For & Against – Solus Redevelopment

For – Matt Hale

Cardiff Students Union recently announced that their night club, Solus, is to be upgraded as part of a £3.3 million redevelopment of the Union’s second floor. Having been a near ever presence at both the Lash and Flux this year, I can only view this as a positive move. Whilst Solus has its own unique charm, there comes a point where seemingly endless Yaya/Kolo renditions can no longer mask its obvious deficiencies.

The primary reason to support these developments is undoubtedly that Cardiff already has an outstanding Students’ Union. To be voted the best Union in the country for satisfaction in 2013 by The Telegraph is no small feat and is something that should feature more prominently in advertising campaigns.

It is precisely because the Union is so strong that it needs to reinvest in infrastructure to maintain its position. The likes of Leeds and Sheffield will not remain static in the years to come and neither should we. Considering this, whilst Solus is a good facility with ample space, it is simply not finished to an acceptable standard.

There are certain areas of the second floor, which the redevelopment team has rightly labelled as ‘visibly tired’. Some of the décor needs to be brought into, if not the 21st century then at least the 20th century.

Students’ Union President, Cari Davies, also stated that as part of the redevelopment Solus would be converted into much more of a ‘Common Room type space.’ Currently, the room is rarely utilised between the hours of 8am and 8pm and is only really suited to its nightclub role.

I can only remember entering the night club before darkness falls once and that was part of my 3 hour wait for a wristband during Freshers week! This is definitely a space that could be used more productively in daylight hours, especially when the building is operating at capacity. Any measures that mean extra space in the Taf should be given the highest priority.

Some highlights of the conversion include the much needed addition of natural-light through a ‘glazed roof structure’. The idea of a night out with friends star gazing at the Lash does have something of a romantic quality to it.

Moreover a delightfully named ‘Mezzanine’ (fancy balcony) will be installed. This should bring a sort of amphitheatre feel to the room. Standing up there, I for one would feel like Caesar at the Coliseum, looking down at the Lashiators doing battle below.

There is the obvious argument that this money could be better spent on other facilities more closely linked with academia. This is a valid grievance. However, like it or loathe it, night life is important in attracting future students to any university.

Again, you could argue that Cardiff already has sufficient clubs to fulfil all your twerking needs. Yet on open days, short of organising a daylight Carnage for attendees, there is no way for visiting young people to assess the quality of town’s night life. So if their only impression of the night life here is a tour of the often submerged Solus toilets, it will be hard to sell Cardiff as a clubbers dream.

Another, perhaps flippant, reason to support the change is that it will see the name of the nightclub changed, subject to a student vote. The current venue does have a slightly ambiguous title depending on regional accents.

Perhaps I am amongst the more easily irritated of undergraduates, but I take an instant dislike to those who pronounce it ‘Soulus’. Thus a move away from ambiguity will quell my internal rage somewhat.

Without question, £3.3 million is a vast amount of money; you could sign a decent Premier league squad player for that. However it is an investment that Solus desperately needs to keep pace with other leading Student’s Unions in the country.

Against – Lilly Harper

The old phrase “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” seems relevant when applied to the intended changes to Solus. The £3.3 million redevelopment project of the student union was recently approved, and plans are under way to make various changes within the building, which include renovation to our beloved Solus.

The Student Union’s club is a frequent nightspot for students from all years of the university on both Wednesdays and Saturdays and anyone would be hard pushed to find a Cardiff Student who doesn’t have a fond story to tell about the club.

Despite the sweat pit of a dance floor, the sticky floors and the classy plastic cups the venue manages to reach its capacity of 2,200 people pretty much every night it opens, and students continue to pay up to £5 entry per night, so why does it need changing?

The initial plans for the redevelopment include exciting features such as a staircase to CF10 and a “mezzanine balcony.” (For people as uncultured as me, that’s another floor in between the current two levels of the club). The article which was available on the student’s union website states that the project aims to “modernise and diversify” the entire second floor, and the plans will involve closing the club for the rest of this year before re-opening at next year’s freshers’ with a new name and a new look. Essentially, the plans aim to put an end to Solus as we know it.

The designers are trying to create a space that can be used for more than just drunken revelries and fooling around with strangers. The plans describe that after the renovation the club will end up with less space to stand and in place the creation of a “cluster of booths” which can be used during the daytime as well as for the Lash and Flux.

I don’t quite understand why you would change an area designed to be a nightclub into somewhere for people to sit down and chat about their day. It sounds all too similar to that room on the third floor we all stumbled into once during freshers week and never went back to.

For me, the whole appeal of Solus comes from being able to strut through those double doors like you’re in a Beyoncé video straight onto a packed dance floor. The DJ is probably playing something guaranteed to be in the charts and you’ll be able to find at least 17 people you know within the same number of minutes.

It may be a lone opinion but I’m not thrilled at the idea of weaving between booths and up and down the seemingly pointless new mezzanine floor to try and find an area large enough to bust some of my finest moves.

Perhaps the worst thing about this whole ordeal is the loss of the name. Just hearing the word Solus in a passing conversation can bring back a plethora of brilliant memories from Lashes past, Dusk til Dawn or Drink the Bar Dry. The redevelopment is not only robbing Solus of its character, it’s taking its identity.

To add further insult to injury the project manager has even cruelly described Solus as “tired and dated”, but like I’ve said, this doesn’t stop the venue selling out night after night. So the question still remains – why is an unfathomable amount of money being spent on a development that has limited benefits for the student body?

Much like the introduction of “Flux” this year, I’m sure the whole thing will take some getting used to. Similar to my inability to let go of Come Play I’m adamant I’ll still be mourning the loss of Solus until my graduation in 2017.

It might be a sweaty dungeon but it’s our sweaty dungeon and we love it just the way it is.