As many people are gearing up for New Year’s celebrations, one Barrow community group is preparing for a busy few weeks.
Barrow Street Angels is dedicated to providing support and care to party goers out on the town in the early hours of the weekend.
Each Saturday night, a group of six volunteers venture out on to the streets of Barrow to offer help to those revellers who are in need of assistance, from providing flipflops to women no longer wishing to walk in their high heels to using lollypops as a way of diffusing arguments.
Meeting around midnight, the group of volunteers stock up on water, flip flops and lollypops. Before heading out, we stopped for a short prayer, asking for everyone in Barrow to have a safe night.
The volunteers are all in jovial spirits as we head out in to the night; party goers recognise the signature orange jackets and wave or come over for a chat.
As we turn on to Cavendish Street, two young ladies stop to tell the Street Angels “you do so much for the everyone who goes out in Barrow, so thank you for that.”
The compliments and messages of thanks continue throughout the night, with some people wanting to know more about the group and others asking where they can get involved and volunteer.
The Street Angels have been volunteering in Barrow for just over a year now, with the first group going out Saturday October 7, 2017.ver for Lollypops or bottles of water.
Jonny Harrison, who has been a volunteer for Street Angels since the group was created, said: “Since we started going out, we’ve seen less and less incidents during the night.”
As the night continues, the streets become busier and the crowds become increasingly lively. You can hear minor arguments breaking out between groups of friends, but even the sight of the street angels seems to calm the situation down.
A calm “is everything ok?” and offers of lollypops and water soon dissolve any animosity and the conversations soon return to how much everyone appreciates what the group does.
One young lady calls from across Cavendish Street and rushes over to thank the Street Angels for helping her order a taxi on a previous weekend. She said: “Knowing you guys are out makes me and my friends feel a lot safer on a night out. It’s good to there’s always someone to help.”
Street Angels was set up by Reverend Sophie Carnaby. As Police Chaplain to South Cumbria Police, she was aware of the pressure placed on police and other emergency services every weekend to make sure the party goers of Barrow enjoy themselves without getting into trouble.
Rev Carnaby said: “We offer flip flops to women who might need them, we also give out lollypops to people in an effort to diffuse aggressive situations.
“We’ve found they work very well as a means of calming down these kinds of situations. You offer someone a lollypop they often forget what they were angry about, even if they don’t, it’s very difficult to stay angry at someone else when they’re standing sucking on a lollypop.”
Rev Carnaby said she hopes the group can help Barrow party goers to stay safe. She said: “We just want people to enjoy their nights out and get home safely.
“We walk people home and call family members to come collect them if it is required.
“We also take on the responsibility of calling for ambulances if it is really necessary.”
Rev Carnaby smiled as she recollects a man who wanted to go to hospital because he was burping too much. She said:
"We reassured him if he drank his beer more slowly things would be fine and he was soon on his way.
“Our real aim is to reduce the stress on the emergency services in order to allow them to go deal with the real issues.”
Barrow Street Angels' work supporting the emergency services has been praised by Barrow Police.
Inspector Jim Bailey said: “Anybody who volunteers to contribute to the community and helps make it better is doing a great thing.
“These people are volunteers. They are coming together to contribute out of their own goodwill.
“They have helped contribute to making sure people in Barrow have a safe night out.
“We work very closely with them and we support them at any opportunity we can.
“These are people coming forward and helping the community.”
For Rev Carnaby, Barrow Street Angels' work is as much for the people as it is for emergency services.
She said: “At the end of the day we’re not just there to support the emergency services, we’re there to support the people.
“If our work means more people get to sleep in their own beds rather than in A&E or a jail cell, then that’s great."
“We care about our town and those who live here.”
Anyone interested in joining Street Angels should go to their Facebook page.