I went to Scala (mostly) sober and here’s exactly what it was like

Non-drinking students, my deepest respect to you

Every Wednesday, students flock to King’s Cross to brave the long queues and be a part of UCL’s most precious offering (after the dead body of Jeremy Bentham) – Scala sports night.

Huge crowds and sold-out tickets are just the start of the weekly chaos a night in Scala entails. Drunken stories are bound to end up on UCLove, while you try and miserably fail to piece together exactly what happened last Wednesday night.

But this week, we went to Scala painfully sober to try and figure out what sports night is really like.

10pm – pres at Phineas

Generally, you’re guaranteed a good night at Phineas. Reasonable prices (for London, anyway), cheesy music and a great atmosphere made it the perfect place to begin our night – or so we thought.

What we were met with instead were tales of Freshers’ infidelity, rowdy rugby boys taking over the only nearby toilet, and two students haphazardly trying to convince us that they were, in fact, identical twins.

Combine this with wait times that don’t seem nearly as bad when you’re three double vodkas deep, and you have one underwhelming pres and an unfortunate indication of the night ahead.


Hordes of drunken students taking to Euston Road at this time on a Wednesday can only mean one thing – the pilgrimage to Scala has begun.

Approaching King’s Cross, the nerves started to set in – what if sports night wasn’t all our drunk selves had made it out to be?


Bouncers threatened to kick us out of the line because we were chewing gum. Great start.


Pretty soon, it was time for the first female bathroom ritual of the night. Making lifelong friends in the ladies’ toilet does seem a little bit easier when you’re drunk, but it wasn’t too hard to get a conversation going. The broken toilet roll dispensers made for a decent conversation starter.



We’d had enough of being observers and wanted to get in on the Scala action. Leaving the confines of our safe, cosy Glass Bar, we entered the sweaty heart of it all – the main floor.


Disastrous. When you’re sober, you’re painfully aware of just how busy Scala gets, and suddenly the prospect of “getting in on the action” was unbelievably unattractive.


After contemplating returning to simple observers, we realised that we might have to buy just one alcoholic beverage for the good of our journalistic endeavours. Gaining the willpower to engage in any regular Scala activities, or to make friends anywhere that wasn’t the ladies’ toilets, was going to be pretty difficult for us without a single drop of alcohol.


We caved.


The wonders a bit of alcohol will do for you. Feeling suitably rejuvenated, we decided to head to the smoking area, ready to barter cigarettes in exchange for friendships.


We ended up in a debate with two American students about whether it’s socially acceptable to drink VKs over the age of 16. Making conversation with drunk people while (pretty much) sober proved the most entertaining aspect of the night.


The feminine urge to take frequent toilet breaks definitely does not ease up when there’s not as much alcohol in your system – maybe Scala has some kind of a placebo effect.


The time had come – we had to hit the dance floor. The DJ was gearing up with some absolute belters (Flo Rida’s Low is a classic), the atmosphere in the club was buzzing, and everyone around us seemed to be reaching their high point of the night.


Here’s where it all went downhill. Any effects from the (tiny) amount of alcohol we had consumed sharply disappeared – to be fair, having elbows jabbed into you from every which way will probably do that to most people.

Dancing in Scala while sober was maybe the least fun I’d had all year. Painfully conscious of how little space we had, getting pushed around by a sports team all dressed in togas with the DJ switching the music from club classics to grime was not the ideal situation. The shining beacon in all the mayhem was one very nice, very drunk girl that started dancing with us.


After 25 minutes on the dance floor, not only had we been physically beaten, but we’d been beaten by Scala – we decided to end the experience here, concluding the night far earlier than most regular Scala-goers.

Maybe we made some mistakes in our sober Scala excursion – we could have gone with a bigger group or stuck it out for longer. Maybe we just got too comfortable observing, or hyped it up too much.

Whatever it was, it doesn’t seem worth it going to Scala sober again. For us, it almost felt illegal – it’s best enjoyed when least remembered in a drunken haze.

Related stories recommended by this writer:

Here is what costume students from each London uni would put on for Halloween

• Forget ghosts, these are officially the scariest things a London student can encounter