The Chronicle & Echo calls on bars and clubs to introduce Safe Places where women separated from friends can wait safely

We have all at some point had one too many while on a night out with friends.

Friday, 13th January 2017, 1:14 pm
Updated Friday, 13th January 2017, 1:47 pm
Bridge Street
Bridge Street

And we know how easy it is to become separated from your mates as a result. No doubt it has happened to many of us when we weren’t even drunk - bouncers can let some of our group into a bar, club or pub and not the others.

The resulting isolation can leave anyone feeling suddenly unsafe.

But those who feel the most vulnerable are women of all ages who want to spend a night in Northampton without being in fear of becoming a victim.

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Reclaim the Night held a march in Northampton on the issue of safe nights out

The Chron had been inundated with comments to this effect since early last year, but it was clear when, in December, we published a story on a new town centre club’s plans for a ‘safe room’ that the swell of feeling about safety in Northampton’s nightspots had not gone away.

This campaign is emphatically not a criticism of any woman who exercises her right to have a good time with friends. Rather, many people feel – and this newspaper agrees – that if you find yourself alone on a night out, you are entitled to the protection of the clubs and bars who invited you in and took your money.

So this year, the Chronicle & Echo is launching a campaign to introduce ‘Safe Places’ in Northampton pubs, clubs and bars to shelter women if they find themselves on the street alone, so they can be reunited with friends, or where they can wait for a taxi.

The campaign has already had the backing of the Northampton Street Pastors, which is a Christian group that voluntarily patrols Northampton at night, providing care for people in practical ways such as giving out footwear to drinkers who have lost their shoes.

Reclaim the Night held a march in Northampton on the issue of safe nights out

Richard Johnson, of Northampton Street Pastors, said: “We would be supportive of any action licensees can take to make sure people are as safe as they can be when they are enjoying a night out in Northampton. Assuming they were adequately supervised, this would include the provision of Safe Places.”

Our campaign is calling on the 14 establishments in the town centre that are open until after 1am to provide Safe Places for women to shelter in if they have lost their friends or find themselves feeling vulnerable.

But it is not just these women themselves who this would provide comfort to.

One concerned mum contacted the Chronicle & Echo after her daughter was refused entry into a nightclub because she was supposedly ‘too drunk’.

Reclaim the Night held a march in Northampton on the issue of safe nights out

Claudette Porter took to Facebook and drummed up support from residents of Northampton, calling on drinking establishments to provide a duty of care for women left on the street.

She said: “I had a situation where my daughter was thrown out of an establishment, she was on her own, very cold as it was mid-winter and frightened so she called me. I rang the club and pleaded with them to allow her inside until I could get her home - they were extremely reluctant.

“If drinking establishments could provide a room or an area where young girls could go it would create a safer world.”

Much is already done by venue managers in Northampton to make all their customers feel secure, but it can still feel unsafe for many reasons on nights out.

Reclaim the Night held a march in Northampton on the issue of safe nights out

This can be down to feeling vulnerable on a date, having a phone stolen or simply running out of battery.

The proposed Safe Places would provide a warm and well-lit haven for female party-goers, with water on hand and a seating area.

The room would also need to be well monitored with a member of staff on hand to call a taxi or a parent if needed.

Councillor, Anna King, cabinet member for community engagement at Northampton Borough Council has also given our campaign her backing

She said: “We support any action licensees can take to make sure people are as safe as they can be when they are enjoying a night out. We want an evening in Northampton to be as safe and welcoming as it can be for every visitor.”

Last month the Chronicle & Echo interviewed, Eden Stuijs, who launched Eden in St Peter’s Way, Northampton’s first nightclub to be equipped with a ‘safe room’.

The story was by far one of the Chron’s most-read stories of the year and sparked positive debate on our Facebook page from residents of the town.

Reader Hannah Evans said: “Having a Safe Place for those people to go instead of straying around the streets is a great idea.

“It could also be used for anyone too drunk to come in but who need somewhere to wait safely before they go home.

“Having a place they can wait, take on some water and call a taxi, friend or family member to collect them is being able to have more control over people’s safety ... it minimises the opportunity for those who prey on vulnerable people to not cause pain and upset.”

The 14 venues stretch from the Jekyll & Hyde on Wellingborough Road to Balloon Bar, NB’s, Revolution and Shoko on Bridge Street.

Lucy Randell, 21, of Rushden, who goes out often in Northampton, told the Chron that the idea of a ‘safe room’ was a great concept.

She said: “A safe area is such a good idea. Sometimes bouncers are too quick to get people out of clubs without thinking how much more vulnerable they are on the street.

“Clubs play on the drinking culture so much, they should definitely help out at the other end of the spectrum when we need their help on a night out, especially if you’ve lost your friends and are really drunk.

“The number of times I lost people on a night out and think if I had been a bit more drunk I definitely would have needed somewhere safe to go.”

The head doorman of one Northampton club, who wishes to remain anonymous, believes that the idea of any type of ‘welfare area’ is a significant step forward if there are sufficient numbers of staff responsibly monitoring the space.

He said: “A ‘welfare area’ in every club is a fantastic idea. If it’s done correctly with the proper training and management with collaboration from everyone in the night time economy – like venues, taxis, police, council and street pastors – it would make Northampton a safer place to go out in.

“It would hopefully be a good step in the right direction to prevent tragic incidents.”

The doorman expressed some reservations about how eager nightspot managers would be to open their wallets or take on the extra responsibility of looking after vulnerable people.

But Mr Stuijs and Eden nightclub show that the idea can be implemented relatively easily and, with a business hat on, has both made the club more popular and provided good public relations. There is no good excuse why others cannot do the same thing.

The reason why the Chron is pushing for Safe Places, however, is to protect and reassure women who want to relax and have fun without the fear of falling victim to criminals.

The number of mums and dads, brothers and sisters, nans and grandpas, who this simple measure would give comfort to must number in the thousands.

There are already some positive safety measures being taken in Northampton town centre but it doesn’t stop women or their families having the nagging fear that, one night, they may fall victim to a crime – trivial or life-changing – while at their most vulnerable.

Bars and clubs provide all sorts of facilities to keep their customers happy.

Providing a Safe Place inside drinking establishments could give peace of mind to an entire town.