Image Credit: Luke Snell
With ‘freshers week’ looking very different this year, YUSU’s new venue the Forest had a successful opening evening Saturday night. The Nouse team went along to understand how the University’s new social epicentre will work and run.
The venue is located on Vanbrugh Green, Campus West, with a technical capacity for 500 people, but a lower seating capacity of 280 - this being the number of people seated under the Canopy. Plans have been in place to build a venue for students this term as early as August and thousands of pounds have been spent on preparations. There is one large marquee where groups of six will be led to their tables with further seating outside as well as several other attractions within the Forest, such as a naked tipi (pictured below) disco area and an opportunity for photos but they did not appear to be open on Saturday night.
(IMAGE: Luke Snell)
Saturday night’s event was for Halifax college students only and a steady queue began to form from 6pm onwards. Students will be asked to arrive in groups of six where they will then have their temperatures checked and will be asked to either use the new NHS track and trace app or provide contact details. Masks are mandatory for walking round the venue.
Third party caterers have been hired for the venue. Refreshments include a pizza van with prices ranging from £7-8 and a waffle bar. A cocktail caravan was planned but with new government guidelines limiting the venue to table service of alcohol, this will now become a caravan selling merchandise. Security guards from Active Security Solutions will also be present to enforce mask wearing and social distancing is practiced.
(IMAGE: Students queueing for 'The Forest', photographed by Luke Snell)
With all these plans in place, perhaps the main issue for the Forest will be how the venue plans to remain open. Government guidelines are changing almost daily with little warning for the hospitality sector and the Yorkshire weather may play a huge role in deterring students from attending an outdoor venue. This issue was evident to us on the opening night, as the Forest's lack of heaters was notable, however we were told that getting heaters for the venue were being discussed, which could mean a more comfortable experience later in the term.
(IMAGE: Luke Snell)
Nouse spoke to YUSU’s president Patrick O’Donnell to discuss the Forest’s plans for the future. He told us:
“We are limited by the weather and our capacity is limited by the weather but the vast majority of seating is covered and heating is on its way.
One of the things we’re doing is allowing societies and groups to book out their own tables of six. We have got ten weeks of term so there’s plenty of opportunities for both YUSU run events and student run events.
We’re going over and above the government guidelines by doing temperature checks. We’re in a really good position to adapt to new measures.”
O’Donnell remains positive about the Forest’s role in student life this term and suggested that whilst the Forest will come down at the end of Term One, there may be a similar venue built on another area of campus later in the academic year.
The Forest will be open every day in Term One, with this week being booked out each night by colleges for fresher evenings.