FAQs

About the Society

When is the Union open?
Current opening hours are posted on the Contact Us section of the website.
How do I find the Union?
Our address, a map, and directions on foot, by bus, and by car are all available on the Where to Find Us page.
How do I sign up to the mailing list?
Just scroll down and click 'Subscribe to our Newsletter' on the bar on the left hand side of each page. Society news and details of upcoming events are sent out on our newsletter once or twice a week.
Where can I park my car?
Parking details, directions and a map can be found on the Where to Find Us page.
Is the Debating Chamber open to tourists and members of the general public?
The Society is happy to welcome Blue Badge guide led tours into our building to visit the Chamber. When possible, guides should contact the office (see Contact Us) earlier in the day to confirm availability. A small donation box is located near the entrance and all funds collected are used to assist with maintaining our historic building.
How much money does the Society have?
As a registered charity in the UK, we are required to publish a summary of our annual accounts and that information can be found on the Charity Commission's website.

Our History

When was the Cambridge Union Society founded?
1815.
How old is the Society's building?
The Society moved into its current custom built home, designed by Alfred Waterhouse, on 30th October 1866. A major expansion to the original building, including the space now occupied by the bar and library, opened in 1886.
Is it true that the building was bombed by the Nazis?
Yes. Although most of Cambridge escaped WWII with little damage, a bomb did land on the building causing significant damage to the Library. Some of the older books still display visible shrapnel wounds.
Has the building ever been used as a background for a film or TV programme?
In addition to news related filming for our events, a number of television programmes have been filmed in various parts of the building. Additionally, scenes for an upcoming feature length film were recently shot in the Debating Chamber with the benches full of 1970s era extras!
Are there any secret hidden rooms in the building?
Whilst there is quite a lot of space in the Society's building that most members don't see, most of it is used for storage and infrastructure and is pretty unexciting.

Events

How much money do speakers cost?
We are a registered charity and don't pay speakers fees; however, we do cover travel expenses and provide a meal for our speakers if it's appropriate.
Why do you sometimes invite people with offensive views?
The Society was founded on the basic principles of free speech and open debate. From time to time we invite highly controversial figures to address the Society because we feel that an open debate where both sides are fairly represented is the best way to discuss contentious issues.
How can I speak in an Emergency Debate?
Please contact the President-Elect at president-elect@cus.org for more information.

Members' information

I know there are snooker tables in the Union, but how can I use them, where are they and when are they available?
Our Snooker Room contains two full size tables for the free use of our members (with a small returnable deposit required for balls and cues) between October and June. The Snooker Room is generally open whenever the building is open, but may be closed temporarily when important events are taking place in the Dining Room (as the floor is 150 years old and very creaky, so makes a lot of noise in the Dining Room below). There is also a pool table in the bar.
I've lost my membership card. What should I do?
Don't worry, you're not the first. You can obtain a replacement card from the office for £5. Please remember to bring along a new passport photo.
How do I sign up to attend a pre-debate or pre-speaker dinner?
Bookings are taken via the office on a first come first serve basis. The price depends on the event and is available upon request.
Can I book a room in the Union for a party or event?
Yes. Check out our Room Hire page, and if you've got any more questions, please just pop into the office.
I like working in the Society's Library, but couldn't find a photocopier. Is one available?
Yes, a photocopier is available in the office at a reasonable rate. The photocopier isn't located in the library to help keep things quiet.
I wanted to return a book to the Library, but it was closed the last time I was in the building. Is there another place I can return my books?
If the library is closed, books can be returned via the office.
Will the office send a fax for me?
Members can send faxes for reasonable rates by speaking with one of the office managers. If you let us know ahead of time, we can also receive a fax for you and will hold in the office for collection.
Can we get Wi-Fi Internet access for the building?
We have done!
Where can I get a cup of coffee?
You can get percolator coffee from the office, when it is open, or a variety of teas and coffees from the bar in the evening.
The bar doesn't do my favourite cocktail! Can I ask?
The Society maintains a well stocked bar and although we don't have everything the bar manager will be happy to prepare your special request provided that the ingredients are in stock.

Running the Union

I'm a reporter and would like to obtain press access to your upcoming event and interview one of your guests. Is that possible?
The Society is happy to assist members of the press, provided requests are made and cleared in advance. Those wishing to obtain a press pass to an event should contact the Press Secretary. Reporters or photographers appearing without prior notice may be refused entry. Requests to interview guests of the Society should be directed to the Press Secretary and will be accommodated when possible provided that the guest is agreeable to such requests. Additionally, photographers are asked to respect the directions of the Press Secretary concerning shooting locations during our events. Pool photographs may be available for some events. The Press Secretary can be contacted at press@cus.org or by phone via the office.
I'm a historian and have an interest in some of the records that I think the Society might have. Can you help me?
Some of the Society's historical records are stored in our building, but many of the more valuable and much older records are stored and maintained by the Cambridge University Library (UL). For information on records held in the Society's building, please contact the Librarian & Archivist, Catherine Wise, at librarian@cus.org who will be happy to assist. Records held by the UL may be accessed in accordance with their standard access procedures.