Before we start, Ollie Carr — treasurer of the University of Manchester Cheese and Wine Society — wants to get straight to the important issues: the Cheese and Wine society does provide vegan cheese.
“It’s expensive,” he laughs, “and no-one ever eats it!” For a society that really does what it says on the tin, you might think this dairy-centric crowd would not be the place for a vegan, but the emphasis of the group is really on getting as many people as they can involved — so soft drinks and even vegan cheese are on the menu!
Ollie’s commitment to making the society one for everyone is clear when he talks about the events they have already held this year. “The society has a really simple ethic — meet up in a room or a bar or a venue, maybe a room in the SU or a bar in central Manchester” to do what they do best: eat cheese and drink wine!
So what can we expect from the events, are they formal and into discussing the quality of last year’s Beaujolais, or are they more relaxed about it all?
“We’re not poncy, you can wear what you want, do what you want, speak to who you want, we just provide the cheese and wine! It’s completely a social thing… we’re not trying to educate you or enforce anything you, make you drink different things at different times, if you have any questions we’re happy to talk about the specifics of it, but it’s just a really chilled vibe!”
With this, it is no wonder that the events the society holds are extremely popular among the student body; the past two events have sold out in under five minutes.
“The tickets have gone absolutely flying, which from a treasurer’s perspective is maybe not good, because we could be selling more tickets and charging more, but that’s not the ethos of the society. We just aim to break even, and if we do make a small amount of profit, we put it all back into better, subsidised events, so then we can bring the prices down even lower.”
“We had our first event at the SU, it was the first event so we had it as a bring-your-own bottle event, I think it was only two or three pounds, and we provided the cheese! It was quite a small event, only about 40 or 50 people, which sold out immediately and went really well!”
The next event they held was a slightly bigger affair at the Liquor Store in Spinningfields, which again sold out and had in attendance near to 80 fans of cheese and wine.
I want to know if the same people tend to go the events or is it easy to meet new people each time, and Ollie laughs: “Sometimes you see familiar faces, there are some real cheese and winos who will probably be on the committee next year, who probably deserve the committee place more than me!”
But mostly it is always a different crowd. “I love watching the newbies come in, because you can tell they expect it to be really weird and elitist, with everybody wearing suits.” But then they see that “it’s much more chilled, especially at the start!” Just loads of students in “Fallowfield garms having cheese and wine… it’s interesting!”
I want to know how he got so involved, in what some might say, is a bit of a niche society.
“So I saw the stall in Fresher’s Week when I was in first year, I went to the events, and applied to be treasurer by the end of the year and luckily I got it!” He jokes that while the other society committee members are firmly there for the cheese, he is very into the wine side of life.
“I really like cheese but wine is actually my thing, there’s a sort of a joke in the committee that I’m the one that really fronts the wine.” Something that he assures, grinning, that you would definitely be able to tell if you went to one of their events.
With the success of the society taking on new heights, I wondered if they had their sights set on taking the society to an international level and planning a trip to sample wine and cheese abroad.
He laughs and says that although they have not formally considered it, it is a great idea and might (definitely) make its way onto his manifesto when he runs for President next year.
He admits there are some great artisanal Cheshire cheese makers around Manchester that could maybe lead to a more local trip, but in the mean time the emphasis firmly lies in having a good time and meeting lots of new people.
“Some people meet up and smoke weed; we meet up and eat cheese and drink wine!”
He promises he has not planned the tag line, but with upcoming elections for President of the society, Ollie looks set to become a real contender to be the Snoop Dogg of the cheese and wine world.
Course: Second year Law with Politics
From: St Albans
Best bit: “The glamour.”
Worst bit: “Administrative work and pretending to be an adult, filling in the forms, but it’s absolutely worth it as the society is what I love to do!”
And the million dollar question… favourite cheese?: “Gotta have a top three: Fresh goat’s cheese, so an Ardsallagh and then maybe a fundamental English cheese like a Wensleydale, and then I would have to go to France and have a Camembert.”
And what wine to finish your Camembert off with?: “To go with a Camembert it would be a red — obviously — and I think I’d go for a Merlot, from Bergerac.”