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Campaign Launches to End Spiking in Manchester

Girls' Night In Manchester urges clubbers to boycott clubs until stronger action is taken to prevent spiking drinks. Now Then traces the campaign's origins and aims.

Nightlife has returned to the UK with clubs and bars reopening, but in what should be a celebratory time, a time for community and togetherness, reports of women being spiked have risen dramatically. In response to the issue, a group of students at the University of Edinburgh hatched a plan.

Martha Williams, a psychology and sociology student, came up with the Girls’ Night In campaign on 17 October, creating an Instagram account with her flatmates and posting, “Boycott all Edinburgh nightclubs to demonstrate that we are NOT comfortable going out in Edinburgh as long as nightclubs are enabling spiking”. I spoke to Martha’s flatmate and one of the co-founders of the group, Milly Seaford, to gather further insight into the campaign.

So, what was the catalyst for starting the campaign?

We’d seen a lot more spikings and heard about a lot more of them going on. One of our flatmates was actually spiked… but we weren’t seeing any action. No-one was doing anything about it, none of the clubs seemed bothered and we were seeing the same stories over and over again of people of all genders being put in vulnerable situations, and we felt enough is enough.

Milly Seaford, co-founder of Girls' Night In

In a testament to how desperately unsafe and unheard club-goers up and down the country have felt in the past few months, the movement quickly caught momentum with other cities starting up their own Girls’ Night In accounts. As Milly attests, “We made it on the Sunday night […] when we woke up the next morning we had 1,500 and from there it’s just blown up. We now have over 40 cities getting involved in the boycott.” Some account owners such as the feminist society at St Andrews have chosen to rename their campaign as Big Night In, to highlight both how all genders are affected by spiking and how important it is for everyone to contribute to the boycott. Milly was quick to assure me that the name was chosen originally to represent how women are predominantly affected by spiking, but that the campaign seeks to represent everyone and ensure everyone’s safety.

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Girls' Night In is urging people to boycott dancefloors on Wednesday 27 October.

Ged Camera

The exec students at the University of Manchester have remained in solidarity with the original campaign name and are calling for a boycott of clubs and bars on 27 October as well as hosting a protest in St Peter’s Square, writing, “We will be using the momentum of this boycott to influence local politicians and club owners to make tangible changes.”

Via Manchester Students Group, a popular Facebook group for students in the Greater Manchester Area, students have warned of being spiked at a range of venues, from smaller establishments like the karaoke bar Orchid to huge-scale events, such as Warehouse Project at the Mayfield Depot. Eight women in the past few weeks alone have come forward to report being spiked whilst between 5 and 30 September five women reported to Greater Manchester Police that their drinks had been spiked at a bar in Fallowfield.

Across the country, there have also been reports of club-goers being spiked by injection, although there have been no reported cases in the Greater Manchester area thus far. Misinformation regarding spiking via injection and the subsequent likelihood of catching HIV has also spread like wildfire, prompting the National AIDS Trust to post a response:

Online rumours someone was diagnosed with HIV shortly after a needle injury are demonstrably false. Getting HIV from a needle injury is extremely rare. A diagnosis takes weeks.

National AIDS Trust

Whether through the ‘traditional’ method of spiking drinks or via injection, the necessity for action and change is evident. The few who have criticised the campaign have done so suggesting that the movement is negatively impacting the nightlife industry which has already suffered due to the pandemic. Milly, on behalf of the campaign, was quick to refute this by stating, “Something hugely important to us and something that I want to reiterate is that we’re not anti-clubs. We want to work with clubs. We are simply saying that we want to feel safe and that these are some changes to make so that everyone can enjoy clubbing.” This sentiment has been reflected in the action taken by Manchester clubs 42nd Street and The Venue, both of which will close their doors on 27 October in solidarity with the campaign.

Beyond the boycott, a letter to the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) has been written, outlining the steps that could be taken to help prevent spiking. These steps include training staff to deal properly with disclosures; implementing policies to not simply remove those who have been spiked from the premises, but ensuring that they have proper medical attention; running background checks on staff and ensuring that all CCTV is functioning on the premises. Calls for working CCTV and more streetlights in Manchester are nothing new, as the University of Manchester’s Reclaim the Night campaign has petitioned for these to be implemented in both 2020 and 2019.

All of these measures demanded by the Girls’ Night In movement will hopefully be heard by the council and help to protect us all and enable the thriving and diverse nightlife that Manchester has to offer. But, as Milly articulated, “What we really need to see happen is the culture around spiking shift. For so long victims have been blamed and we have been taught how we should be looking out for ourselves when, in reality, we need venues to take action and for reports of spiking to be taken more seriously.”

Other events such as banner making for the protest and film screenings afterwards are also being advertised on the social media page as alternates to a night out open to everyone on 27 October. With the campaign gaining national traction, including outrage expressed at the number of spikings from the Home Secretary, Priti Patel, it is hopefully only a matter of time before we see steps to make clubbers feel safe again and a shift in the dialogue around spiking.

Learn more

If you are looking to get involved in the campaign, the Manchester Girls’ Night In social media and open letter to GMCA are below, along with more information about the protest via End Spiking Now.

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