Tonight, large numbers of women across the UK will be staying at home to boycott nightclubs on what is typically the biggest student night out of the week.
Others will come together in protest, with many joining in Manchester’s St Peter’s Square at 7 pm as part of an End Spiking Now demo.
Called for by local groups under the initiative ‘Girls Night In‘, the boycott is a part of wider protests against drink spiking in clubs and bars. It also follows a worrying increase in needle spikings, with a new epidemic seeming to sweep across the UK in recent weeks.
Needle spikings have recently been reported in areas close to Manchester including Liverpool, Nottingham, and Preston, with women injected without their knowledge or consent in what The New York Times termed a “horrifying variation of dropping pills into drinks.”
Whilst violence against women is not a new phenomenon, a number of high-profile violent murders and assaults of women including Sarah Everard, Blessing Olusegun, and Sabina Nessa has put the need for better safeguarding firmly back on the front page this year.
However, with Prime Minister Johnson already having blocked Home Office plans to make public sexual harassment a crime this month, it’s clear that more pressure still needs to be added in order for those with the power to enact real change.
By way of response to the increase in needle spiking reports, this week – as well as organising the boycott – women have launched a petition calling on the government to make it a legal requirement for nightclubs to thoroughly search guests on entry.
Protestors in Manchester have also penned an open letter to Andy Burnham and other leaders at Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA), setting out demands including that GMCA provides bars and nightclubs with anti-spiking devices, enforce more staff training, and create a toolkit for women detailing measures venues should have in place in order to be licensed.
The group would also like to see designated employees on hand to deal with problems of spiking and harassment, as well as for venues to produce their own clear procedures on how to deal with such incidents.
The key focus is for women’s safety to be made more of a priority and for this to be clear to both staff and customers who are visiting any venue in Manchester.
There are already some organisations in Manchester doing work in this direction, including Jamina Wittke’s safeguarding group Safety Always For Everyone – set up this year following the tragic murder of Sarah Everard by Met policeman Wayne Couzens.
Working alongside Manchester club night HIT&RUN for its events at Hidden and Mint Lounge, SAFE team members are identifiable by a pink Hi-vis jacket.
If you are feeling vulnerable or unsafe for whatever reason, you can approach them for a chat or ask to be taken to a safe place. SAFE also has posters up at the venues with a mobile you can text if you find yourself in a particularly tricky situation.
Initially set up by Jamina to help safeguard people when leaving the club and make sure that everyone has a safe way to get home, SAFE volunteers do their best to ensure that clubbers aren’t “leaving with people they don’t know, or stumbling off into the darkness alone.”
“I feel that if people know we are around, they may think twice before spiking someone, or preying on somebody who is too intoxicated to make their own choices or give consent,” she tells us.
“Employing people inside the clubs solely for the purpose of safeguarding would be very effective, this is our goal eventually,” Jamina adds.
Asked what more can be done to increase safety in venues, she said: “I believe scanning IDs is a very effective way to monitor who is coming in and out the club, and if someone is a threat, they can be barred much more effectively.”
She also tells us, “There’s a cool company called nightcapit, which makes scrunchies that also double as a spiking preventative you put over your drinks, this is such a good idea and I do believe is a good investment.
“It’s [just] a shame the responsibility is on women to safeguard themselves rather than those doing the spiking.”
Another female-led initiative that has rallied in the wake of increasing reports of violence against women is Right to Walk MCR, set up by marketeers Emily Sutton and Rebekah Spratt earlier this year.
The pair, who both work closely with hospitality venues, agree that more needs to be done – adding that both bars and nightclubs need to be working with the GMP to ensure correct and thorough measures are in place.
“Spiking has always been a historical problem and one we are all far too aware of, however, the recent development of spiking with needles is incredibly disturbing and shows that so much more needs to be done to keep people safe on a night out,” said Emily.
“It’s been amazing to see several Manchester venues using their voice to show their outrage […] Overall though we need to see more venues speaking up.”
