In 1997 Mixmag, a magazine claiming to be the world’s biggest selling dance music and clubbing magazine, declared that Bournemouth was the new clubbing capital of Great Britain. Gone was the old image of Bournemouth as God’s waiting room, a town full of retirement homes, plastic covered furniture, stripy deck chairs and knobbly knees, Bournemouth was the rave capital of the south coast.
Simon Constant, manager of Bournemouth’s biggest club, Lava, believes that this is still the case: “Clubbing in Bournemouth’s never been better. Every weekend thousands of people come to Bournemouth from all over the country because they know they’re gonna have a great time.” It seems Bournemouth is still the place to be if you want to wave glow sticks, dance all night, blow whistles, drink yourself stupid and then inevitably vomit up a cocktail of fluorescent coloured alcopops and kebab meat all over the pavement.
All’s well and good, you may think, except that in 2011 over 4,500 instances of anti-social behaviour were recorded by the police in Bournemouth town centre, most of which were attributed to what is euphemistically referred to as ‘the night-time economy’.
I hate clubbing (there I’ve said it). This may make me un-cool or square but I don’t care. To me 4,500 instances of antisocial behaviour is an entirely understandable figure. In psychology it is widely accepted that the three key environmental factors causing aggression are heat, noise and overcrowding. It seems that night clubs have deliberately created just the right environment to trigger aggressive antisocial behaviour and then throw alcohol into the mix just for good measure.
I am occasionally invited along to nights out clubbing and I usually make excuses such as “I’ve got an essay to write” or “I have to be at work early in the morning”. I decided that this time I’d go along. It can’t be as bad as I’d remembered, right?
Standing in the freezing cold queue outside a club called Ignite our party was joined by a group of lads, all wearing more or less identical Ben Sherman shirts with gelled futuristic haircuts. The chief lad Mark told me: “What you gotta do is just get shitfaced before you go in and then it aint too bad.” I took this as a worrying sign: even the people who like clubbing consider it necessary to be inebriated before venturing in to such a place.
After the undignified process of being judged by a man whose neck was thicker than his head in order to gain entry, we were thrust into a hot, stinking, deafening hell hole, surrounded by swaggering trendy morons who for some reason felt the need to constantly photograph themselves posing and pouting. The music was repetitive and indistinguishable, the drinks were priced roughly on par with gold bullion and the toilets…
Standing in the men’s toilets is a man called Sydney, originally from Namibia and resident in the UK for less than five years, his job is to mop up the vodka induced urine, vomit and diarrhoea of those too intoxicated to hit the basin. For a small tip Sydney will supply you with chewing gum, sweets or condoms. He said he earned enough to look after his family, but I wondered if this could really be true. I tipped him a pound and left feeling guilty.
Back out on the dance floor and I feel as though I have been thrust into an Attenborough documentary (I do the voiceover in my head). Why anyone goes to these places is beyond me, but I especially cannot understand why women venture here. Attractive females are immediately surrounded by randy strutting Neanderthals, all vying for their attention. Occasionally small scuffles between the men break out as they jockey for position and a chance to rub against the female as if trying to transfer some sort of pheromone onto her — moves which seem to me to border on molestation.
Just as I ponder the feasibility of joining some sort of hippy commune, away from the rest of society, I notice that one of the pretty girls who had been surrounded on the dance floor is talking to one of my friends. It turns out that they are colleagues (this is incredibly handy as I would not have dared to speak to her otherwise). The girl, Laura, is wearing an incredibly short skirt. She tells me: “I come here nearly every week, I love it. I love all the attention I get from the guys, they just can’t help themselves.”
At about three AM we managed to force our way through the detritus spilling from the clubs and find our way to a taxi. In the cab home my friend Simon lamented that he had missed his opportunity to ‘get off’ with Laura, as she had gone home with “some dick wearing dungarees”.
As I sit in the cab pondering exactly who or what is to blame for this state of affairs (the closes I came to a concrete conclusion was blaming Tony Blair) I get word via text message from the rest of the group, who were waiting for the next taxi, that a massive fight has broken out and the police had been called. Just a few more additions to the statistics that we seem to put up with for the sake of the ‘night-time economy’
Main image: Gorod