On Oct. 3, the Engineering Undergraduate Society (EUS) held OAPhorum, a reflective discussion open to all McGill students about this semester’s Open Air Pub (OAP). Students discussed possible improvements to the biannual festival of food, beer, and music, which the EUS will consider when planning next year’s pub. Forum attendees suggested enhancing the volunteer experience, improving the variety and distribution of food and beer, diversifying the genres of musical performances, and enhancing the overall atmosphere of OAP.
Efforts to improve the overall atmosphere
The most notable change to this year’s OAP was its new location on Lower Field, and students were eager to know whether or not the pub will permanently set up there from now on. There was a general approval among OAPhorum attendees for the venue to remain the same. While the location for April’s 2018 OAP Lite is still unknown, the EUS will seriously consider holding the event on Lower Field.
OAPhorum attendees also suggested several activities and logistical improvements to upgrade OAP’s general atmosphere. In addition to supplying more furniture, OAP volunteer Emma Zapf-Gilje proposed installing vertical barriers to combat line-cutting, like the mesh material used on construction sites.
Attendees recommended additional sources of entertainment, such as daily themes, eating and drinking competitions, and hourly boat races which teams of friends can enter.
Volunteer recognition and workload
Past volunteers who attended the forum voiced their opinions about volunteer recognition, workflow in the food tent, and the instruction and distribution of tasks.
Several forum attendees noted that working in the food tent is not immediately straightforward for new volunteers, and highlighted a need for increased direction. Zapf-Gilje also noted that food preparation is hard work and can be draining. Though they currently celebrate their efforts through a ‘volunteer of the day’ award, Zapf-Gilje suggested having more prizes to recognize the team of individuals working to make OAP a success.
“Perhaps [we could give out] earnable badges like ‘first double-pour’ or some other system of recognizing all of the hard work volunteers do all day,” Zapf-Gilje said.
Another potential area of improvement highlighted was efficiency. Zapf-Gilje suggested delegating tasks more evenly between volunteers in the food and beverage tents.
“Grilling has more appeal than serving, so a rotation of tasks would ensure [that] more enjoyable jobs get to be experienced by everyone,” Zapf-Gilje said.
Increased variety of musical genres and a festival atmosphere
Head OAP Manager Malcolm McClintock introduced the idea of going the ‘Osheaga Lite’ route, which would involve increasing emphasis on OAP as a music festival rather than an outdoor pub. Making this transition would also require adding another stage.
Not all OAPhorum attendees agreed with this idea however, and several cited the issue of high associated costs, the value of showcasing McGill-only bands, and the fact that students generally go to OAP to socialize, with the music functioning as background noise alone.
Additionally, forum attendees exchanged opinions on increasing the variety and number of musical genres played at the pub. Ultimately, some of this year’s performers and pub-goers present at the forum disagreed about the value of music at OAP.
OAP Manager Morgan Grobin suggested diversifying musical genres to reflect students’ varying tastes.
“I would like to see more [genres of music] than indie and rock-n-roll, and maybe even some jazz to appeal to a wider audience,” Grobin said.
Forum attendees reached a consensus concerning the volume of music—most, if not all attendees agreed the music was often too loud for OAP attendees to comfortably converse. Grobin, however, provided an alternative point of view—that of the musicians. According to Grobin, many musicians thought the sound quality was not adequate.
More food, more fun, and a wider variety of options
Perhaps the greatest attraction at OAP is the food and beer. OAPhorum participants proposed additions to the food menu, such as corn-on-the-cob, french fries, vegetarian hot dogs, and dessert items, such as ice cream sandwiches or scoops of Ben & Jerry’s.
Although OAP has tried to make an effort to accommodate various diets in the past, Zapf-Gilje suggested a larger selection of alcoholic beverages other than beer to meet the needs of students’ dietary restrictions.
“The Somersby, sangria, and cider currently offered do not cater to gluten allergies,” Zapf-Gilje noted.
OAP is limited in the types of drinks they can serve, especially those with higher alcohol content. Due to liability, they have self-imposed restrictions to limit the sale and consumption of beers with a higher percentage—most drinks were around seven per cent—which Grobin explained as a way to prevent the pub’s party scene becoming too chaotic.