“We don’t feel safe”: Students plan to boycott Manchester clubs over drink spiking


Students in Manchester are planning to boycott nightclubs next week, demanding spikings are taken seriously.

It comes after a string of young women reported having their drinks spiked in the city centre and Fallowfield.

The nationwide protests are set to take place throughout the week, with Manchester students boycotting clubs on October 27 in a bid to force venues to increase safety measures.

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Police are investigating after three girls fell ill at Ark nightclub on Deansgate Locks last month.

And students have told the Manchester Evening News they “don’t feel safe” in nightclubs.

Emily Bennett, 19, who is one of the boycott leaders, said; “Obviously, we’re concerned by the rise of spiking.”

The Liberation and Access Officer at the University of Manchester’s Students’ Union added: “People need to feel safe going out and people doing the spikings need to know they can’t, that venues won’t accept it.

“The number of emails we’ve had from students saying ‘we don’t feel safe’ and don’t feel safe to go out.”

Emily Bennett, 19, Liberation and Access Officer at the University of Manchester’s Students’ Union

The boycott, which has been gaining momentum on Instagram under the account girlsnightinmanc , is spearheaded by the University of Manchester’s Students’ Union.

Emily said: “We’d like a response from Manchester Combined Authority, from Andy Burnham and Sacha Lord. We want to see them put measures in place.

“We want to see them funding anti-spiking devices, making it really clear that they don’t accept spiking. We want clear policies in place.

“To have policies and procedures and try their best to catch the people spiking, and to know that there is support for those spiked.”

More than 30 universities from across the UK have joined the boycott next week.

Following reports of spiking by needles in Nottingham, a petition calling for it to be a ‘legal requirement’ for nightclubs to ‘thoroughly’ search customers upon arrivial has been signed by more than 130,000 people.

Student Zara Owen, 19, told the BBC that she believes she was spikied through an injection on a night out in Nottingham.

Zara blacked out shortly after arriving at a nightclub and later found a pin prick in her leg.

Burnham: ‘It’s completely off the scale’

Speaking to Mike Sweeney on BBC Radio Manchester this week, Andy Burnham discussed the issue of drinks being spiked.

He said: “It’s just completely off the scale.

“This thing is about again women and girl’s safety, you know, I’ve said before Mike, my daughters tell me some of the things that happen when they’re on nights out and it’s just it’s ridiculous.

“We thankfully, I’ve checked with GMP, haven’t had many reports of this. Although there were some in the Fallowfield area at the time when the students were coming back to university.

“There was about five reports of drinks being spiked and we have looked into that.”

The Mayor of Greater Manchester then spoke passionately about how this issue is ‘one for the men’.

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Saying: “If you are aware of any mate of yours, or so called mate who does that, you should call them out immediately and if they won’t stop it you go to the police. It’s simple as that.

“I am aware of it having happened in my own sort of circles and it’s not right. I mean what kind of bloke in their right mind sees that behaviour kind of going on and thinks ‘oh well I’ll just turn a blind eye to that’.

“If you’re aware that someone you knows takes a syringe out with them… words completely fail me.

“This one’s for the men. This one’s for the boys. Get a grip, sort this out, don’t tolerate it. You know, we’ve all got mums, we’ve all got sisters, we’ve all got daughters. This, this is on us this one. Not on women, this is on us.

“Clubs do have to do more, so do men and boys.”

Afzal Khan, MP for Gorton, shared a statement on Twitter in which he called the reports of drink spikings in Manchester ‘deeply worrying’.

The MP went on to say: “Although everyone should be vigilant, these assaults are predominately targeted at women and are a particularly insidious element of the violence against women endemic in our society.

“All women in Manchester should be able to enjoy a night out safely and without fear, and it is particularly revolting that people are choosing to prey on young people away from home for the first time.

“It is important that Greater Manchester Police, the universities, and venues, take concrete action to protect women and support survivors.

“I have asked the police district commander for Manchester to provide me with an update on the actions they will be taking.

“However, I have been clear that ‘undercover cops’ in bars is not the way forward and does not foster trust between the police and the civilian population.

“It is also imperative that when the Police and Crime Bill returns to the Commons, the government support any amendment that makes misogyny a hate crime.”

‘Boycott is a good idea’, students say

Other students in the city also feel like the boycott is a good idea to get club owners to do more to help protect partygoers.

Anya Whelan, 18, a student at Manchester Metropolitan University based in Chorlton-on-Medlock, said: “It’s a good idea.

“It will make the clubs realise that they’re not doing enough.

