CUSU ents crisis deepens

News Editor 15 January 2009

CUSU Ents and LBGT have ended their association with the LBGT club night ‘Thrust’ at The Place (aka Life/Club 22), after difficulties with its promoter, Paul Whitbread.

News broke last term of the upset expressed by several students at the renaming of the night, previously

known as ‘Fusion’.

James Beattie, CUSU LBGT President, told The Cambridge Student (TCS): “Mr Whitbread’s aim for the night does not match our desire to create an open, relaxed and neutral feel.

“Members of the LBGT Executive were at odds with an unpopular name and branding oriented around the airline industry, which we felt was wholly unsuitable to a CUSU night.”

Speaking to TCS, however, Mr Whitbread insisted that CUSU had been aware of the name and brand before the agreement was made to co-promote the event, and that their cooperation was to include acceptance of these things. He stated:

“We reached an agreement with Matt Morgan that he would accept the branding and name, so long as we did not do anything to undermine the reputation of the university or CUSU, and ensure that the club remained safe, fun and enjoyable for our customers.”

Mr Morgan, however, told TCS that he was essentially left with no choice on the matter of branding, after a change of management brought in a team insistent on promoting through Thrust Promotions. He felt CUSU was left with no choice if they wished to retain the night there.

Complaints were voiced by some students about the re-branding last term, suggesting that it had taken on a too strongly sexual tone, and was especially offensive to women.

Mr Whitbread has informed TCS that, despite these complaints, numbers attending the club remained high, averaging over 280 a week.

In an attempt to solve the problems raised, the LBGT Campaign held an open meeting.

Mr Whitbread, of Thrust Promotions, was asked not to attend in order that students might feel free to openly express their views with regards to the branding and name.

Mr Beattie has told TCS, however, that Mr Whitbread refused to comply when informed he could not be at the meeting.

Instead, “Mr Whitbread sent along a representative with an open phone line to listen to what was said.”

In a statement issued to Mr Morgan confirmed the problems with the night centered around the new style and promotions for the weekly club night at the beginning of this academic year:

Yet, Mr Whitbread told TCS: “Thrust promotions took on board all the views of CUSU & CUSU LGBT with regards to the name ‘Thrust’ yet it could not understand why it was controversial considering CUSU has another night called ‘kinki’.”

Mr Morgan noted that there were efforts to restore a good working relationship between CUSU, the co-promoters and venue management, but nonetheless confirmed these had ultimately proven fruitless:

“After a number of meetings with the co-promoters and venue management it has become clear to both CUSU Ents and CUSU LBGT that it is not possible for us to resolve a number of key issues and concerns that we have over the running of the night.

“The venue management are still insisting on co-promoting with Paul Whitbread, leaving us with no choice. Our aim is to run nights for the students, with which they are happy, and we feel this isn’t possible

working with Mr Whitbread.”

After it proved unable to negotiate successfully with those other parties involved in the running of ‘Thrust’, CUSU Ents and LBGT reached the joint decision to cancel their involvement and co-promotion of the event from this term.

Despite these problems, Mr Whitbread wished to assure TCS and students that Thrust Promotions still wishes to support the Cambridge student LBGT community. Both the LBGT campaign and Ents were keen, however, to assure students that a new and improved independent replacement for the night will be coming soon.

Mr Morgan told TCS: “CUSU Ents and CUSU LBGT are currently working on exciting new LBGT events which all parties can be proud to be involved in and that are welcoming to both students and non students of all sexualities.

“If any students have any suggestions, please feel free- to contact us. As recent events have proven, we take your views very seriously.”

Mr Beattie suggested that, “A fresh venue and atmosphere should make for an excellent night, and a much needed change in the LBGT social scene.”

It has since emerged that a previous Ents Manager at CUSU, Simon Burdus, who left his position after disagreements over pay in August last year, and has since been promoting club nights in Cambridge independent from CUSU as Big Fish Entertainments, is now to begin working with Thrust Promotions on the night.

Mr Whitbread said: “Thrust promotions is considering teaming up with Big Fish Entertainments to bring big-name acts to Cambridge on Tuesday nights.”

Speaking to TCS, Mr Burdus confirmed that he had been approached by Thrust promotions, and had discussed working with them in a consultancy role.

Commenting on the current state of CUSU Ents, he told TCS: “I don’t understand what CUSU are doing pulling the plug. It seems to show a lack of understanding of the Cambridge student market, again, and is serious over-reaction.”

“At least with the name ‘Thrust’ people know the night’s brand, and don’t just think of it as ‘gay night’.

“The name shouldn’t be a problem if the brand is so successful. This is another case of CUSU Officers interfering in the running of Ents without proper justification, or demand from the student body.”

One 2nd year student and regular ‘Thrust’-attendee told TCS, however, that the brand’s success seemed to have come at the expense of its catering for the LBGT student body. “It used to be a great night, but is increasingly full of older and straight people.”

It has also been announced this week that the regular Friday night Union and CUSU collaboration, Cam:Live, is under negotiation.

Olivia Potts, Cambridge Union President, told TCS: “We are sorry that we can’t guarantee a regular slot for Cam:Live at the Union. We’re trying to find Cam Live a new home at the Union; negotiations with CUSU are ongoing. We have enjoyed working with CUSU Ents and would be happy to work with them in the future on other projects.”

Mr Morgan, however, seemed confident negotiations would be fruitful: “Cam:Live is still going ahead at the Union Society; this week in the Chamber instead of the bar due to a double booking with a Union Bop. All involved in the night are working hard to resolve the mix up that has arisen.”

Anna Croall

News Editor