Getting ‘Battered’ in the Union

Before I launch into my article I will let you into a little secret; I’m old. Okay, not that old. But I’ve been around the University for a while. Four years to be precise. In that time I have seen countless revisions to the Student Union’s layout; far too many to mention. One thing is certain though – the latest incarnation of the Student Union appears to have destroyed much of what was good about it.

Don’t get me wrong, some of alterations are superb. The new super-sized Dirty Duck follows the logical growth pattern that the prior Graduate bar established, now consuming the entire second floor of the union. Compared with the tiny beer-serving attic of a few years back we have a generous space to relax in with a selection of food that can easily compete with its nearest rival, Varsity.

However, with every good change come many daft changes. First, the Copper Rooms gig venue appears to have a smaller capacity than the old Union, meaning that big acts are more likely to ignore our university; surely a step backwards? Second, the Main Union used to have space for an Oxfam store, photocopy shop and even a practice room for Bandsoc. Now, in its rush to expand its size, it’s become something of a big, grey, uninspiring warehouse.

Finally, the rebuild required the University’s radio station, RaW, to be kicked out of its studios on the top floor and into temporary offices in University House. Now it is being forced out of the University’s administrative heart its future is in doubt as promises of a space within a Union “media centre” are dashed due to its cancellation through budget overruns. The onus will be on Student Union President Andrew Bradley to assure the survival of the award-winning society.

One of the more popular topics in the imagination of Warwick Students, however, is the lack of Union food available after 9.30pm. In the (good old?) days before the rebuild, the Union used to have a take out, going by the name of Battered, which would serve food to those inside or outside of the union until one in the morning.

For the clubber in need of sobering up after a heavy night, the student not yet used to cooking for themselves or the reviser in need of a bite to eat after a long evening in the library, Battered was a godsend. Nevertheless, despite the creation of a 1000-strong Facebook group petitioning in favour of its return, the Union appears dead-set against its return.

The Union’s Welfare Officer has weighed in with his view that providing fast food would not be in the interest of students because of its unhealthy nature. I’m sorry, but this kind of namby-pamby attitude has no place in a Union with a raison d’etre to serve its students’ wishes. The argument is already negated by the Union’s current provisions – I’m sure that Curiositea’s Super-Duper-Large-Hot Chocolate-thingies are no good for students’ health, but they sure taste nice.

The additional assertion that Battered was a loss-making operation and its return would lose even more money simply shows the Union’s lack of imagination and business acumen. Go to any urban area at one in the morning and you will innumerable chippies, fried-chicken shops or burger establishments open for business. I doubt that these firms operate at a loss for the benefit of their customers. Warwick campus is a growing and captive market, without any other competition other than a burger van. A chip shop in the Union would provide a fantastic franchise opportunity for an independent business to operate in a similar way to firms such as Costa Coffee, Barclays, NatWest, the hairdressers and the chemist which already conduct business from Union or University property.

The Union simply needs to offer HSBC’s old premises free for a year (allowing for the investor’s funds to go towards necessary frying equipment) and we will have numerous offers from chip shop owners to run the business. In the long-run we can start charging for the premises and soon have a nice little earner for the Union’s beleaguered pockets (all for a total cost of £0).

I know change has become a popular term, but what the Union was screaming out for was sensible change. A smaller-scale refitting could have solved many of the real problems with the union rather than a massive re-building which has lumbered the Union with enormous debts.

We can’t turn back time but it’s perfectly possible to bring back Battered – we can even do so at a profit! If anything, that is what the Union needs, now more so than ever.

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