Ditch the drink for ‘Conscious Clubbing’



A night on the tiles can be more enjoyable if clubbers ‘ditch the drink’ for sober clubbing that boosts enjoyment of dancing and music.

‘Conscious clubbing’ not only supports a reduction in alcohol-related antisocial behaviour but improves the health and wellbeing of dedicated sober clubbers, according to University of Northampton (UON) research.

Psychology Associate Professor Dr Kimberley Hill led a European-wide research study involving conscious clubbing attendees and organisers (who had all previously participated in sober clubbing).

Participants provided conscious clubbing items or photographs to facilitate in-depth interviews with the research team about reflections of sober clubbing experiences.

Their recollections suggest that conscious clubbing enhances – rather than inhibits – their participation in dancing and music appreciation. Most importantly, participants reported a range of event benefits.

Conscious clubbing events provided alternatives for lost social pleasures, away from alcohol or drug consumption pressures. Participants reported their surprise in reaching peak moments through music, instead of through drugs or alcohol. Early morning events and different venues meant participants evaded typical alcohol-promoting club/ rave environments within the nightlife economy which were detrimental to their substance dependency avoidance or recovery.

Participants also reported profound benefits to their health, healing, growth. Events allowed participants to temporarily escape life constraints, making sense of trauma and connecting with others through enjoyable dancefloor experiences.

Further health benefits of raving sober included improvements to their body image, reduced symptoms of anxiety and depression, as well as increased social belonging. Conscious clubbers reported increased connections with others, particularly for those often marginalised within society, or typically excluded from clubbing cultures.

Dr Hill says: “While many of us familiar with the terms clubbing and raving, the concept of conscious clubbing or sober raving are relatively novel. Such events could provide novel harm prevention implications, despite not being previously considered in prevention terms.

“Increasingly, younger people are consuming less alcohol. Despite this, clubbers abstaining from alcohol or drugs – will often find themselves in contexts that encourage consumption, with limited, alternative opportunities to socialise with others. Not only does alcohol remain ubiquitous within many social situations, but alcohol-promoting contexts provide challenges for alcohol avoiders or abstainers to manage their non-drinking position.”

Aside from the health benefits, sober clubbing experiences have wider cultural and social plusses:

  • Sober events reduce the alcohol and drug harms associated with traditional club/rave experiences and well-documented risks to health associated with alcohol and drug misuse.
  • More sober events will lead to a reduction in clubbers taking part substance-fuelled nights out could lead to less violence on the streets come ‘kicking out time’, saving lives and resources within the night-time economy.
  • Instead of ‘taking a break’ from raving, clubbers can continue, providing that nostalgic link to the past by letting them continue enjoying clubbing/social interactions/transformative experiences, albeit in safe environment.
  • With more ‘conscious clubbing’ events, people from communities that abstain from alcohol and drugs can actively join in, boosting club numbers without the anxiety of being the ‘odd one out.’

Dr Hill concludes: “The health and societal benefits of ‘conscious clubbing’ events are clear for all to see. However, challenges include tackling stereotypes about attendees, event misconceptions and promoting uptake. One of the largest issues will involve event sustainability, particularly with the lack of alcohol revenue, but this can be overcome with entry fees and other structures.

“There is scope for such ‘dry’ events to take place within a range of contexts, for example, as part of social events for workplaces or universities. With less time and money spent on securing and managing standard nights out and minimised impact on the nightlife economy or local community, such events could link to duty of care and social responsibility venues need to ensure people have an enjoyable and safe night out.”

“We hope that the findings of this research will help spearhead the development of these alternative, sober clubbing and rave experiences, with more people grasping the opportunity to dance till dawn and benefit from these experiences, as well as an increased prevention focus on such events.”

The full research paper can be read here.

This study is part of a larger piece of research looking at the feasibility of conscious clubbing for preventing alcohol-related harms, more of which can be found on Dr Hill’s PURE profile.

Period3 Nov 2022

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