Anya Whelan, a student at Manchester Metropolitan University, thinks the boycott will raise awareness
Anya Whelan, a student at Manchester Metropolitan University, thinks the boycott will raise awareness

“It’s definitely on my mind that I might get spiked. I definitely avoid getting drinks in clubs.

“Doing it on a Wednesday night makes sense. It’s more of a student night than a Saturday.

“It will raise awareness, it will get people talking.”

Morgan Hall, 19, who studies at Manchester Metropolitan University, doesn’t feel safe in clubs at the moment.

She said: “It doesn’t feel safe if you’re in a club and a girl.

Morgan Hall studies at Manchester Metropolitan University and doesn’t feel safe in clubs at the moment.
Morgan Hall studies at Manchester Metropolitan University and doesn’t feel safe in clubs at the moment.

“I know someone who was spiked by a bartender, but it isn’t just women being spiked.

“I’ve heard people saying they’ll treat the boycott as a lads night out. But men get spiked too.”

The original post on girlsnightinmanc described the boycott as a ‘awareness campaign targeted at men’, but Morgan believes this conversation should include everyone.

She said: “There should be a conversation about it, it’s not an attack on men.

“I’m passionate about feminism but this should include men.”

Clubs and bars across the city have been making an effort to inform and support customers when it comes to drink spiking.

Posters inside 42nd Street nightclub in Manchester warn about the dangers of drinks being spiked
Posters inside 42nd Street nightclub in Manchester warn about the dangers of drinks being spiked

42nd Street nighclub on Bootle Street has imformative posters explaining the signs of drink spiking and how to help someone who has been spiked.

Meanwhile 256, on Wilmslow Road in Fallowfield, offers ‘anti-drug bottlestops’ and lids for drinks.

Councillor Rabnawaz Akbar, executive member for neighbourhoods, said: “Manchester is duly recognised for its superb night-time economy but that reputation is nothing unless we can guarantee the safety of people who enjoy it.

“The Council works with a range of partners across the sector to ensure the wellbeing of everyone who enjoys what Manchester has to offer and takes very seriously any threats to public safety.”

GMP statement

Greater Manchester Police offered this statement on the recent reports of spikings in Manchester:

A spokesperson said: “Detectives are investigating several reports of drinks being spiked in the Fallowfield area of Manchester and people can expect to see extra patrols in the area this weekend visiting pubs and bars.

“As well as increased patrols to target offenders, GMP will be also providing advice through its social media channels on how people can better protect themselves from having their drinks spiked and enjoy a safe night out.

“A woman reported on 29 September 2021 that her drink had been spiked the night before in a bar in Fallowfield.

“The incident is believed to have happened between 11:30pm and 00:30am.

“GMP is aware of five incidents of drinks being spiked in Fallowfield on three dates – September 5, 28/29 and 29/30.

“The victims are all females and all displayed the same symptoms including vomiting. All the victims are being supported by specialist GMP officers.”

Detective Inspector John Robb, of GMP’s City of Manchester south division, said: “Drink spiking is a horrible experience for anyone, but we are starting to see that women are being targeted in this area and therefore we will be increasing our presence to help protect people and prevent these crimes.

“We are working with the bar and the University of Manchester, and will have officers on patrol to catch these offenders and ensure everyone has advice and guidance on how best to keep themselves safe when enjoying their night out.

“We encourage everyone on a night out to have fun, but remain alert and if anyone sees anything suspicious to report it to us right away.

“Whilst we will do all we can to tackle this, we recommend taking preventative measures too, such as not leaving your drink unattended and never accepting a drink that you haven’t seen being prepared.

“If you suspect you have been spiked, seek medical advice and report it to the police as soon as you can.

“Any reports we have of drink spiking will be taken seriously and the more information we have about these kind of incidents the more we can build a bigger picture and target those responsible.

“We hope everyone in Manchester enjoys their time here, and it’s our job to help make sure that happens.”

Anyone with information should call police on 0161 856 6063 quoting incident 1795 of 29/09/2021.

Information can also be reported online or by using the Live Chat function at www.gmp.police.uk.

If you can’t report online, call 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

These are some of the things experts suggest to help when in a club:

  • Never accept a drink from a stranger
  • Use a drink stopper if drinking from a bottle
  • If drinking from a glass, try to cover it with your hands

If you believe a friend has been spiked, this is how you can help them:

  • Tell a bar manager, bouncer or member of staff
  • Stay with them and keep talking to them
  • Call an ambulance if their condition deteriorates
  • Don’t let them go home on their own
  • Don’t let them leave the venue with someone you don’t know or trust
  • Try and prevent them from drinking more alcohol

Greater Manchester Combined Authority and Sacha Lord have been contacted for comment.

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