Welcome to Bad Night Out, where we explore the underbelly of a city through its nightlife spots.
WHERE AM I?
[In the voice of of a man with a full-sleeve tattoo featuring a skull (cheeky), an angel (but charming) and a rose (quietly sensitive x)] – Chelmsfooorrrdddd, Essex.
The whole point of this series is to find the worst rated clubs in a town or city, according to the people who actually have the time to review clubs on TripAdvisor, and then do a bar crawl of them. Sadly, many of Chelmsford's worst-rated clubs and bars have actually shut down, so my TripAdvisor pre-planning was in vain. But what does that matter? It's Wednesday, which means it's student night – and I'm ready for some cheap drinks and paint parties.
I've never been to Chelmsford before, but I understand why it only achieved city status in 2012: it's basically a series of roundabouts and A-roads with a town centre dropped in the middle. I also figure that going out here might be a little different to what I'm used to.
In London, going out requires very little preparation; I once managed to get into one of those heels-only Mayfair clubs in a hideous woollen roll neck and trainers. But I suspect it's not that simple here. Contouring is probably involved. Flats don't seem to be an option. The best I can manage, though, is a skirt paired with the T-shirt I've been wearing all day. My bum cheeks are firmly out, but we're in Essex, baby – who cares?
To get into the student spirit, I decide to pre-drink before pre-drinks. My Travelodge hotel room overlooks a dual carriageway, and although it's quite bleak, it has the same vibe as a lot of student accommodation, so that's something. I order a bottle of Pinot and drink two glasses before leaving the hotel, suitably tipsy.
MAISONS BAR - 3.2 ★★★
My friend asked for a Malibu & coke but experienced an allergic reaction. When she questioned bar staff 'was that proper Malibu or the cheap stuff that comes from Home Bargains' they said how did you know?! She knew because she's allergic to it. Shocking! Also selling it for £4 a shot when a whole bottle cost £4.99 what a rip off.
First stop is Maisons Bar, which – according to one of my friends who grew up in Essex – is normally chock-full of Fiat 500 Kylie Jenner clones. I turn up ready to neck modestly-priced Woo-Woos, but approaching the entrance I find a pile of unopened mail and a guy snoozing in the doorway. Maisons looks to be another Chelmsford nightlife casualty.
I speak to some people also on their way out for the evening, who reassure me that "places always close for a few months and open up again, with the same owners, just a different name". Sad for University of Essex students, but absolutely fine by me.
I walk into the town centre, past Cafe Rouge and straight into the warm, familiar arms of a JD Wetherspoon. Everyone here is exceptionally young and wearing heels. Do they know that we're only in a Spoons? I sink a few wines and decide to go somewhere else.
WALKABOUT, CHELMSFORD - 3.8 ★★★★
It's a bit grim. Sticky carpet job. Need keys for the toilets. Much nicer places in the area for a drink
But the next spot is empty, save a few men having what looks like after-work drinks. In an attempt to rouse my waning spirits, I order a couple of ciders and very audibly squeal at paying only £5.35 for two entire pints. What can I say? J'adore student night discounts.
I was drunk off knowing that I could afford to drink here without having to extend my overdraft (I was also drunk off the Travelodge wine). It was finally time to head to Bar & Beyond – Chelmsford's number one student spot – to experience its "Wild Wednesdays UV Party".
BAR & BEYOND- 3.8 ★★★★
Able to wear trainers but not trainers with air bubbles? Hmmmm..... fair enough..
Kick me out because I few [sic] some ice at a friend with no one else around. They could have told me to not do that. But instead ruined my friend 21st bday which we paid a lot of money for
Is it a cocktail bar? Is it a restaurant? Is it a nightclub? Honey, it's all three, and it lives inside an old theatre.
Bar & Beyond is quite clearly the most popular student night in Chelmsford, because there's both an exceptionally long queue and a police car outside.
Fucking hell, Bar & Beyond is sick.
Here's me trying to fit in, doing some laughing while everyone has fun around me.
Why was I having a string of emotional breakdowns when I was 18, and not grinding up against some lad called Gareth as a container full of confetti rained all over us?
Genuinely not joking about this being a great place. There are giant balloons, as well as a confetti cannon, both of which are objectively Fun Things.
Plus, they have Licor 43 in cocktails here. Do you know how I've longed for the sweet, sweet taste of Licor 43?
It's pretty hot inside, so I head to the smoking area. Just as I reach the door, a hand appears from out of nowhere and gives me a mask with rabbit ears. No explanation. I put it on and immediately get showered in compliments. Your author is gassed, ladies and gentlemen!
This feels like a good time to go to Popworld, the final stop on my Chelmsford tour.
POPWORLD - 3.8 ★★★★
If you want a bad night out then I would have rated 5*
Bar staff need some serious training. If you want to drink don't bother with this place.
As I stop in Popworld's smoking area, psyching myself up before going inside, someone behind me screams, "It's that Ariana Grande girl from before!" I’m obviously not the only one to have made the pilgrimage here from Bar & Beyond.
Inside, there's a light-up dancefloor and a smoke machine. I feel like I'm on the first season of TOWIE and Mark Wright's about have a drink thrown at him.
I would love to tell you what happened next, but the last thing I remember is dancing up against a lovely gentleman while singing along to "Numb" by Linkin Park. A deeply spiritual experience, to say the least.
It wasn't that bad – I've definitely had worse nights out. In fact, I'll go all out: I love Chelmsford, and will be celebrating my birthday at the motorway Travelodge again and again and again, until I die.