I was in university when the first lockdown was announced, with two months left until graduation. I was looking forward to a summer of celebration after four years of graft: waiting for taxis outside the club at 5AM under clear blue skies, sharing bottles of wine on a foreign transport system in whichever country we decided to venture to that year, and backyard barbecues.
The promise of long days and longer nights was enough to get me through a few tame weekends in with my boyfriend – but now, 11 months later, I often find myself misty-eyed, watching the one video I took on my last (very average) night out pre-lockdown – an off-season Warehouse Project event in Manchester, headlined by Kerri Chandler – wondering if my friends will ever want to go out clubbing again, or if they’re much more comfortable spending Friday nights on the couch with a takeaway.
In hindsight, the Kerri Chandler night was what could only now be described as a “superspreader event”, as my friend Connor put it a few weeks ago. But that evening, coronavirus was something we barely paid lip service to – only in passing, or as a joke as we shared bottles of water and brushed too close to crowds of old ravers and university students at the bar. I was more concerned about the hangover I’d be harbouring the next day than a deadly illness that would eventually make clubbing a thing of the past, rendering my pre-lockdown night out as a holy grail.
By the time summer came, clubs hadn’t re-opened and the live events industry was on “red alert”. The industry was set to reopen in spring 2021 – as in right now – by which time job losses in the sector were projected to be at 60 percent.
Now we’re here, in the depths of a third national lockdown, and it’s looking less and less likely that we’ll see clubs reopen anytime soon – weekends that would have been spent knocking back shots of whiskey or stumbling into an Uber at 8AM have been replaced by Avengers marathons and the TikTok algorithm. A whole cohort of young people are coming of age, but graduating straight into a recession rather than sweaty raves.
As people find joy in life’s simpler offerings – daily walks, early nights, painting by numbers, etc – it’s hard to imagine a scenario as carefree as that last night out. The pandemic has forced us all to grow up overnight. Fun has become even more of a luxury than before, and the economic impact of three national lockdowns will be felt for years to come. With the biggest recession since records began and an essentially non-existent graduate job market on our hands, it makes sense if we’re all more concerned with finding steady work, embarking on careers and hugging our nans post-lockdown than the next time we’ll be getting our ear chatted off by a stranger in an offensively long line for one of three toilets.
But the thing is, nightlife is what makes those dreary nine to fives all the more worth it. Clubs give us a space to feel euphoric; to connect with those closest to us and to those we’ll never meet again. It’s when I’m stood there, with my friends, feeling the bass run through the soles of my feet right up into my chest, when the dance floor is so hot I can hardly breathe, when I hear the first few notes of That Tune Everyone Loves and the crowd lets out a collective cheer – that’s when living feels how I think it’s supposed to feel.
I hope no one forgets that feeling by the time this ridiculously long disaster movie finally comes to an end. If not, I’ll feel like I’ve missed out on a crucial part of my youth. I know I’m not the only one who misses raving in a sweat box at 3AM.