“Considering Manchester has some big venues such as the WHP, this really should be at the forefront of their minds – what are they going to do to keep people safe? More needs to be said and action needs to be taken.”
“Prevention is key, not looking to stop a problem that is already spiraling out of control. Victims who do come forward have also historically been disbelieved and it’s led to the perpetrator continuing their devious work. This simply MUST stop, all victims should be listened to.”
On the subject of improving safety, Rebekah also tells us about how she is working with an intelligent app called Help Me Angela, which she describes as “a sort of ‘guardian angel'” that is “connected to its own collection of safety call-centres (much like 999), safety hubs (for example, if you find yourself being stalked or in danger) and other information points.”
“Unlike the ‘Ask For Angela’ poster campaign, HMA as a company will ensure that all venues who work with the app are fully trained. From front of house to doorstaff. ‘Ask For Angela’ fell into shortcomings around this.
Both founders advocate for rapid testing, which has already been adopted by a couple of Manchester bars since the boycott was announced last week
First Street bar Bunny Jacksons (which also has another site on Oldham Street) shared today that they have already ordered their testing kits and are organising extra training for staff and door staff
“You’ll see some posters going up with advice and hopefully reassurance,” the bar’s Facebook post added.
However, these are just the beginnings of small steps starting to be made in the right direction.
Whichever way you look at it, it’s clear from speaking to numerous women that this disturbing spate of incidents has left many women in the country feeling less safe than ever – and more needs to be done.
Following the horrific murder of marketing executive Everard by Met police officer Wayne Couzens, who today lodged an appeal in court attempting to contest the whole-life sentence he was handed for abusing his position in order to commit the crime, trust in police is also at an all-time low and desperately needs to be repaired.
“There are countless stories of girls who have been spiked – but not believed – which is incredibly dangerous, as it creates missed opportunities into learning how or who is committing the act in the first place. It also means many cases go unreported,” says Rebekah.
“Once the cases are taken more seriously by all, I think we’ll start to see the change so desperately needed.”
Feature image – Impossible
Army ‘on standby’ as UK prepares for more postal, rail, lecturer and nurses strikes in December
The armed forces are said to be “on standby” to help fill various roles ahead of a new raft of strikes across health, education and postal sectors this month.
Royal Mail workers, university lecturers and sixth-form college staff are committed to walking out over pay disputes on Wednesday, 30 November as various organised strikes persist across the country.
Countless employees from various industries who feel they are underappreciated and underpaid are set to join the ongoing rail strikes, as well as the thousands of nurses expected to follow suit on the picket line throughout December.
Now, as per the interim chief executive of NHS Providers Saffron Cordery, given the strikes’ proximity to Christmas, roping in the British military now seems likely. Dr Emma Runswick of the British Medical Association said there is there a simple way to put an end to mass industrial action: pay people fairly.
Speaking to Sky News on Thursday morning, Cordery confirmed that while the army is waiting in the wings to help fill relevant NHS roles, “the reality is if the army or other armed forces step in it will very much be at the margins rather than going out and driving ambulances”.
It remains unclear whether army personnel will be needed to combat the impending labour shortage across other industries. Regardless, the Communication Workers Union are going ahead will a series of strikes in December.
Having formally called on Royal Mail employees to join the national demonstrations for strike action on the following days:
Friday, 9 December
Sunday, 11 December
Wednesday, 14 December
Thursday, 15 December
Friday, 23 December
Saturday, 24 December
As for rail workers, RMT Assistant General Secretary Eddie Dempsey shared a similar sentiment, assuring that while the train drivers and the transport sector, in general, are standing firm, negotiations with Network Rail and other operators continue this week.
In addition to RMT members across 14 rail companies striking on 13-14 and 16-17 December, as well as 3-4 and 6-7 January, the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA) said that staff working onboard and station roles will take action against Avanti West Coast on 13, 14, 16 and 17 December.
Meanwhile, the National Education Union (NEU) which represents 77 sixth-form colleges in England are also striking over pay, stating that in real terms, teachers have suffered a pay cut of around 20% since 2010.
