Selwerd III to be renovated
Bye bye flat pub
Selwerd III is going to be renovated. The student flat will be updated, its amenities improved. However, this also means that the flat pub will disappear.
Although the facilities in the flat are not great, long-term residents such as Koos Brandon Bravo and Jochem Pouw stay for the atmosphere, the fast internet, and, of course, the flat pub.
The annual three-day flat party, when karaoke and cocktail bars are added to the pub, is a high point for many of the residents.
Brandon Bravo and Pouw have seen many things during their years at Selwerd, such as a hot tub on the square in front of the flat, and a DIY pub in one of the hallways.
The last pub evening will take place on July 7.
Reading time: 9 minutes (1,515 words)
From a distance, it is obvious that many of the rooms in the flat at the Duindoornstraat are already empty: there are no curtains or visible furniture. The Selwerd III residents have until January 31, 2018, to move out. Many of them have already left before the new semester starts in an effort to beat the rush of new students.
This includes Koos Brandon Bravo (24), a student of cultural heritage. She has taken some time out of her busy schedule looking for a new place to live to talk about the flat and her beloved pub, where she has been working since 2015.
While she was studying in Amsterdam, Brandon Bravo could often be found in the flat pub, since her then boyfriend lived in the student flat. When she had to move to Groningen for an internship, the choice of where to live was an easy one.
While many residents consider the Selwerd flats a kind of way station, Brandon Bravo decided to stay on. ‘I quickly became the representative for my section and then joined the pub committee. I’m now on the pub board’, she says. ‘I didn’t want to give up that responsibility.’
The Selwerd flats are infamous, not just because of the great atmosphere, but also because of the fast internet. In 1996, the Flits network was installed there. This network connects the flats to the RUG’s computer centre via a fibreglass network. This means that all the rooms are directly connected to the university’s network. The fast internet is one of the things that drew Jochem Pouw (34) to the flat.
Fifteen years later, Pouw is still here, making him a true ‘flat fossil’, as they say in Selwerd. After four years on the fourth floor, he got lucky and moved into one of the apartments on the ground floor, next to the flat pub. His apartment consists of a large living room and two bedrooms. He shares his kitchen, the bathroom, and a garden with one other person. How different from the other flat sections, where fifteen residents have to share a single kitchen, living room, and several showers and toilets. ‘If I hadn’t been able to live down here, I probably would’ve left much sooner’, Pouw says in his garden.
Groningen cultural heritage
Moving out of his apartment on the ground floor was not really in Pouw’s short-term plans. ‘It may not be the most beautiful place to live, but the atmosphere is great’, he says. ‘There are always so many new people coming in that there’s always someone to talk to. There have been plans to do up the flat for as long as I’ve lived here. At a certain point you start taking those plans with a grain of salt.’
In addition to the atmosphere, Brandon Bravo credits the flat pub with making Selwerd III such a special place for students. ‘With the closing of the flat pub a piece of Groningen student heritage is disappearing. Sure, they’ll have another recreational area after the renovation, but it will pale in comparison to the current pub, which is fully run by people who live here. There’s a good chance the new facility will be run by an external party’, the student explains.
The current flat pub was opened in 1991. ‘Before that, there was a recreational area on the tenth floor, but that caused a lot of trouble because people would throw things out the window. During a minor renovation in 1991 the pub moved to the motorcycle garage on the ground floor’, says Brandon Bravo, pointing to the faded, barely visible white lines on the floor.
The student says the flat pub can be compared to a student association. ‘It’s a fun group of people, the drinks are cheap, and there are a pool table and table football.’ Pouw, too, draws the comparison to an association pub. ‘I did consider joining an association, but I’d already met so many people at the pub. It’s like a second living room to me.’
According to Brandon Bravo, the pub is hardly ever filled up to capacity, except during the annual pub party, a three-day event in late May or early June. The student eagerly looked forward to it every year. ‘There are bands and DJs, and the bar would be transformed and karaoke and cocktail bars added in the bicycle sheds.’ The flaking wallpaper still has skulls and cowboy hats on it: remnants of the last pub party, which was Western-themed.
Evert-Jan Bakker and his wife Esther are proof that living in close quarters in a student flat can lead to a long and happy marriage. They met in Selwerd I. Evert-Jan moved in on the ninth floor in 1979 and was enjoying himself. ‘I didn’t always enjoy being packed like sardines, but I saw no reason to leave. A good friend of mine lived down the hall and we had a great dinner club that ate together every evening.’
Evert-Jan enjoyed himself so much that he was still living there five years later, when four new first-year students arrived, including Esther. ‘Esther and one of her friends joined our dinner club. Not much later, a few of us formed a walking group that went out every evening at nine thirty. We’d pick up Esther at her room, where she would be busy studying.’
This walking group ultimately led to three other couples in addition to Evert-Jan and Esther. All three are still together. They all lived in the same hallway on the ninth floor in Selwerd I. ‘We still see two of these couples on a regular basis’, says Evert-Jan.
He and Esther think that a student flat such as the ones in Selwerd are a logical breeding ground for long-term relationships and close friendships. ‘You really get to know each other, and in a real way. It’s very different from picking up someone in a pub. You see each other when you’re not looking your best, for instance when you’re on your way to the shower in your nightgown in the morning. Plus, everyone that lives there is at an age where falling in love goes quickly’, Evert-Jan says, laughing.
Life at Selwerd III has known more high points than just the pub parties, though. In his time, Pouw has seen many unforgettable things. Such as the time a hot tub appeared on the square in front of the flat, complete with fire drum. Or the year a resident ran his own little pub in one of the hallways. Or that time a resident had to be rescued from his room, which was on fire, by one of the cleaners.
Other people’s trash causing a nuisance is a common problems in the student flats, but one particular incident stands out. ‘Residents complained of a bad smell and vermin, and went looking for the cause. They found a room that was packed full of garbage, with a television that was still on’, Brandon Bravo says. She shows a picture on her phone of a room where the beer cans are stacked knee high. ‘And this is when the cleaners were halfway through’, she explains. It turned out the former resident of the room had never cancelled their contract, because they did not want to clean up their mess. They had moved of the room years ago.
There will be no flat party next year; instead, there will be the sound of builders and their machines. The new rooms will be much larger, and each resident will have their own sanitary facilities. The kitchens will still be shared, but by six people rather than fifteen.
While Pouw and Brandon Bravo will miss the flat pub, they understand the need for the renovation. ‘Lefier should have done this much sooner, really. Most of the residents don’t mind that they have to move out, and they won’t be returning after the renovations’, says Pouw. ‘The building is definitely due for an update. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve had to call someone because something was broken over the last two and a half years. It’s nice that they’re doing it up, but I do think the flat will lose something of its charm because of that’, Brandon Bravo adds, laughing.
The pub committee has decided to keep the pub’s final night, on July 7, simple. ‘It saves us a lot of work organising something. We’re expecting approximately a hundred residents and ex-residents, which will be brilliant in and of itself. We won’t need any bells and whistles’, says Brandon Bravo. Anyone who does want to say a special goodbye to the flat pub is welcome to enjoy the live music on June 30 and July 1.
And anyone longing for the student flats from the seventies, including flat pub, is always welcome at Selwerd II. Once the renovation at the Duindoornstraat is completed, it is that flat’s turn. But that will probably take a while.