Street Angels was launched in Halifax in November 2005 as a response by Churches Together and YMCA in the town to the problems around the nightlife. Violence, sexual assaults, under age and binge drinking meant the town was a no go area for many people. The project went from idea to reality in just over two weeks and had the full support of the town centre’s Police.
As the project became a success very quickly representatives from other towns and cities across the UK (and beyond) visited Halifax or spoke to the founder Paul Blakey about Street Angels. In July 2006 Watford Street Angels launched with Huddersfield Street Angels launching in October 2006 and Harrogate Town Pastors in December 2006.
By the end of 2007 thirteen towns were running Street Angel, or similar, projects with many more interested in setting up similar scheme and invitations were received for volunteers from Halifax to carry out talks in various conference events including Church, Police and Government networks.
In 2008 a vision was set to help establish a UK Network of night-time projects and so to launch this the first Christian Nightlife Initiatives Network conference was held in Halifax. With around fifty attendees from across the UK the project helped inspire and equip those running projects and helped several new projects to launch. The number of UK projects numbered thirty one by the end of 2008 with twenty nine more interested visits from towns and cities across the UK and around the world.
A further ten projects launched in 2009 and Street Angels - Christian Nightlife Initiatives was gaining momentum as a great way for the local church to make a difference within the local community at a time when help and assistance is most needed. The flexibility of the Street Angels model means that it can work in a small village where the problems are centred around young people sat in a park drinking to large cities where patrol projects are needed until the early hours of the morning.
Links were made in 2010 with NightLight Northern Ireland (set up in Belfast in 1995 as a response to needs in the night-time economy) and Street Chaplains, Dundee launched in 2000. Both these initiatives have become part of CNI Network.
In 2010 the year started with founder Paul Blakey receiving a MBE in the New Years Honours - this helped establish Street Angels - Christian Nightlife Initiatives and projects across the UK as a concept honoured at the highest level. In April 2010 Street Angels - Christian Nightlife Initiatives became its own charity with an aim to strengthen the national work of the organisation. Paul and Adam May, who was previously leading the Bedford expression, started to spend more time developing the network and supporting existing projects and helping new projects to start. Around sixty eight projects, that we know of, were working across the UK by the end of 2010 and the Paul and Adam spent much of the year establishing links with national Church and Police networks as well as MP’s and other organisations who can support some of the issues found within the night-time economy.
2011 has seen our links and work continue with five strands of the work of CNI were established:
Local projects - supporting, resourcing, helping new towns to launch and forming regional development workers;
Network - helping local projects link with the bigger picture and linking with other agencies;
National Influence - becoming a nationally recognised voice for faith and community projects working in the night-time economy;
Making The Difference - providing resources to equip people and groups and helping tell the story;
Love Your Streets - encouraging community and social action that all can do.
These five strands have helped us focus where God is taking CNI Network. We also held a reception at the Houses of Parliament with over 100 guests from local projects and partners.
In 2012 with over 100 local project operating, and with links made to projects in Northern Ireland, Tenerife and Australia, Street Angels - CNI was awarded the Big Society Award. Presented by the Prime Minister it is a testimony to the great work carried out week in and week out. In Summer Adam May left SA-CNI for pastures new and Paul stepped back from the work of Halifax Street Angels to head up the national work full time.
2013 saw an eBook launched which tells our amazing story and initiatives such as Club Angels (working inside club venues) and Festival Angels (working at major UK music festivals) increasing.
In 2014 Bedford Street Angels were featured on BBC 1's Songs of Praise with Diane-Louise Jordan interviewing Fred and Fran Gill and joining them on patrol and later in the year BBC 1's Street Patrol feature Croydon Club Angels. Our 'Volunteers are Amazing - Thank You' booklets and 2015:10 were launched at a reception at Lambeth Palace.
The future is unknown - like much of Christian Nightlife Initiatives God is in charge and much of we do is catch up with where God is taking us!
1995 - Presbyterian Church in Northern Ireland launch NightLight - initially in Belfast then spreading across NI 2000 - Street Chaplains Dundee launched 2001 - Church for the Night in Bournemouth launched 2005 - November 25th, Halifax Street Angels launched 2006 - June, Watford Street Angels launched; October Huddersfield Street Angels launched; December Harrogate Town Pastors launched 2007 - Duke of York's Community Initiative Award for Halifax Street Angels; 13 projects running with help from Halifax 2008 - July first conference and CNI Network launched; Halifax SA win Yorkshire and Humber Tilley Award (Home Office); 31 projects 2009 - A further 10 projects launched 2010 - Founder Paul receives MBE; April - SA-CNI becomes a charity; strategic links made; second conference; 68 local projects 2011 - Five strands set up to focus our work; Houses of Parliament reception; around 90 local projects 2012 - Big Society Award win with reception at Downing Street; international links made with Australia and Tenerife; 120 local projects 2013 - First weekend National Conference sees 45 local projects meet together; Street Angels launched in Majorca; 125 local projects 2014 - BBC 1's Songs of Praise feature our work in Bedford; BBC 1's Street Patrol features Club Angels Croydon; paperback is published 2014 - Launch of 2015:10 and Volunteer Thank You Booklet at Lambeth Palace