Furthermore, the University and College Union (UCU) already held a 48-hour strike last week and is now set to hold another 24-hour walkout among university staff. As well as organising a large rally in London, union members across at least 150 different institutions will be joining the December strikes.
Look around brand new Coronation Street set as ITV unveils Weatherfield Precinct
The Coronation Street set has had a massive expansion, with a new Weatherfield Precinct unveiled today.
The location has often been name-checked in the popular soap, but for the first time, cast members will be able to film scenes there.
The set won’t hit our screens until 13 January – but The Manc headed down for a little sneak peek.
The two-storey Weatherfield Precinct set is built around a children’s play park, with a row of shops carefully constructed by the Coronation Street set designers.
There’s everything from a charity shop to a Chinese takeaway to a dessert bar.
Above the shops sits a row of maisonettes with a balcony running in front.
There’s incredible attention to detail throughout, from the litter on the floor (which includes a packet of a fictitious crisp brand) to the fake sausage rolls in the bakery windows to the washing lines nailed to the walls.
Everything has been deliberately weathered and aged, so it looks like it’s been there for decades rather than carefully built in 2022.
The new Weatherfield Precinct set was unveiled today by members of the cast including Jack P Shepherd, Sally Dynevor, Antony Cotton, Jimmi Harkishin, Daniel Brocklebank, Channique Sterling-Brown, Elle Mulvaney, Tanisha Gorey, James Craven and Colson Smith.
It’s been added as an extension to the existing iconic set, which spans 7.7 acres near MediaCityUK.
Producer Iain MacLeod said: “Hats off to our design and construction teams who have conjured a totally convincing new precinct for our drama! They took their inspiration from Salford’s many real-world, late 20th century shopping areas and what they have created is a brilliant, characterful space to tell a diverse range of stories.
“Expect to see teens hanging out at the dessert shop, families enjoying the play area and, after dark, a rogues’ gallery, up to shady business in the ginnels. I am really excited by the arrival on screen of this much discussed but never seen corner of the Weatherfield universe.”
Head of design Rosie Mullins explained the process: “Back in 2013 Coronation Street moved into its new home at Media City. With this move came exciting potential to continue to develop and expand our Weatherfield Community onsite.
“The first expansion came in the form of Victoria Street and Weatherfield Police Station builds back in 2018.
“In February 2021 I set about the first pencil drawings for a very exciting new exterior build – Weatherfield Precinct. We have often heard about this precinct and although we have filmed over the years at a range of shopping locations, we had never established our own Weatherfield Precinct.
“It had always intrigued me – what would it look like and who would we find there? The opportunity to bring to life a colourful and grittier area of Weatherfield was so exciting!
“Weatherfield Precinct was inspired by the 1960s shopping precincts that we see across many areas of the UK. In designing this the team gathered hundreds of images with a particular focus given to those in our local Manchester and Salford area. I wanted there to be aspects of the Precinct that people from all walks of life identify with and recognise. I wanted it to reflect how communities develop but aspects of them can also feel like stepping back in time.
“In this Precinct we find an array of businesses, a playground, residential flats, a small ginnel, Weatherfield community hub and a very colourful community recycling centre.
“Working with Iain on what the writing team needs from the Precinct has meant that we have managed to pack so much into this new set! I cannot wait to see the arrival onscreen of Sweety Nuff dessert & milkshake shop, Gregory Pope Foundation Charity Shop, Rutlands bakery, Pound Outlet and Bargainanza Pawnbrokers.
“The most incredible part of this has been watching this build rise from a small car park with a mass of ugly steel, concrete and timber to the beautifully constructed, characterful 1960s 2 storey precinct that we see today.
“This build has been one of the most enjoyable builds that we have undertaken and showcases the many behind the scenes talents that the programme has to offer. I am incredibly proud of the detail, the quality of the build and for what it offers for future storytelling for the show. I am also so very proud of how it was brought to life by our in-house talented Design Team.”