Retro: University Challenge

Sheffield University Rag Parade 1970
Sheffield University Rag Parade 1970
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A sudden flurry of young people on the streets dragging huge pull-along cases from the station or arriving in heavy-laden cars driven by anxious parents signals the annual migration of students to Sheffield.

This time of year the city starts to fill up again with undergraduates getting ready for the new academic year to begin.

Then, when Freshers’ Week kicks off in a fortnight at both the University of Sheffield and Hallam University, the city centre will be filled with gangs of teenagers a bit worse for wear in themed fancy dress, doing the obligatory pub and club crawls on what’s known as the West Street Wobble.

Teams of flyer distributors, mostly students earning a few quid, will be lurking around, hoping to get their venue in on the action with offers of goldfish bowls, Jaeger bombs and concoctions that include Red Bull.

The city’s entertainment industry will be ready to swoop down and relieve freshers of as much cash as possible, in what one clubs website gushingly calls “the biggest week of your life”.

There’s a lot of students to go at, with the city’s population being swelled by 48,000 students on average these days.

Research last year showed that international students alone boost Sheffield’s economy by £120 million.

Of course, none of the drinking rituals are new.

Back in the 1980s, the infamous night of drunken debauchery that was Pyjama Jump caught the attention of the national press.

It was run by student rag committees and made ten of thousands of pounds for charities, unlike today’s commercial events.

The Sun and other tabloids got some photographs of rowdy and uninhibited students and the furore over the chaos that the event caused every year eventually led to it being abandoned.

As can be seen from the pictures on this page, a lot of effort went into the yearly Rag Parade through the city centre that attracted big crowds.

The event was traditionally led off by the Rag Fairy – a big lad in a fairy outfit – who also sold the Lord Mayor the first copy of Twikker, the rag magazine, every year.

In earlier years a raft race was held as well to raise more charity cash.

As Sheffield has a very high rate of students that stay on and settle here, there’s a good chance that some of the people on these pages dressed in daft outfits are now pillars of the city community…

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