Leeds freshers shun social-distancing as droves hit the town for first week of university term • Reading student said ‘we do love Leeds’

• Alisdair Leigh and a half-sister at Leeds university

More than 1,100 students appeared on the weekend social-distancing agency night-time pilot scheme to put freshers back in control as they headed to College Square to start their first days of university.

Alisdair Leigh, 18, saw students joining him in a back alleys as he went about his business, bag in hand, in Leeds city centre. “I love Leeds. I’ve lived here all my life and come to a school from Leeds,” he said. “I’ve always had kind of a hang-out moment going to the middle of the Square, chatting to a group of lads or a girl in a skirt and high heels, and as my head started clicking around, it started attracting the attention of students.”

Watching barbershops with haircuts, dresses with high heels – with men and women acting strangely, head dresses floating on the street – and making a dash for the town centre was a familiar event, he said.

By 10.30pm, Leigh had become rather enthusiastic about his beer, his girlfriend, and their get-together in the centre. “I went for it and asked the girls to cook for me,” he said. “It was very quiet. It was quite rare to hear anything at all, although sometimes the girls were talking in one ear and us singing songs in the other.

“I remember being completely engrossed in one of the alleys watching these lads with their moustaches trying to sing the national anthem.”

Dr Harjeet Kumar, a student at Leeds university at the time of the trouble, said the party had been good for a start to the freshers’ week. “Some of the boys had come from London, and then on to Oxford, Oxford, Cambridge, everywhere. I wouldn’t say we loved it, but at least they did a wee bit of partying, which is always very useful for the first week,” he said.

Lucy May-Jones, 19, attends Leeds college at the time and says she had to look out for men drunk and disorderly. “I just think it is good that those students that you meet during the week are not at a party, but only to see what’s going on during the week,” she said.

Alex Bruce, who studied at college the day of the student violence, said he had taken his girlfriend, now 21, to central Leeds after being affected by the riots in the capital, Newcastle and Manchester.

“I didn’t feel safe, so at least this was going to be great,” he said.