With Cheltenham Festival now over, it seems appropriate to talk about safety in our Night Time Economy (NTE).
Last week, we saw over 250,000 visitors. Given it is now two years since the public were allowed to attend, record levels of attendance were expected, so I anticipated that the town centre would be very busy at night.
With Covid on the wane, it is great that life is starting to get back to normal. Business certainly needs all the opportunities that the Festival offers and it is vital for our local economy that everything ran smoothly and people felt safe when out and about.
We know, from a Borough Council survey, that 75% of women don’t feel safe at night during race week. That is one reason I spent time last Saturday evening patrolling our streets with Cheltenham Street Pastors, Cheltenham Guardians and our local police. Let me say up front, that I was hugely impressed by all three agencies and our visitors and residents should feel reassured that their safety is our number one priority.
The Street Pastors and Guardians are all volunteers, who regularly turn out on Friday and Saturday nights.
The Pastors, an international faith-based organisation, hand out free flip flops to ladies tired of wearing their heels, sweep up broken glass to prevent nasty injuries, offer panic alarms to vulnerable women, comfort the homeless and use their secret weapon – lolly pops – to lighten the mood in conflict situations!
The Guardians are also well motivated to help the vulnerable and are primarily a female-focussed group that can rapidly move to trouble hotspots within the Town, calming violent offenders and providing comfort to victims. Both groups are universally admired by those who see them in action, while our police also welcome the safety net they provide.
Women, in particular, should feel reassured that the authorities are doing all they can to address their concerns, with things like anti-spiking operations at popular clubs to protect the vulnerable and deter criminal behaviour.
I would also recommend that all women who use the NTE, download our FLARE app, which allows you to report anonymously any unwanted sexual behavior. That information will help the police to target public areas where women feel most at risk, so that everyone can enjoy the Festival and feel safe in our night time community.