Social Life

Social life is very active at Downing, with plenty of student-run societies and places in College to meet with friends.

The Lord Butterfield café is a very popular space in the College and is where many of the College's social events take place. A café and meeting place during the day, this space becomes home to the JCR (undergraduate) bar in the evening.  More details can be found on the JCR website.

Academic Societies

Eight academic societies exist at Downing College, including The Cranworth Society, the largest student-run college law society in Cambridge, and the  Blake Society for Arts and Humanities, under its Patron the illustrator Sir Quentin Blake. The JCR website contains a comprehensive list of Downing's academic societies.


Downing College has earned a strong sporting reputation across many sports, though rowing and rugby have particularly strong associations, and former England cricket captain Mike Atherton is a Downing alumnus. The Griffins Club is the dedicated sporting society, which exists to promote participation and achievement in Downing sport. More information about all Downing's sporting societies can be found here.

The College provides excellent sporting facilities.  The spacious college grounds provide an open space for games, plus two tennis/basketball/netball courts and a multi-gym.  The Downing College sports ground, where football, hockey and rugby matches are played, is a short cycle ride away, as is the college’s state-of-the-art boathouse.


Cultural life is especially strong at Downing, with the outstanding facilities of the Howard Theatre and the recently opened Heong Gallery.  There is a strong music tradition in college, and a new organ was installed in 2015. Downing alumni have gone on to excel in a wide range of the arts, including former Tate gallery director Alan Bowness, comedian John Cleese, and actress Thandie Newton.

“Downing definitely works hard and parties hard – and with the bar and library so close together you can pretty much do both at the same time!” Matt, a mathmetician