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UEA: Enough dry nights on campus?

Drinking hours look likely to be cut in Norwich when the council votes on the issue later this month.

Police and politicians have tired of the increased crime in the city after extended drinking was introduced in 2009. The move was intended to stagger leaving times and remove the temptation to binge drink, although in practice it seems to have made the problem worse.

It’s no secret that the UK has issues with alcohol. Last year, alcohol associated hospital admissions topped the one million mark, over double the figure from a decade earlier. Many people struggle to stick to the maximum two to three units the government recommends in a day, despite the health concerns. High blood pressure, cancer, fertility and liver problems can occur years after of excess drinking, and usually with little warning.

Students are particularly at risk of excessive alcohol consumption. As if temptation were needed, the cut price offers, constant parties and peer pressure can prove hard to resist.

At UEA, taking part in extra curricular activities is an encouraged addition to the academic record. As job markets are squeezed, any chance to cut through competition is seized by those hoping to get ahead. With over 150 clubs and societies, from clay pigeon shooting to Xtreme BBQ, there’s something for everyone.

However, be warned – they each have their own individual take on socialising, and for students wary of drinking too much, this should probably be a deciding factor. Sports societies suffer the worst when it comes to a reputation for drinking, although some are actively changing that. Korfball’s social secretary Adam Mower alternates events that aren’t alcohol focused: “We have over 70 members, and we want to make sure that non-drinkers aren’t forgotten. Every other social is based on an event where people don’t feel pressured to drink.”

The LCR and Union pub are the main focus for student socialising on campus. Given that both serve alcohol, you could be forgiven for wondering if UEA does enough to cater for tee total students. Beth Drewett helps run the knitting society, and feels the Union pub is welcoming enough for them to hold weekly gatherings there.

“It’s got a nice atmosphere, and comfy seating. We’re here when it’s quiet on Sundays, and there are people buying coffees from the bar, so it doesn’t have that pub feel really. I don’t think we need somewhere specific that doesn’t serve alcohol”.

The knitting society also makes a conscious effort not to socialise exclusively with alcohol.
“Our Christmas social is at Biddy’s tea shop in Norwich, so no drinking there. If people want to carry on for drinks after that’s fine, but it’s not our focus.”

Whilst it seems that UEA students are relatively comfortable with making the decision to avoid drinking, Cambridge University produced a film warning international students about British drinking culture. In it they reassure students not to feel pressured into drinking, as it is not a part of the university’s culture or tradition.

Across the country there is evidence that the attitude of ostracising non-drinkers is beginning to change. The numerous documentaries depicting drunken Britons falling into the gutter have clearly been too much for some to bear, with several university cities setting up alcohol free bars.

Manchester, Newcastle and Cardiff are following the steps of Liverpool, which opened the doors of The Brink last year. Open during the day, and hosting various evening events, The Brink is everything a trendy venue should be – minus the alcohol.

In its place, there is an extensive list of alternatives. The only thing it doesn’t need like a regular bar are the door men. Norwich already has a well established cafe culture.

We’d like to think we’re civilised, but the review of the drinking hours suggests otherwise. Perhaps we should take a leaf out of Liverpool’s book, do a little for our health, a little for our well-being, and be comfortable to drink a little less.

20/11/2012

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charlottegalt



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