A Night Out (and Morning After) With A Difference

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Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) is set to become one of only seven universities to take part in a new pilot scheme aimed at tackling binge drinking cultures on and around campus. Run by the National Union of Students (NUS) and funded by the Home Office, the Alcohol Impact scheme will see university managers work with student unions to gain official accreditation as an institution which actively develops policies and schemes aiming to reduce excessive alcohol consumption.

MMU Student Union President, Mike Palmer, told us, “We are really excited to be involved in this project alongside NUS on tackling the issues related to alcohol harm. It is an extremely positive approach with student welfare at its heart and the potential for long lasting benefits in terms of safety and well-being amongst our students. As a Students Union, we have long been concerned about the binge and pre-drinking drinking culture, particularly among 18-21-year-olds, which often causes tensions with local communities and endangers health and safety of students on and off campus, and we hope our involvement within this project can allow our students to enjoy a sensible social life that fits within their studies.”

One of the biggest challenges facing universities aiming for accreditation, however, will be in providing alternatives to the all-powerful pub and club scene. For MMU students, therefore, the timing couldn’t be better for Manchester to welcome its very first alcohol-free nightlife experience.

Based in the heart of the Northern Quarter, The Umbrella Café will host vibrant live entertainment including music, dance, comedy and DJ sets, and will offer a wide selection of ‘mocktails’ and soft drinks. The Café is run by Community Interest Company, The Dry Umbrella. One of the company’s co-directors, Helen Malarky, said,

Manchester's Northern Quarter

Manchester’s Northern Quarter

“We are really proud and excited to be providing the people of Manchester with what we believe to be a unique, alternative nightlife experience.”

“People who come to The Umbrella Café might identify as in recovery, or sober, or straightedge, or their religion may preclude alcohol. They might be having a temporary break for their health or might just be trying a night off to see what it feels like. Whatever the reasons may be for visiting the Umbrella Café everyone will find a very warm welcome and a great night out in the city centre.”

In setting up the scheme, The Dry Umbrella’s Directors are hoping to emulate the success of similar ‘dry’ bars such as Sobar in Nottingham and Liverpool’s trailblazing The Brink.

Describing themselves as ‘Recovery Activists,’ each of the Directors are in long-term recovery and are active both in the national and local recovery movement. They are, however, keen to stress the inclusive nature of the bar,

“The Umbrella Café is for anyone and everyone who simply wants a fun, enjoyable and relaxing night out without alcohol or other drugs.”

Giving us her thoughts, one MMU student, Ruth Dearden said of the Café, “It’s great to know that there will be a place where you can get together with mates and have a laugh, without feeling like you have to have a drink – and without wasting the next day with a hangover.”

The Umbrella Café will be open Friday and Saturday nights starting 5th September 2014. For more info visit the website here.

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aAh! Magazine is Manchester Metropolitan University's arts and culture magazine.

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