Alternatives to graduation at the Sportspark

Three (or more) years of hard work, persistence, and, okay, a few nights on the dancefloor have come down to this. Today is the day you graduate. You’ve earned this. With your mortarboard plonked firmly on your head and your robes proudly donned, you walk up to collect your diploma. Well, first you must run the 100m dash, scale the climbing walls and wade through the shallow end of the swimming pool, but then you can claim that certificate in the sports hall as basketball plays on in the distance. This year’s graduation may not play out exactly like that, but the point still stands: and this is not to dismiss UEA’s gym junkies and sporting elite, but is the Sportspark really the setting that defines your time at UEA? Are the badminton courts and cricket nets really grand enough for your final year finale? The answer is no, no it’s not, and judging by last issue’s Concrete survey, 80 percent of you agree. It’s wrong to suggest that anywhere else would be better, but here are five alternatives that UEA decided to ignore:

Bleachers by the lake

Amid a mass of concrete slabs and wonky pyramids, a slice of natural beauty turns UEA from ‘pretty grey’ into ‘pretty’. The lake is integral to our Uni lifestyle – it’s churned out more Instagram photos than the Jenners, functioned as a barbecue get-together location, a jogger’s paradise, and a place to shag. There’s nothing more UEA than its lake, so why not set up some bleachers and have a proper Norwichian graduation? It’s cheap, expansive, and provides a fantastic opportunity to have your photos snapped among the ducks. What’s not to love?

The Square

It may be a tight squeeze, but hey, the Square is the Square (It’s more of a hexagon, but let’s just ignore that)! If the lake is central to UEA’s lifestyle, then the Square is literally central to it, the polygonic passage between Sportspark and the library, Hickling and the Ziggs. It’s played host to Pimp My Barrow and Derby Day, and every summer it’s filled to the brim with tan-hungry students. There’d be nothing more fitting than graduating in the Square – and the fresh open air is enough to dissuade anyone from a stuffy sports hall.

The Sainsbury Centre

Not happy with the outdoorsy tranquility of the lake, or the outdoorsy mania of the Square? How about the indoorsy beauty of The Sainsbury Centre, a structure so impressive that The Avengers have made it their home. Think about it: it’s hosted events before, is a UEA mainstay, and is only a stone’s throw away from the lake in case your parents want a photogenic desktop background. The glass exterior means that you can invite more people and have them peering through from outside,   and the tall ceilings give you plenty of opportunities to chuck your mortarboard in the air.

The Cathedral

Okay, enough of UEA. Let’s expand our search for the perfect graduation setting, and include the whole of Norwich. And if Norwich is known for one thing, it’s cathedrals (all two of them). It’s a grand, magisterial place for a grand, magisterial occasion – and sure, is probably much more expensive to use than the Sportspark, but UEA should be splashing the cash on a swooning send-off instead of, say, glass panels on stairways.

The Plantation Gardens

An outside-the-box choice, but I can think of no prettier a location – especially in the summer – than the Plantation Gardens. A serene setting is the perfect antidote to pre-ceremony nerves, especially with birds singing in the trees and myriad flowers blooming in the bushes. A restored Victorian town garden, the Plantation Gardens have an atmosphere rich with the history of Norwich.

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Gus Edgar-Chan

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November 2021
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The University of East Anglia’s official student newspaper. Concrete is in print and online.

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