Some unusual student societies in Edinburgh and Glasgow
Groups for lovers of bad movies, cheese, ballroom dancing and Nerf guns
Fancy meeting some fellow free thinkers? Best forget football and orchestra, then. David Pollock puts his name down for some particularly peculiar student clubs
‘We would be proud to be listed as an “unusual’ society”,’ says Brennan Lawrence, president of the Glasgow University Bad Movie Society. ‘We were founded as a joke in the pub. Myself and our treasurer went to see a double billing of Troll 2 and the documentary about it, Best Worst Movie, at the Glasgow Film Theatre this spring and afterwards got talking about all our favourite terrible films. Everyone in that conversation became the board of the society.’
Now, that’s how you go about creating a student society. Of course, you’ll probably find at uni that many clubs have been about since the dawn of time, often linked to faculties, discussing course matters and issues relevant to the industry they represent. Yet whatever your interests (legality notwithstanding), why shouldn’t there be a society for you? Glasgow University societies gather to discuss their loves of cheese, cosplay and wakeboarding (though not yet all at the same time), while the University of St Andrews Students Association lists Doctor Who, fly fishing, Motown, and Tunnock’s Caramel Wafer appreciation groups. The first aim of their Nerf Society’s constitution is ‘to promote the use of Nerf guns within the university, primarily through the coordination of Nerf fights’.
Stirling University has something similar called the Assassins’ Guild. ‘We have ongoing games where people are split into teams of three or four people,’ says president Marit Mathisen, ‘and the aim is for them to shoot people on the other teams with Nerf guns. These games last for around two weeks, and the players can be shot at any time as long as they aren’t in designated safe zones.’ Rather brilliantly, Mathisen goes on to explain that this lets members ‘experience something you can’t really get outside of university, as in the workplace it would be much less likely to be accepted. In addition, I find it’s a great way to get to know people, as you can’t just shoot them and run off.’
Edinburgh University has an Allotment and Permacure Society and a beer and cider group, while their dance societies take part in competitions around the country. ‘We practice hard but party harder with glamorous balls and less glamorous bar crawls, pub nights and club nights,’ says Ashley Squire, president of the Edinburgh University Ballroom Dancing Society, an intensive club with around 150 members, which has two classes and three practice sessions a week. That’s the point about a society: it’s as much a chance to meet new friends and broaden your horizons as it is to learn new skills.
‘One unusual thing about our society is how diverse it is,’ says Aneesa Mukhtar, vice-president of dance society Edinburgh Bhangra Crew. ‘Bhangra is a Punjabi dance so one would think that most of our members are South Asian, but actually we have members from all cultures. At the risk of sounding cheesy, what I think our members get from being part of EBC is a family. After one Bhangra class, the president of EBC dragged me off to the pub to watch my first Pakistan versus India cricket match. It was an unbelievable experience. EBC introduced me to a culture I knew very little about previously.’
The truth is that no student society is unusual. University is partly designed to introduce us to a wealth of different people and to accentuate our similarities. ‘They’re obviously a nice shortcut for meeting friends,’ says Lawrence, already planning screenings of Sharknado and Samurai Cop and hoping that one day he’ll find copies of Death Bed: The Bed that Eats and RoboGeisha. ‘And I think finding the more unusual societies is a good place to start, because the people who turn up to something strange know they want to be there. And, let’s face it, they are probably more interesting to talk to. Also, I would love to work for any employer that counts “member of Bad Movie Society” as an achievement.’