In Focus: Phil Pass on refreshers’ week and the union

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The Saint’s Eloise Porter sits down with Phil Pass, Director of Events and Services at the Students’ Association to talk about about Refrshers’ Week and the Union.

TS: Firstly, how do you think that that week has gone in general? Has it been a success?

PP: From a personal perspective, Refreshers Week has been a big success. Much better than I expected and hoped and I’m really pleased that people have taken it to heart and embraced the spirit of the week. From the first quiz on Monday through to the end of the Refreshers Fayre, the Union has been busy and the comments about the place have been hugely positive.

TS: So for those of us who are not so sure, is the general idea of the week just going out and having a good time or is there more to it?

PP: Refreshers’ Week has been around as a concept for many, many years and is embraced fully at loads of other universities. Indeed in some places, it’s as big as Freshers’ Week. I decided to reinstate the week this year as it provides a great welcome opportunity to new students – the JSAs and postgraduates. Refreshers’ Week is a ‘welcome back’ week for most people. The vast majority of students have been away for the inter-semester break and before that tied up with revision and exams. This is the opportunity for everyone to get back together and have a good time, without being restricted to only doing it on a Friday, for example. There is the opportunity to have your night out on any night of the week with us.

TS: And what did the Students’ Association want to achieve with the week?

PP: We wanted the Union to be a place people want to come to, rather than just somewhere to end the night. The new ONE promotion, the variety of events, and the redecoration that has taken place in the main bar have all been conceived with the intention of improving the atmosphere and people’s perception of the Union. We’ve been listening to what the students have told us through our feedback campaign last semester and want to continue to provide a place which students can feel is their own and here for them.

TS: So has anything been improved upon from previous years?

PP: What has been key has been the involvement and help of other people to make the week work: the AU President and the sports clubs for ‘Sinners Sport’, the Union bar staff for the Cocktail & Bond Night, the RAVEsoc team for their night and the Hall Committees & Rag Week team for the Tribal Bop. I also must mention the Ents Crew and Union staff for putting in a lot of hard graft to make the building/venues ready for the week.

TS: And if you could improve one thing for next time what would you change?

PP: It’s always so difficult to predict what people are going to do from one year to another. I wouldn’t actually want to change anything really from the structure this year – but it’s up to next year’s DoES to decide where they want the week to go next.

TS: How do you feel that people generally feel about the Union?

PP: This is a tough question to answer because everyone is different. I believe that we have made significant steps forward this year and our students are understanding a lot more about the Association and all the different things we do, and how we can help. No longer are the majority only associating us with the Bop on a Friday.

I’ve also instigated the new ‘ONE’ promotion as we’re aware just how tight things can be for students at the moment money-wise, so we want people to see that their union is doing things for them. We’re here for students and we can’t ever afford to forget that.

Soon we’ll have a redeveloped building which will be able to provide things and spaces for students that they really want, that we don’t have the facilities for at the moment. I’m sad I won’t be around for that but we do the best we can in the meantime and everyone works extremely hard, whether staff, sabbaticals or student volunteers, and I think the rest of the student body recognises that. Student feelings about the Union are generally positive, and on the whole, getting better all the time now.

TS: Personally, what was your single favourite moment or event from the week?

PP: Every day of the week had individual highlights. The main thing for me was that it was brilliant to see the union full and have such a great atmosphere each night of the week, right up to the 6 Nations matches on the Saturday afternoon!

Eloise Porter

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