Lazy Luddite Log


We As You

Some university choristers recently attributed the problems facing our scene to Voluntary Student Unionism (VSU). The last time I mentioned that stupid policy was during its advent in 2006. VSU would have made it more difficult for student governing associations and councils to fund essential student services. However clubs and societies were always something students chose to participate in over-and-above general campus life and the fortunes of particular groups had always fluctuated.

If VSU had an impact then it was a delayed one. I got involved in choraldom from 2006 and the large and vibrant group I discovered stayed that way for another five to ten years. Once it did start shrinking it also became more sedate. Those two things could well be linked and yet I have known groups that were small yet vibrant. Something more than funding had changed. The new members themselves seemed different.

Returning members were always told to be inviting to ‘freshers’ during orientation. I did my bit and usually fared well in starting conversations. But then there was a meet-and-greet in which my efforts were met with brusque responses and averted gazes. This was nothing new to me as a nerd who knows nerds. But three such encounters in a row was unusual and I withdrew to skulk in a corner with friends.

A growing age gap might have been a factor and yet younger choristers than me also remarked on how our newest members behaved differently. The new batch attended rehearsal but never went to ‘pub’ or ‘coffee’. This reminded me of the oldest of mature-aged members who were just in it for the music. And yet they tended to be chatty. 

The reticent youngsters had come to us that way rather than be made that way by uni. The explanations then go beyond any policy specific to university. I think we were seeing generational change shaped by society-wide factors. More hectic family lives, more protective parents, more isolated households and more engrossing technology could all contribute.

Involvement in clubs has apparently been waning for decades (see the book Bowling Alone) but I think the post-war growth in pop-culture fandoms may have slowed that somewhat. It was also slower to impact uni life. But once the change came it definitely made me more inclined to follow the natural process of membership churn and move onto becoming a lone audience member at concerts.

Does this matter? I have the experiences and friendships I got from my involvement so I’m fine. But is it a pity that others will lack similar experiences? That depends - possibly as they are shaped by a changing environment they will value and find different kinds of experience to be satisfying.