The Society Review Column:
Not sure what societies to join? Afraid you’ll waste your money on a membership you won’t enjoy? Feel like Freshers’ fair does not give you enough information? Don’t want to turn up to a society trial day, and then never come back? Here, at CUB Magazine, we intend to alleviate your fears. Accompany me, Joshua Fraser, on extensive reviews of Queen Mary’s societies, showing you what you’re signing up for and what you get for your money.
What is the English Society about?
The English Society is, like any society linked to a particular course, primarily for english students. However, their welcoming and friendly atmosphere is extended and open to all. The English Society aims to generate an atmosphere of friendship, relaxation and academic cooperation. The events on offer at this society range from movie screenings to picnics, as well as study groups and pub nights, to let off steam. A membership to this Society will ensure a good time, opportunities to meet new friends and is guaranteed to enrich your university experience.
What’s an English Society event like?
Walking into the beer garden of the Half Moon Wetherspoons at 19:00 pm (a classic meeting place of Queen Mary students) on Friday the 24th of January, I approach the 11 or so members of the English Society, though more came and went throughout the course of the evening. Huddled against the chill of a cold winter evening, there is a notably contrasting warm atmosphere of community amongst the Society members, which seems to shield them against the bone-chilling night.
“Do you guys always brave these bitter evenings out at the Spoon’s beer garden?” I query.
“No, Spoons is just an informal ‘welcome back’ to kick things off again.” – Samiha, English Society’s social media representative.
The last, less cold, semester, I am told, hosted a plethora of events such as “study sessions”, “movie nights” and a “picnic” at “Victoria Park”. In fact, the English Society is in the process of organizing a “board game night in the upcoming week” says Samiha.
However, the pièce de résistance is undoubtedly the planned “summer ball”. The English Society’s “end goal”, Heather, the English Society’s events coordinator informs me. “We are planning to have one big send-off for the Society, at the end of the year.” Shifting away from this vision of a warmer summer event, I find out that the English Society was not always this coordinated and substantial, Despite the impressive level of organisation and forward-thinking they display.
“Last year the Society didn’t exist. The year before that it existed, but the events were very alcohol centric. Without the kind of friendship we have now, the Society suffered.” – Chloe, a third-year English student and vice president of the English Society.
This unfortunate history provides ample explanation for the captivating effervescence present in the English Society, which so effectively makes one forget the frostbite of the London night. Much like a phoenix rising from the hot ashes of the past, there is a palpable energy amongst the group, who have “learnt from” mistakes made by other committees who, in the past, ran the English Society. Hafsa, the English Society’s president relays her, and her committee’s, vision for the English Society of 2019-2020:
“We want to make sure that the communication, [in the Society], is good enough, so that everyone can have a good time while being safe. We want to be a social outlet for School of English and Drama’ students, but everyone is welcome.”
Indeed, from the events listed and the surprisingly (for a Spoons night out) even ratio of non-alcoholic drinks to alcoholic drinks it is clear that the Society has stepped away from alcohol focussed events, towards more inclusive meetups. Though there is still a healthy appreciation for a pint or two, this is English after all.
In this vein of inclusivity, I ask “So do people from other courses ever join you on nights out, and by extension join the society?”
“Absolutely, we have even had some engineering and maths students come along to our events.” – Samiha
At this point, I notice that the majority of the Society is constituted by women. I approach third-year English Student David, to ask him about his thoughts on this gender split.
“I don’t see it as an issue; in some ways, it’s a reflection of the course, though there are fewer boys in the Society than are on the course.”
Unfortunately, there were no LGBTQ+ individuals at the event. However, there are more than a handful in the English Society. Heather informed me that the society plans to host “LGBTQ+ oriented events, such as LGBTQ+ poetry readings.”
I also ask about non-English English students (as oxymoronic as that phrase sounds). Heather, from Derry Northern Ireland, tells me that while the English Society was “not essential” for her to “fit in” at Queen Mary it did “make [her] third year a lot more socially exciting.”
Moving around the table, I talk to Harriet, a third-year English student, about her experience making friends in the Society. “There are plenty of great associate students you can meet at these events. They also really feel at home here, that’s something you can quote me on.”
Noticing that the majority of the English Society are third English students, I seek out Didem, a second-year english student and treasurer for the English Society.
“So, as a second-year english student, how does it feel to be surrounded by all of these third years?”
“At first a little intimidating, but when I got to know them they were really nice. Sometimes our study events are like even friendlier PASS sessions.”
Curious about the English Society’s process, when ensuring their members feel comfortable, I speak to the vice president, Chloe.
“How do you ensure that everyone here feels like they are part of a community?”
“I basically try to act like a mother hen and talk to everyone. If we spot someone who looks left out, we make sure to include them in whatever it is we are doing.”
Fees, Locations & Meet up times:
Fees: Queen Mary’s English Society costs £5 to join.
Locations & Meet up times: The locations vary for this society. They tend to have one ‘large’ event a month and one ‘smaller’ event.
For any further queries: The societies email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Queen Mary English Society is an open-minded and invigorating place to interact with other students, whether you study English or not. What most impressed me about this Society is its ability to capture the ingenuity, relatability and passionate wonder that is the quintessence of English as a discipline. Amazingly, the English Society does all this while acting as a cohesive and inclusive community. It is only fitting that a great literary city and university should have a great literary Society representing it.
I hope my words do it justice.
I am CUB Magazine’s Columns editor. I spent my first year procrastinating about what societies to join. While Freshers’ fair was a great place to browse societies and get free sweets, I wanted a more in-depth look into what I was committing to. At CUB Magazine, we aim to enrich your student experience as much as we can. In writing this column, I intend to collect all the information I wish I’d had in my first year, so you don’t face the problems I did. And, I hope, this column provides all the answers to your society-related questions.