This week, students across the UK will be heading back to university or embarking on their first freshers week as the start of another school year rolls around. Cue awkward nights out with weird flatmates, realising that you actually need to learn how to cook this semester, and blowing half your student loan on Tuesday night shots. And, of course, it wouldn't be Freshers Week without a happy stumble into the nearest late night fast food joint at 3 AM.
But when Goldsmiths University in Lewisham, South East London offered freshers a guided tour of local fried chicken shops, it didn't go down quite so well.
Held on Monday night, the "Chicken Run" event saw attendees take a guided tour around "the best chicken shops the local area has to offer," with free samples given out at each stop.
Free fried chicken might sound great, but critics on social media have accused the safari-style event of exotifying Lewisham's fried chicken shops, which, as MUNCHIES reported earlier this year, are seen by many as "one of the few places [in London] that haven't yet been fully colonised by the white art students and middle classes."
In response to the Goldsmiths event, one Twitter user @billiepaul posted: "@GoldsmithsUoL why must u always exotify "local culture" 4 mdl class students 2 consume? [sic]" and @Ollyzor said, "I don't know what's fucking worse, that or the 'Students Welcome Apertif'. [sic]" The event has since been removed from the Goldsmiths Students' Union website.
MUNCHIES reached out to the Goldsmiths Students' Union to ask for their response to the online criticism of the Chicken Run event. A spokesperson told us: "The 'Chicken Run' event was created as a response to gentrification in the local area and wider London, encouraging our students to engage with and support the local community and local businesses. With a raft of local BME-owned businesses recently shutting down, we want to encourage our students to engage with these companies rather than the growing number of chains that are changing the face of South East London."
They continued, "The event was led by our full time officers who are black and minority ethnic, whose major projects this year include the 'Black Businesses of Lewisham' scheme, working to promote local community ventures run by black business owners. This scheme and others will continue work with these businesses and the community, to showcase, support, and signpost Goldsmiths students to them."
The neon logos and waft of irresistible fried chicken will probably be signposts enough.