Clubs and societies
Quintin Hogg’s vision was to educate the ‘mind, body and spirit’. Polytechnic members established clubs and societies, raising funds primarily from membership fees. As each club was run by its members, this gave the young men (and later women) the opportunity to acquire business and administrative skills in roles such as secretary or treasurer.
The earliest clubs were sporting ones, under the umbrella of the Hanover United Athletic Club in 1874. This initially covered rowing, swimming, cricket and soccer, but soon expanded to include gymnastics and track and field – the latter eventually becoming the famous Polytechnic Harriers.
For those more inclined towards intellectual or indoor pursuits, a Polytechnic Parliament and a Reading Circle were established in the 1880s-1890s as well as societies related to the Polytechnic’s classes, including printing, shorthand, mechanical engineering and electrical engineering societies, as well as French and German mutual improvement clubs. These student societies enabled members to keep their knowledge up-to-date in a less formal environment, organising visits to technologically-advanced factories or famous buildings.
Many Poly members were involved in music, ranging from a Choral Society to a Mandolin orchestra. The 1891 Scheme of Administration of Regent Street Polytechnic banned ‘any dramatic representation or dancing’ and this clause wasn’t officially repealed until 1929. From the 1930s the dramatic arts thrived at the Poly, with both an Operatic and Dramatic Society regularly performing in the Portland Hall.
During the 1960s, wider social upheaval led to a change in the Polytechnic’s student body and many of the clubs struggled to recruit new members. The clubs and societies were formally separated from the institution with the creation of the University of Westminster in 1992. Nevertheless the ethos of the Polytechnic continues to thrive in the many clubs and societies of the Students' Union today.