Who remembers getting the bus out to Ikon and Diva? Or munching on prawn crackers at the Willow? We take a look back on some of our alumni’s favourite spots in York to dance the night away, over the years…
This Micklegate nightclub ran for almost three decades after opening in 1982. Clubbers will remember the smoky atmosphere and sticky dancefloors of a night dancing away in Ziggy’s basement. After a nine year stint as ‘Mansion’ and reopening as Ziggy’s in 2021, many still enjoy a night out in one of York’s most popular basements.
“After sports day, every Wednesday night, it seemed every student in York somehow managed to cram into Ziggy’s. The place would feel like a fire hazard were it not for all the sweat running off the walls. Student night on Wednesday, rock night on Thursday, and despite multiple DJs spread over at least two floors the playlists seemed the same wherever you were. Knock-off luridly-coloured alcopops that’d loosen your teeth just looking at them and the less said about the toilets the better.
Frankly, live music at Fibbers or the indie room at Toff’s (as it was called at the time, got renamed Truu and then Tokyo) made for a far better night out. But nowhere managed to get the student community in York together on a regular basis quite like Ziggy’s.” Sam, 2005
“Wednesday night after University Badminton. Into Wetherspoon’s for a beer and burger, into Dusk for a couple of Maid Marian’s, up Micklegate to the artful dodger and into Ziggy’s for the rest of the night. Best 3 years of my life at York”William, 2010
“Three nights in a row: Toffs, Silks & Ziggy’s! My bezzie & housemate knocked herself out in Ziggy’s by walking straight into the mirrored walls on the dance floor 😂” Wendy, 1996
Originally a cafe, the legendary venue was taken over by Tommy Fong in 1973 and turned into the much-loved part cantonese restaurant, part late-night disco. Many will remember the trays of free prawn crackers for clubbers to snack on and its ‘guilty pleasure’ soundtrack. Sadly, the club closed in 2015, and hundreds flocked to the cheesy disco on its fateful closing night for one last dance.
“I met my now husband at The Nag’s Head on Micklegate where they offered triple measures for the price of a single. He was an American on a business trip for the Department of Defense and the only reason he was at The Nag’s Head was because his co-worker was wearing trainers and the rules were pretty strict about dresscode back then. He bought me and my girlfriends a drink. We spent the whole night together and somehow I wangled him into the Willow even though it was for students only. We danced the night away to ‘Don’t Stop Believing’ and Shakira. Then we sat eating Mr Oki’s on the church wall next to Ann Summers. He left back to the US the next day but we kept in touch and now he’s my husband and I live in Colorado, USA! I remember whenever Shakira came on, you had to do a shot of tequila. Not sure if that was just something I made up, or an actual rule!” – Zoe, 2013
“Willow. The greatest nightclub EVER. Cheesy pop all night with free prawn crackers on the bar. Such a crucial (but sometimes hazy) memory for thousands of students over the years. Willow…. We miss you!”– Anon
“I’ve never been much of a party animal, even at 22. I also knew from experience that The Willow‘s reputation of being the club for people with low standards was solid. The drinks were cheap and sometimes they gave out free snacks, but there’s only so many times in my life I want to eat a prawn cracker with a curly hair on it thank you very much. I had to be dragged there.
However, this night felt different. Everyone in my MA cohort had become great friends. We arrived at the Willow dressed up in costumes to celebrate a birthday. I was wearing men’s clothes and trainers instead of the usual mini dress and heels. It was liberating. I was just living in the moment with my pals. For the first time, I stayed out dancing until sunrise. But I still avoided the prawn crackers.” – Marynka, 2014
Open since 2005, Flares is the fluorescent purple home of York’s best and cheesiest club nights. Inside its purple walls you’ll hear hits across the decades, from the Spice Girls to Abba. And if you’re lucky, you may have secured crisps from the DJ. Still going strong, the club is open five nights a week!
