Sunday longread: Societies lean into 2021

Although the pandemic has transformed society life, there’s still plenty to get involved with come January

Alongside the transition to virtual learning, Covid-19 has seen Trinity’s vibrant society life move to exclusively online platforms. While some societies have been hit harder than others, committee members and college bodies have endeavoured to maintain a sense of normality in a very difficult situation. As we exited Level Five, College expressed an interest in having increased face-to-face learning come January, although what this meant for campus life more broadly was unclear. Since then, it’s been announced that the majority of teaching will remain online for Hilary Term – an eventuality societies will not be surprised by. 

Trinity’s 120 plus societies are overseen by the Central Societies Committee (CSC).  Speaking to Trinity News, CSC chair, Ryan Grunwell emphasised that the role of the CSC has fundamentally stayed the same, and “continues to represent the needs and interests of student societies just as we did before”. The Covid-19 related changes to the organisation of the CSC have been predominantly logistical. For example, the membership hub where people join societies is now online, “which is an advantage for many societies, as very few, with the exception of a few larger societies, use card readers.” 

When asked about the changing scope of society applications for recognition from the CSC, Grunwell points to both the trend of growing interest in technological based societies, and applicants utilising societies “as a means to facilitate the advancement of their broader career objectives outside of college,” although neither of these trends were necessarily attributable to Covid-19. Like the societies it oversees, the CSC has moved exclusively online, recently holding a virtual town hall “to get a feel for what student societies felt was working and not working in the age of covid, and which was useful for bouncing ideas off one another.” 

The CSC is also anticipating Refreshers’ Week. When we spoke before the latest restrictions were announced, Grunwell said that Refreshers’ Week could look either one of two ways. “The first being exclusively online, where we would encourage societies to use what we learned in town hall, or ideally if we could go ahead with it being on campus, and in anticipation of this, we have set up two live streaming/podcast studios on campus, exclusively for society use, in the GMB and Players’ Theatre. It might look a little more like Freshers’ Week usually does.”

However, following the decision to continue online teaching for the next semester, there are no plans to have in-person Refreshers’ Week events.

In an email to students on December 3, Secretary to College John Coman announced the reopening of the Trinity Sport Centre, as well as the resumption of evening and Saturday opening in the library. At the time, Grunwell said that “our ideal is to get society life back on campus. We will continue to take into account government regulations, and College rules themselves which currently stipulate that no activities can take place on campus. We hope to see students back on campus, but of course, the health and well-being of students must come first.” 

But this week, College informed students that most teaching would remain online as the government tightened restrictions.

While online society life is far from ideal, it also presents a rare opportunity to cater to students who don’t drink, or necessarily enjoy clubbing or socialising solely in a nightlife centered way. Here’s a shortlisted selection of societies to get involved with remotely come Hilary Term.  

Trinity FM, Trinity’s 100% student-run radio station, broadcasts from 3pm to midnight Monday to Friday, and 10am to midnight during broadcast week. Applications for new shows open monthly, and gives students an opportunity to host a programme on a topic of their interest. 

Robert Quinn, a third year student who co-hosts We’re All Girls Here on TFM, says the show began with three friends being given a platform to “chat about music, eclectic things, or what’s going on in college”. TFM also hosts Zoom events once a month, and the platform is “always expanding,” with more people listening and engaging as they’re now at home more than ever. The rotating schedule is also a huge plus for new people looking to get involved. 

DU Choral Society has been among the hardest hit by Covid-19 for obvious reasons, but they have continued fortnightly rehearsals via Zoom, covering smaller musical works where possible. The society has also hosted workshops for performers on adapting to virtual platforms.

Speaking to Trinity News, secretary of the society, James Kinsella, says new members interested in singing can get involved by joining the mailing list by messaging any of their social media, or emailing [email protected]

The Bram Stoker Club, an offshoot of the Phil, hosts paper readings and discussions on topics of interest to the college community. Speaking to Trinity News, the Chair, Amelia Melanson, describes the club as the “silver lining of my experience with societies this year”. Bram typically hosts paper readings in the GMB with tea and biscuits, but all events have now been moved to Instagram live @bramstagram336. 

Melanson cites Instagram live as “accessible and user friendly” which also allows the recordings to reach a larger audience, as it allows the user to save the live recording to your story, and have it shared across the platform. “We’ve hosted 11 paper readings this year over Instagram live, and have had tremendous feedback, and great comments and questions from the audience.” This term, Bram has hosted papers on topics such as racism in healthcare, George Michael’s political beliefs, and the European witch trials. Submissions for Bram papers are currently open. 

Grace Gageby

Grace Gageby is the Deputy Comment Editor for Trinity News and studies English and Philosophy.