Last Friday, the last day of exams for many students, an incident occurred at Soho. Many students were trapped on the top floor of the nightclub, ‘Floho’, which prematurely ended the exam celebrations for some.
While it is not clear what happened to cause the blockage, people have suggested that it was the infamous stairs. Former Newcastle University student, Alex Ogilvie, who witnessed the event, said “I went to the bar to ask if there was another way out because the stairs were blocked and they told me ‘Just push your way through’. A few moments later, one of the bar staff came to see the crowd, mouthed ‘Oh f*ck’ and then moved to allow people out of the staff fire exit behind the bar. Thankfully avoiding the stampede behind us.”
Like many night clubs in Newcastle, such as Powerhouse and The Cut, Soho only has one way in and one way out. This creates an issue of accessibility on busy nights, such as last Friday. While on any ordinary night out having one main exit may be sufficient, on a night such as the end of exams, mass crowding and one exit left many people trapped. Only two years ago, a student from Durham University tragically died on a night out due to a crowd rush while queuing to get into a club. This led to an investigation into the safety of that particular venue back in 2018.
NUSU LGBT+ Officer, Tobias Cameron, discussed his experience of the night's events at Soho, saying that “the top floor was packed, no room to manoeuvre, crammed and boiling hot. After being told to ‘just squeeze through’ myself and others had to plead with the bar staff to come and actually witness the gridlock occurring. Eventually, a member of the bar staff helped us leave, by allowing myself and friends to use the fire exit. The experience was incredibly stressful and anxiety inducing. This shows the failure of venues having the same singular route to enter and exit the premises, especially where there are multiple floors.”
Newcastle included, many universities are pushing for safer nights out and a ‘change in the culture’ of drinking at University. This poses the question as to whether venues in the city are doing enough to look after student safety, particularly during peak times. Former Newcastle University student, Emily Bowering said that “Soho on Friday was really scary. I had my younger sister visiting who doesn't usually drink, so as soon as I realised what was happening I started to panic because I knew I was responsible for her. It didn't help that a lot of people were trying to push their way through, making the situation a lot worse. Some lads even started to fight back and forth in the crowd.”
Soho Rooms were reached out to for a comment. They said that they “had to stop people moving floor to floor momentarily in order to control the numbers in each floor and last Friday was exceptionally busy being the end of exams. As you are probably aware, everyone seems to join the queue around 1am, and they all want in.” Soho Rooms defended their security saying that they “acted correctly to stop people overcrowding in already busy floors”, but that people have to understand that “some floors are more popular than others”. The nightclub spokesperson stated that they had taken extra procedures for the night, adding “additional stewards on streets and stairs to help and maintain the flow.”
With different accounts of the event it seems unclear exactly what happened, but Soho Rooms have said that competitive bars nearby seemed to have hyped up the event, as there were no injuries and no incidents in the night in question.