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18th September 2019

Artefact of the Week: Owens Park Tower

In this instalment of artefact of the week, Chess Bradley examines the once halls of residence and brutalist monstrosity, The Tower.
Artefact of the Week: Owens Park Tower
Owens Park Tower. Photo: The Mancunion.

Owens Park Tower is so well-known to all those who have studied in Manchester, that most times its name drops the ‘Owens Park’ and is simply called ‘The Tower’.

Nominally a hall of residence, it now stands partially empty, like some poorly constructed social commentary on the streets of sky. Or, perhaps, it has become a symbol for students of their new home. Think of the warm feeling that enters the stomachs of the first years, as they see it emerging from the magic bus, indicating that they have returned back to Fallowfield after a hard day of a single English literature lecture.

Of course, an arts writer could look all day for a thousand ineffective interpretations for the abandoned 200ft block. But, what stills remains is memories, myth, and legend.

Once rumoured to be the home of the first year 2:2, it was the first choice accommodation for fresh-faced 18-year-olds who decided to live out their common people fantasies, but weren’t quite ready for the responsibility of cooking everyday.

Consolidating the notion of the move from ivory to concrete tower, Owens Park’s interpretation was home to Jack Whitehall, apparently informing his portrayal of J.P. in Fresh Meat. 

Writer of the O.G. university comedy, The Young Ones, Rik Mayall also called the tower home, setting the precedent for the freshers to get up to some wild hijinks.

And what hijinks have occurred! Perhaps most famously is the tower challenge, a creative solution for when the conventional methods of alcohol poisoning have become too slow and boring. Requiring the brave challenger to take a shot for each level, the feat of 20 shots (19 and a double at the end) could destroy even the most foolhardy first year.

With new, shinier accommodation opening, some day the brutalist horror is bound to be demolished. And what will be left in its powdery white remains? Likely some rogue fairy lights, empty cans and a Reebok sweatshirt that could have belonged to any graduate from 1981 to now.

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