Michael Discenza

Traditions, customs and culture at Warwick: a retrospective

If you’re new to Warwick, then congratulations! Except I regret to inform you that you have joined a cult, not a university. Okay, this may be a slight exaggeration but it is undeniable that Warwick has a few unusual (read: weird to anyone who isn’t enrolled in said cult) traditions. In fact, from circling, to Pop, to purple, it may even seem that Warwick has its own language. So, if you, like many others at this university, sob at the thought that you will miss out on these university traditions, fear not! These are the established traditions in nearly 60 years of Warwick.


The first thing to note about Warwick’s traditions is that because it wasn’t founded until the mid-20th Century, it means we’ve had a lot less time to develop our traditions. As a result, if these traditions feel made up, it’s because they are. Even The Boar’s name is a result of students in a pub coming up with a name that sounded traditional enough but ended up also being an unfortunate pun (note to reader: our newspaper isn’t as boar-ing as the name indicates. I promise).


Perhaps the biggest and most well-known Warwick tradition is the idea of “circling”. Every Wednesday, before the SU’s club night, POP, and occasionally on Saturdays before Skool Dayz, another SU club night, student societies gather to drink (alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages alike) and get ready for the night ahead. The concept of circling is difficult to explain, but essentially, it is a set of pre-established games where if you lose or make a mistake, you are forced to drink. However, here’s the kicker: no one explains the rules to you. As a result (you guessed it), everyone, but especially freshers, ends up consuming an ungodly amount of liquid in a short period of time.


What’s more, each society often has its own set of games with its own specific society-themed rules. So just because you’ve circled with one society doesn’t mean you know all of the rules of circling. And to add to the fun (and also cultiness), each society must dress up according to a specific theme. The theme can be anything from “Film Characters” to “Under the Sea” to something as funny as simply the word “Circle”. This “Circle” themed circle was particularly funny because while some people dressed up as circular objects, some dressed up as circling games. One of my friends dressed up as the circling game ‘One Fat Frog’. And no, I will not be elaborating on what that game entails, you can find out for yourself as the rest of us did.


Similarly, that same friend once attended an “Under the Sea” themed circle and dressed up as a Titanic passenger. The only exception to this is if you’re circling before Skool Dayz, in which case you must dress up as a student in school uniform. Yes, it is bizarre, but no one questions it. Oh, and have fun explaining circling to friends and family at home without accidentally revealing you have joined a cult. But whatever you do when circling, make sure you dress appropriately for the night, because otherwise (you guessed it), you’ll have to drink.


And if you’re circling, there is only one acceptable beverage to drink. (This isn’t true, but it is the “traditional” drink. However, not everyone chooses to drink it because it is foul.) The drink in question is an abominable potion named ‘purple’, named as such because it is purple. A combination of lager, cider, and blackcurrant squash, purple is the drink nightmares are made of. During your time at university, you will encounter a handful of weirdos who claim to like the drink but make no mistake: they are lying. Purple is vile, but trying it at least once when you get to Warwick is a necessary rite of passage.


If I haven’t convinced you so far that Warwick is a cult, it is because I haven’t told you about ‘The Koan’. The Koan is nothing more than a sculpture, and not a particularly attractive one at that. It is a white cone with light-up rings on it. At certain times of day, the top half of The Koan spins. I can also confirm the timing of these spins is due to it being set to spin at certain times. It doesn’t spin, as my very naive friend once thought, every time someone submits an assignment on time. So, you may be asking, what’s so special about The Koan? 


The answer is absolutely nothing. But Warwick students have made the odd sculpture their only personality trait. Sitting in the middle of campus, The Koan provides the perfect photo opp for Welcome Week or graduation pictures. Warwick likes The Koan so much that every time you go to submit an assignment on Tabula, the platform the university uses for this, there is a cute animation of The Koan as your submission is loading.


Less of a tradition and more of a rite of passage is visiting Warwick and the surrounding area’s nightclubs and bars. Warwick is the kind of university that needs no fancy clubs for a good night out. We may not have Manchester or Leeds’ vibrant nightlife or clubbing scenes but we have better company (I have no sources to back this claim up but I’m sure it’s true). So in terms of clubs, Coventry has Kasbah, which I’ve heard is the best out of all the Warwick clubs. Kasbah becomes inconvenient to go to during the second and third years as most people tend to live in Leamington. Leamington has Smack, Neon, and a handful of other, slightly irrelevant clubs. None of them are great, but they do exist. 


If you’d rather go out on campus, the SU holds an assortment of nightclub nights including the aforementioned POP and Skool Dayz but also nights such as the termly Taylor Swift club night (which is great fun, if you ask me); Mayhem, which is Warwick’s rock and metal night; and Loud and Proud, which is an LGBT+ night. The SU also organises Party Bus trips to Birmingham if you would rather go out there. The reason why I include this in an article about Warwick traditions is because going to at least a few of these is a rite of passage for first years. Sure, you may not set foot in them again, but can you even say you’re a Warwick student if you haven’t found yourself in the Kelsey’s toilets on a night out?


Aside from these traditions, Warwick also has many seasonal traditions. Attending Warwick’s Eurovision parties in the Piazza is one of the highlights of the Warwick experience in my opinion. Every year, the university shows the Eurovision Song Contest on the big screen. From mosh pits forming to Moldova’s song in 2022, to hundreds of people shouting “cha cha cha!” when Finland was snubbed from winning in 2023, watching Eurovision amongst joyful crowds of students is a definite highlight in Warwick student life, and a tradition that cannot be missed.


So while Warwick may not have the history of some other unis which shall not be named, it still has its traditions. Sure, they’re weird and wacky and more often than not, bizarre to anyone outside the so-called “Warwick bubble”, but that’s okay; you don’t have to explain yourself. But when people back home ask you how uni is going, politely correct them and tell them that the cult you joined is going great and that you can’t explain what you get up to in your free time, but you are having a great time.  


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