It was cheesy, it was cheap and it was sometimes very, very nasty - but it still managed to become a true Manchester institution.
Back in the 60’s tower blocks were all the rage. Post-war Britain was a time of quick change, as all of the mucky slums and terraced houses were pulled down (well, the ones that the Nazi’s didn’t blow up) and were being replaced by the housing of the future – all the way from Sweden.
These pre-fabricated tower blocks began popping up all over the bloody place and one such place was Owens Park in Fallowfield – a student village with a 61-metre-high tower as the jewel in its crown.
Throughout the years, thousands and thousands of students have done their student porridge in Owens Park – many of them getting to grace the heady heights of the tower itself. And right at the foot of the tower is another place where pretty much all students went – The OP BOP.
Its longer name was ‘The Owens Park Big Old Party‘ and it managed to establish itself an almost legendary reputation pretty quickly. Not all of this reputation was positive mind, but still – every Fallowfield student will have heard about it or been to it at some point.
Run by the Owens Park Students Association (OPSA), it began in the mid-eighties, and was unapologetically cheesy and mucky – often with a weekly theme that prompted students to create all sorts of outfits from the shite lying around in their cupboards.
So what was it like?
Arriving at Owens Park around 7pm (it officially opened at 8pm) you’d be greeted by a rather large, snaking queue emanating from the main entrance to the OP Bar. With your student card (or someone’s who looked like you) in your sweaty hand (and perhaps a couple of tins of cider for the queue) you got to the back and waited.
The party would already be starting in the queue, but once you got through the gaggle of butch bouncers you were greeted with the main, almost circular OP Bar, a host of tables which wouldn’t look out of place in a cheap 1970’s wedding venue, small dancefloor and a crappy little stage for a DJ to play his Winamp playlist on.
Appearances can be deceiving though because all you needed to do was ascend the stairs and you’d be greeted by another bar and further on – a huge ballroom.
It was as close to a mucky school disco as you could get at the age of 18 with a Bacardi Breezer in your hand, complete with massive dancefloor, seating down the sides and a big stage for the all-important BOP DJ.
Thus the night trundled on – everyone chatting each other up, drinking too much and generally dancing like a dick head.
By around 2am (or whenever the bouncers decided they wanted to go home to their Pot Noodles) it would all end and you could try your luck outside and see if you could get into someone’s knickers and/or boxers. Fantastic stuff.
Now, let’s look at the positives of The BOP – the things our rose-tinted glasses allow us to see with perfectly justifiable nostalgia. First of all, there were the drinks. Not only were they CHEAP but they also offered a never-before-seen selection of unique BOP cocktails – many of which would get you kicked out of bartending school almost instantly.
My most favourite, and the one that was guaranteed to give you a stonking headache in the morning was the legendary GREEN MONSTER.
There’s still an on-going debate among my mates as to what is in it but I seem to remember there was a bottle of Orange Reef, a bottle of Stella, a shot of Bols Blue and the pint pot was then topped up with cider. Wonderful.
I also vaguely remember an evening when they were offering a wide range of shots for 50p each. Clearly someone must have either ordered too much or it was going out of date because pretty much every spirit was on offer.
Anyway, through my impressive alchemistic ways I managed to perfectly combine around 7 different shots in such a way that I created Alcoholic Water. It was a pale blue colour and it tasted exactly like Evian and I quickly browned out. Wonderful.
For many, the music at The BOP swiftly became a bit of a sore point, however for me I bloody loved it. It was always seen as a big, dirty cheese-fest and so you could expect all of your favourite hits from the 80’s and 90’s and even a fair whack of Girls Aloud which was always a big plus point on the dancefloor upstairs.
Then of course there were the costumes. I’m not entirely sure as to how the themes were communicated in the days before Facebook but everyone just seemed to always know what to wear – almost as if the BOP gossip-mongers walked the campus a few days before the Friday night shouting the theme to ensure that everyone had something to wear.
Of course it was highly common to get dressed up, queue and then not get in because it was too full, leaving you to wander the bars of Fallowfield dressed like a cowboy. I must admit, trying to get off with girls in Robinski’s at 2am dressed in homemade chaps and a small Toy Story hat was actually much easier than you might think.
So what happened?! Well, I think there were a combination of factors at play that sealed the fate of The BOP and relegated it to the Club Nights Graveyard in the sky.
I think one of the biggest reasons for its downfall was continued pressure placed on the OPSA from the University, who were acting on continual complaints from non-BOP attending residents (noise, mess, fights, spewing) and continual complaints from BOP attending residents (always full, shite music, spewing). As a result, they decided to look for a new venue for the party – which completely misses the point of the whole thing in the first place.
In 2009 The BOP moved to Jabez Clegg up near the University of Manchester Students Union and it quickly died a quiet death there – never to be seen from or heard from again.
A big shame, but I don’t think the timing of the whole thing is particularly coincidental either – other, bigger changes were happening around Fallowfield at the time which certainly contributed to The BOP’s downfall.
Around 2008 Fallowfield had gained a considerable notoriety around the UK for its banging house parties – resulting in many hysterical media reports on the disgusting state of ‘Binge Britain‘ – mostly centred on the student population in Fallowfield.
To be fair, if the papers had paid as much attention to the ‘binging’ in the banking offices of London at the time, instead of victimising poor students then we might be living in a much better world right now. Oooh political.
Well they didn’t, and videos like this one below on Lancross Road and that story of 300 people who were in a house when the floor caved in certainly didn’t help.
As a result, the Universities faced unprecedented pressure to clean up their students and the streets of Fallowfield (and subsequently Britain) and The BOP was certainly an unwilling victim in all of this.
So hopefully someone who used to be on the OPSA will want to do a BOP reunion soon – I’ll be there with my chaps, my little cowboy hat and enough Green Monsters to make even George Best shudder.
They’re going to be knocking it all down soon to make way for a swanky new student village with too much glass and not enough dance floors. But the memories will still remain – well, around 20% of them will anyway.