The Big Night... Out? Newcastle's streets remain buzzing amidst boycotts

Newcastle's 'Big Night In' didn't change a night on the toon. The Courier reports on the boycott.

Kayleigh Fraser
14th November 2021
Did the 'Big Night In' actually make clubbers stay at home?
Following the national campaign to tackle spiking, Newcastle locals were encouraged on the 28th of October to boycott clubs and stand in solidarity with spike victims. Did it work? We took to the streets to find out.

The 'Big Night In' campaign was all over our screens last month. Posted on Instagram, Facebook and discussed across the UK; its mission was simple. Boycott the clubs - take action against the spiking epidemic. The movement grew traction after reports surfaced of people being injected in clubs, inspiring action across the country.

As well as Newcastle, cities like Leeds, Edinburgh, Nottingham and Belfast organised their own boycotts. Before the night, support on social media was huge. Newcastle's boycott account on Instagram amassed a following of over 2,500 accounts. Loughborough's account also had 2,000 followers.

To many, the movement looked like it was going to make an impact. Students' Instagram stories displayed reminders of the boycott - encouragement of the campaign was widespread and so many people looked like they were going to take part.

To test this, we took to Newcastle's streets after midnight on the 28th (technically the 29th) to ask one simple question? Has it worked?

The first stop on our pre-planned route was Lady Greys. Known for its late night drinks, the bar is usually popular with locals. Approaching the bar, there was a large group of people outside smoking or drinking. To anyone looking on, it looked like a typical night on the toon.

We went to Greys Club next. Upon our arrival, we were surprised to see it closed. It seems to be one of the only Newcastle clubs closing in support of the movement.

Next up it was time to head to Soho. A favourite among many, stories about Soho's stairs are infamous from Newcastle students. Thus, it was surprising (yet encouraging) to see it relatively quiet.

We spoke to Soho's bouncers. Image credit: The Courier

Outside the bar, we chatted to some bouncers about the boycott and asked them a few questions. Unaware of the campaign, the team told us that Thursday was their 'quietest night anyway. We don't get many students in on a Thursday night'.

Talking more to the staff, we found out that Soho are offering lids to go on top of drinks to ward off spiking - one of many tactics, they say, is helping to keep everyone safe. One bouncer candidly revealed to us that if they see a young woman outside on her own they are encouraged to 'take a tenner out the till to get her a taxi'.

Clubbers entering Soho. Image Credit: The Courier

Moving on, we took a stroll two minutes up the road to one of my favourite places - Flares. From the outside, Flares was as busy as usual. One thing we did notice, however, was the majority of customers were older. Despite this, we found a group of students (who were also promoters) that were happy to have a chat with us.

On the campaign, one stated 'it's all been quite a big thing, and we've worked with a couple of the club venues'. He continued, 'Stopping the clubs for the night is probably a good thing, you know, in terms of making people more aware of it'.

Flares was still party central. Image Credit: The Courier

'I completely understand the campaign, I am completely for the campaign, but I didn't know about the boycott. At first, I got it, but now clubs are on board with it everyone is doing really well'.

When asked if they had ever been spiked, one spoke up. 'I've been spiked, that was in first year', she said, referring to the 2019/20 academic year. 'It was in Bijoux. I was put on a stretcher, I had to go to hospital'.

Bijoux seemed closed upon our visit. Image: The Courier

In terms of the Big Night In, she stated 'I agree with the one night off but it's Halloween after, so everybody's just going to be back out. I don't know if it's just going to make people come out on the weekend because they know everyone's out'.

After this we took a walk across the road to Tup Tup. The queues outside and the crowds within told us all we needed to know. One of the strangest parts about this was the fact that The Cut was closed. Looking ahead on to the clubs you see two sides of a story - separated simply by a wall.

Continuing our quest, we took a walk to Rusty's. From our perspective, it was, without doubt, the busiest club we'd seen that night. An even mix of the older and younger generation were gathered in swarms inside and outside the popular venue.

Lastly, we ended our night in the witching hour (specifically 2:30am) paying a visit to the Bigg Market. The Bigg Market chippy's glaring white lights lit up the night as usual whilst students gathered to grab some pre-hangover bites.

The Bigg Market Chippy was filled with partygoers. Image: The Courier
Pop World was full as we passed, mostly with students. Image: The Courier

Then, it was time to end on the most important venue of the night - Market Shaker. We were more invested in Market Shaker as they had posted awareness, safety and support for the movement and were widely acknowledged to have a strong anti-spiking rhetoric by many.

Market Shaker was packed with students. Image: The Courier

As an experience, it was eye opening to be around town and see if the 'Big Night In' gained traction. My conclusion? A dismal no. Although, despite the boycott itself failing to make concrete change, we must consider the many conversations it's started.

Wether you stayed in or went out, you cannot deny that this movement has brought about discourse that's long over due. But, we must ask, what comes next? Is a conversation about spiking truly enough to turn the tide? I know myself and women across the country will anxiously wait to see.

Special thank you and credit to George, Emily, Elizabeth, Eleanor, Jack, Miles and Muzlim for documenting this with me and coming out in the small hours of the morning. I couldn't have done it without you!

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AUTHOR: Kayleigh Fraser
Campus Comment Sub Editor for 2021/22. English Literature Student heavily obsessed with politics, bath and body works and making positive change. Also slightly infatuated with iced coffee, guinea pigs, my dog and binging The Simpsons.

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