“Going in when it was light at 9pm, not leaving until it was light again, listening to a combination of ABBA, cheesy pop of the 80s and 90s, and show tunes – Flares is the best night out!” – Joe
“Flares for me was a whirlwind of lights, sweat, and cheesy hits. Unashamedly dancing your heart out with your friends to all of the classics, from 80’s discos to our own school discos!”– Orlagh, 2022
GG Barnums, Silks, The Gallery, and Kuda
One of Clifford Street’s oldest buildings has simultaneously been host to many nightclubs over the years. Beginning as GG Barnums, the venue transitioned to Silks Nightclub in the 90s and later The Gallery in the early 2000s – and finally Kuda in 2012. Despite its various changes, you’ll still find a gleaming name plaque outside the venue. And believe it or not, Prince William actually visited in 2008!
“Met my wife on a Wednesday night in The Gallery and Ziggy’s. 23 years later and we’re still going strong!”– Anthony
Ikon & Diva
Some York alumni may remember venturing out of town to Clifton Moor for Ikon and Diva. Nicknamed York’s “superclub” by the York Press, Ikon and Diva boasted ‘two nightclubs for the price of one’. In its six year lifespan the club saw thousands of night out goers, but unfortunately closed in 2005.
For over three decades Fibbers was a true beacon of York’s music scene. Many will remember crowding into the venue on Stonebow for a night of live music from acts across the country. Over the years many famous faces played there, including Arctic Monkeys, and even Coldplay – though the York Press notes that their set was watched by just 15 people! It later moved to Toft Green, before closing in 2020.
“Silks, Ziggy’s and Toffs were the nightclubs I remember. But from my first year at Uni, we used to go to the old Fibbers on Stonegate and hang around with all the musicians and music tech guys…. If anybody remembers Dromedary or Sevenball, those were the bands I won BOB (battle of the bands) with!” – Louisa, 1999
“I remember the sticky floors of Fibbers well – Because the venue was so small you could normally meet the band outside at the back after their gig which was really cool!”– Rebecca
Toffs, Tru, Tokyo (and Fibbers too!)
Toffs was a mainstay in the late 90s club cycle: Silks on Mondays, Tuesdays at Toffs, and Ziggy’s on Wednesdays. In 2008 it was treated to a revamp and became Tru nightclub (and later, Tokyo). Finally it housed the buzzing Fibbers music venue and club, before closing in 2020. Today the Toft Green site is sadly derelict, but with plans submitted to turn it into a music venue once more, let’s hope the building doesn’t stay quiet for long.
“I’ll always have the fondest memories of great nights out in York. I met my other half on the dancefloor in Tokyo on Toft Green on a night out, and we’re still happily together nearly 12 years later!”– Sophie, 2014
And an honourable mention to some of York’s bars, too…
Whether it’s ‘trebles for singles’ at The Lowther, or the iconic ‘blue s***’ drinks at The Stone Roses Bar, many a night out in York has been spent hopping around its various pubs and bars (there’s one for every day of the year!).
“The Silks, Toffs and Ziggy’s start to the week as everyone has said – but always, always, drinks in The Lowther beforehand. The summer nights with all the sash windows open, squished into any corner you could find to catch up on gossip and wait for your mates to roll in before heading to the queue. The best times.”- Donna, 1998
“I went for a drink in Valhalla and ended up chatting to a nice lad. He turned out to be an RAF Fast Jet Pilot who was training at RAF Linton. I went to visit his base the next day and thought it was the funniest thing to happen to me considering I was now sat in the Officer’s dining mess surrounded by fighter pilots and fancy food when it was only the night before I was scoffing a pot noodle in my uni room.” – Kelsey, 2021
“The Charles in Heslington Village was the best for a day sesh and then a nip outside for a tray of Joe’s chips (you stank of chip fat for days afterwards by just standing in his van but they were the best chips ever!)” – Wendy, 1996
A huge thank you to everyone who sent their memories in! If you’re feeling nostalgic about nights out in York, or if there’s a favourite haunt that we’ve missed out, you can contribute your own memory for others to read on our virtual memory map