The Sunday Times: Party till the floor caves in

Students are turning humble digs into nightclubs for super-parties, but there are hazards, writes Katie Glass.

Once, all you expected from a student party was paint-stripper wine, a flatmate with aspirations to be a DJ and whoever turned up from halls of residence. But now students are trouncing such feeble efforts with a new strain of super-party.

A cross between US-style frat parties and 1990s raves, the super-party phenomenon sees students compete to transform humble digs into mini nightclubs.

What distinguishes a super-party — besides super-strength drugs — is ambition and scale. Inspired by a generation who came of age with Project X parties (named after a Hollywood film about three Californian teenagers throwing an epic bash while their parents are away), super-parties feature professional sound systems, lighting, security, smoke machines, photographers and famous DJs.

Fuelled by social media, word about such parties quickly spreads. Two years ago police broke up 1,000 students raving at a gathering in Fallowfield, Manchester.

At another super-party in Jesmond in 2014, the student ghetto of Newcastle, police found 250 scantily clad ravers crammed into a terraced house for an S&M-themed bash.

At Miskin Street in Cardiff, a party last year saw 200 students dancing in a three-storey house kitted out with a ball pit in the living room. The kitchen was fitted with a dancefloor, lasers and decks. DJs included Maxxi Soundsystem, who has played at Glastonbury. “The atmosphere was brilliant!” one attendee grinned.

If this sounds like the stuff of student party dreams — and a respite from students moaning about cultural appropriation — not everybody is thrilled.

Last week a multi-agency taskforce was launched in the northeast of England to tackle problem parties. Newcastle city council has teamed up with Northumbria police, Tyne and Wear fire and rescue service and the North East ambulance service and claimed it had dealt with 136 such events in the past eight months.

“Up until this year we’d never seen anything like it,” said Inspector Steven Byrne of Northumbria police. “These houses are converted into almost nightclubs . . . packed wall to wall, smoke machines, fire alarms covered, mattresses against the windows. It’s incredible.”

A big concern was homes collapsing under the weight of ravers. “The buildings were constructed in the 1930s; they’re not designed to hold the weight of 200, 300 people,”said Jade Makarski, a Tyne and Wear firefighter.

At one party in Handsworth, Birmingham, the living-room floor gave way, sending up to 100 guests crashing 8ft into the basement. In a similar incident at a three-storey house in Manchester 300 revellers were forced to end their party when the lounge floor caved in.

Worryingly, there are signs of increasingly pure club drugs, including MDMA (ecstasy) and cocaine, being taken, along with nitrous oxide, or laughing gas.

Perhaps the rise of super-parties is inevitable in a climate of closing nightclubs with cash-strapped students living 10 to a house. Yet perhaps most shocking about the parties isn’t their Young Ones-style anarchy — it’s how corporate they are.

Super-parties are often run by student promoters and sponsored by drinks companies.


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