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How modern life killed off the house party

Libby Connor was about to turn 21, and wanted to have a house party. A second-year student at Bristol University, she also wanted to be considerate to her neighbours. She warned them a week in advance, assuring them it wouldn’t get too rowdy, and wouldn’t go on too late. She even baked them banana bread for good measure. On the morning of the party, though, the council came knocking at Libby’s door. They sat her and her housemates down in their living room and told them that the party was forbidden. At 8pm, a police car parked itself outside of the property for the evening.

Libby’s experience is just one example of the widespread killing off of the house party. Domestic gatherings were once an essential, even crucial, part of adolescent socialising. And yet, my generation, Gen Z, is missing out – and it’s not for a lack of trying. Libby tells me that even more modest get-togethers are often shut down in areas of Bristol densely populated by students. “I’ve been going to fewer house parties at uni than I had hoped for,” she sighs. “The more successful ones I’ve been to, with smaller numbers, haven’t lasted longer than two hours before being shut down by the police.” As for her aborted birthday plans, she believes the handling of it was a “waste of police resources”.

The slow demise of the house party hasn’t gone unnoticed. The rapper Stormzy recently opened his first nightclub venture, in fact, called House Party – an immersive experience that recreates a shindig inside a Nineties suburban home, held across a five-storey townhouse in London’s Soho. Why? Because, as he said in a statement, “people don’t have house parties any more”.

When I visit, it feels like I’m part of the quintessential house parties depicted in the seminal Noughties teen drama Skins. You’d be forgiven for guessing that the place would be full of geriatric millennials trying to relive their heyday. But no. The crowd is made up of people in their early twenties, all soaking up an environment they’ve seldom experienced for real. At one point in the night, between getting a fake tattoo in the loos and singing along with strangers to the Sugababes, I realise that my generation has completely missed out.

How did we get here? Becca Hutson is the editorial director of The News Movement, a Gen Z-led media company that researches youth and nightlife culture. She tells me that a combination of factors including skyrocketing rents, the rise in noise complaints and the cost of living crisis are behind the decline of the house party. “I worry that it’s harder than ever to have fun in general,” she says. “And I also think having fun has never been more important. Young people face a lot of challenges. Not having the spaces to go out, create memories and meet people is a huge, huge shame.”

I tell Hutson about Libby’s experience with her failed 21st party. She says noise complaints and general concerns about social disturbance have intensified since the lockdowns, which is one part of the problem. “There’s a strong argument that since the pandemic, people got used to things being quiet, so their threshold for noise is lower,” she says. “It’s very plausible that this applies to student houses as well, with local residents not wanting to readjust to a noisier neighbourhood.”

While the desire to go out remains strong, financial limitations have led young people to prefer things like all-inclusive package nights, activity-led nights and competitive socialising

Michael Kill, CEO of the UK Night Time Industries Association

Most parties don’t even get that far. As someone who has lived in London for six years, without a living room for four of those years, I never used to invite friends over, even for dinner. A house party was off the cards completely. And, increasingly, young people are living in cramped conditions or moving back home for longer, since the average rent outside of London has soared by more than 7 per cent in the past year to £1,223 per month, according to Zoopla.

If you’re one of the lucky ones with enough living space, a house party might not be worth the risk of losing a costly deposit. “The rental market, especially in cities, for affordable flats or houses for young people to share is fiercely competitive and fiercely expensive,” explains Hutson. “So the risk of jeopardising your place for a party will certainly play on people’s minds before they send out the group invite.”

Hold on. Are we not living in the era of the so-called “puriteen”? According to a certain narrative about Gen Z, we’re meant to be an entire generation of sober, prudish youngsters eager to turn our backs on the party culture of our millennial and boomer elders rather than chasing it. But in truth, there’s still an appetite for partying like it’s 1999.

Stormzy at the opening of his ‘House Party’ concept nightclub in Soho, London

Stormzy at the opening of his ‘House Party’ concept nightclub in Soho, London (Cream Group / Supplied)

According to Michael Kill, the CEO of the UK Night Time Industries Association, young people are socialising less in general due to financial constraints, not because they don’t want to. The organisation’s new research shows that 52 per cent of adult respondents said they couldn’t afford to go on a night out, with the cost of drinks and club entries putting people off. As a result of this cocktail of constraints, Kill says my generation has become more selective about social outings. Instead, Gen Zers tend to save up for one-off, more expensive blowouts like concerts or day festivals, across a period of several months, instead of going out on a regular basis.

“While the desire to go out remains strong, financial limitations have led young people to prefer things like all-inclusive package nights, activity-led nights and competitive socialising,” he says. He adds that music-centred events, like concerts, are what young people are increasingly spending their money on, and that’s only when they’ve actually got it.

At one point in the night, between getting a fake tattoo in the loos and singing along with strangers to the Sugababes, I realise that my generation has completely missed out

At one point in the night, between getting a fake tattoo in the loos and singing along with strangers to the Sugababes, I realise that my generation has completely missed out (Getty/iStock)

I concede that a concert is fun. But there’s a part of me that still mourns whatever nightlife culture my generation is missing out on. I can’t face another Saturday night crammed around my kitchen counter, tinnie in hand, shoulder to shoulder with absolutely everyone I know.

#modern #life #killed #house #party

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