Durham University Student Union

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Durham University Student Union

Durham Students’ Union, commonly referred to as the DSU, is the students’ union of Durham University in Durham, England. It is an organisation, originally set up as the Durham Colleges Students’ Representative Council in 1899 and renamed in 1969, with the intention of representing and providing welfare and services for the students of the University of Durham.

The Students’ Union occupies and manages Dunelm House, a university-owned building in the centre of Durham where a wide variety of student activities take place. Designed by Architects Co-Partnership, the Brutalist, angular concrete building was completed in 1966 under the supervision of architect Sir Ove Arup, whose Kingsgate Bridge, adjacent, opened two years earlier. Built into the steeply sloping bank of the River Wear, Dunelm House is notable internally for the fact that the main staircase linking all five levels of the building runs in an entirely straight line. This was intended by the building’s architects to create the feeling of an interior street.

In 1968 Dunelm House won a Civic Trust award,though it has been described by students as “The ugliest building in Durham”.On the other hand, Sir Nikolaus Pevsner, the noted architecture historian, considered the building, “Brutalist by tradition but not brutal to the landscape … the elements, though bold, [are] sensitively composed.” Durham City Council’s Local Plan notes that the “powerful” building, together with Kingsgate Bridge, “provides an exhilarating pedestrian route … out into open space over the river gorge”.

Welfare

The SU provides a number of student welfare services, in addition to those provided by the University. To that end, it employs full-time trained advisors who work in the Advice Centre, runs the Nightbus that ensures students can get home safely and organises “associations” for specific minority groups of students whose interests are deemed to require additional non-collegiate provision. There are currently four associations – Mature, International, LGBT+ and Students with Disabilities

Social events

During the late 1960s and the 1970s Dunelm House was a popular music venue, hosting bands including Pink Floyd, Wishbone Ash and Procol Harum. According to their drummer Simon Kirke, Free’s most popular song All Right Now was written by bassist Andy Fraser and singer Paul Rodgers in their dressing room in Dunelm House, after a set of slower material had failed to excite the audience.