewhere on Prince of Wales Road on a Thursday night. We’re the rowdy ones you’re probably avoiding, blowing whistles and trying to steal your hat.
Prince of Wales is great, and don’t get me wrong, I love Norwich. But back when I was a fresher we didn’t have the amount of choice there is now. Wonderland (formerly Project) was still closed and had been as long as anyone can remember, Hideout hadn’t popped up yet and Vodka Revolutions was a mystical bar they had up north and in London.
Oh, how times have changed. Back in 2009, Mercy was the only place to be on a Thursday night. A somewhat questionably titled “Flange” was the theme each week. I’m still not entirely sure what they were going for, but it certainly allowed the puns to come out. (Anyone remember pancake day? “Toss your Flange”? No?)
It felt like every single first year went there, the queues were halfway down Prince of Wales and the dancefloor was always packed. You couldn’t move without bumping into somebody you knew, and the night invariably ended the way it began, trying to get 50 drunk freshers on the back seat of the bus. And you know what? We always had a great night.
Imagine our horror then when suddenly Mercy shut last year. No notice, no warning, no chance to say our final farewells. They just boarded it up and turned it into a cocktail bar. Too emotionally distraught, I never actually ventured into Uber, as it was called. It seems like nobody else did either, as that also shut pretty quickly.
Then they announced that they were in fact bringing back Mercy. We rejoiced. I went to Mercy XS, as it’s been rebranded, and it was almost exactly the same as I hazily remember it. The huge dancefloor is still intact, as is the balcony, which comes in handy when you’ve drunkenly wandered off and lost all your friends.
Even the DJ is the same. The drinks are still £1.50 and I was even given a voucher for a free shot. (Althouh I’m not entirely sure what it was. Even Sherlock Holmes would have struggled to identify it.) It was just like old times. The place was packed, we had a great night and the crowd went mad to the 90s classics.
The sheer fact that Mercy is still standing is impressive in itself. The Love2Love/Liquid building is little more than an eyesore. Despite many valiant attempts to breathe new life into the place, people just aren’t temped.
But with Wonderland offering free taxis to entice people to make the trek down to Riverside and some fancy-dress LCRs being shifted to Wednesdays to entice sports clubs in, Mercy is facing a serious level of competition this time around. Yet it’s still full to the rafters of students and locals alike.
So let this be a warning to all the new clubs in town, to Kartel, to Tau and to whatever they’re going to put in Wafou (please Lord let it be something better than Wafou!) If it aint broke, don’t fix it. Now if you don’t mind, I’m off to dig out my old Flange t-shirt …