The Good Night Out Campaign was first brought to our attention during our conversation with Petrol Girls. A wildly simple but hugely effective initiative, Good Night Out aims to work directly with bars, clubs, pubs, bar staff, management, security – just about everyone involved in you and your friends night out – in an effort to push back against sexual harassment.
Already, the campaign has spread rapidly throughout London before making the jump to Ireland and Scotland. Then it caught on across the Atlantic, setting up in Chicago and hopping the border into Vancouver. By the looks of things, the campaign couldn’t have come at a better time. Venues across the world are beginning to implement their own techniques to encourage customers to report harassment. For example The Angel Shot, which when ordered a specific way will indicate to bar staff not only that harassment is taking place, but also how heated the specific situation is.
Fully aware of the intricacies of such situations, our own Courthouse Hotel in Newtown now has posters imploring customers to report harassment in exchange for a tactful and subtle exit. The response has been overwhelming and it suggests that we, as a nation, are sick to death of this shit.
As it turns out Good Night Out is already making moves to launch Down Under. We caught up with one of their champions Ester Van Kempen to learn more about the inner workings of the campaign.
The Neversphere: What are the origins of Good Night Out? Where did the idea come from?
Ester: Good Night Out was created in 2014 by Hollaback, an international organisation that’s fighting street harassment. They had been asked by the nightclub Fabric, which is one of the bigger ones here, to set up training for their staff on how to deal with someone disclosing harassment. So, we give the training and the handles for how to respond to harassment in a good manner.
It happens quite a lot when security is too busy, or someone wants to talk to a female member of staff but they get told that staff are too busy. Basically, the training is developed to have a simple “first approach” and make the person who experienced harassment feel comfortable.
The Neversphere: What was the context of London’s night time scene in 2014? What was the situation like that led to the creation of Good Night Out?
Ester: Well, it’s so big, isn’t it? We’ve trained over 100 venues but there are so many more to tackle. The UK is quite ‘Laddy’ – I’m not sure if that word means anything to you, but it might be quite similar. We had great success with Hollaback but when you go into the countryside or smaller cities there’s still a lot of harassment. In student bars too, the lad culture is quite bad – so it’s hard to tackle those parts.
The Neversphere: What was the initial response from venues to the campaign? I suppose signing up could be admitting that there’s a sexual harassment problem at that specific venue. Was there much hesitation at first, or did venues jump at the opportunity?
Ester: Well, Fabric asked for it and because Fabric is one of the bigger nightclubs, a lot of venues wanted to be like them and accepted that harassment is a problem. It’s like violence, there will be fights, and it’s something you can’t deny. But the venues come to us! We get emails every day saying ‘Can we please get the training? We would like to be part of this.’ They get a lot of good promotion too – they can say they’re part of the campaign.
So, actually I’d say it’s more the opposite response. It’s fine to admit [that you feel there’s a problem at your venue] and we don’t really focus on the negative part. We’ll never talk about ‘Oh this and that happened at this venue’ but we will make it known that they’ve signed up and you can have a safe night out there.
The Neversphere: Once venues reach out and sign up, what’s the next process? How does the training take shape?
Ester: Usually they come to us, or we get an email from a customer that experienced harassment, we’ll get in touch with the venue suggesting we can deliver the training. They will need to pay a donation but then we set a day and go down to the venue usually with two trainers.
In the training we talk a lot about what harassment is – because all types of things can be; it doesn’t have to be physical it can be someone staring or someone taking pictures without your consent. We want to make sure everyone is on board with what we’re talking about.
We talk about who experiences harassment; it’s important to point out that it’s mainly women or LGBTQ+. Then we go into depth on how to deal with someone disclosing harassment. They work in busy bars to it’s hard to break out of the atmosphere when a customer comes up to you. That’s what we talk to bar staff about but we also talk to management and door staff about when they kick someone out, how it usually goes or are there other ways to deal with the situation.
The Neversphere: It’d be interesting to hear about the trainer selection. How does someone become a trainer for Good Night Out and can anyone reach out to you if they’re interested?
Ester: Anyone can become a trainer, basically. It’s more about having the right attitude and an understanding of what harassment can mean to someone disclosing it. Here in London, we set up training dates and information nights, which are usually quite busy. People come in and ask questions and we talk about the training.
We work closely with a few student unions here that we’ve trained up. Then they took it to more universities and trained up more students. That works great because how many people can one person train? It’s better to spread!
The Neversphere: I imagine that ones the training takes hold, the venue will become a better place to go as a customer but also a better place to work for staff. Have you heard many success stories from the venues you work with yet?
Ester: It’s hard to stay in touch with everyone! However, in the area if live in London, the council paid for a lot of the training. So I go into one of the venues where the training has been given [as a customer] and, indeed, you can actually feel a different vibe.
I hear a lot of stories from the venues that once the Good Night Out campaign posters go up, there was an increase in people disclosing harassment. It says on the posters you can go up to staff and speak freely about it. So there’s an increase in disclosures but then afterwards it goes down quickly and the type of people who come to the venue is usually quite different. I don’t have any stats – that’s something we’ve been working now.
The Neversphere: It seems that the message to end harassment at venues is really catching on. I’m sure you’re aware of ideas like the Angel Shot and asking for Angela at the bar, so that must be a buzz to see it spreading!
Ester: Definitely! There are so many new organisations. Here in the UK we have 4 or 5 similar campaigns to Good Night Out. What we’re trying to do is make sure we’re all on the same page so venues don’t get three different trainings. All the organisations are in touch making sure we’re working in the same direction.
The Neversphere: You’ve already breached out across the UK and now Good Night Out is in the USA and Canada. Now that you’re taking the campaign abroad, are there any plans for Australia?
Ester: Yes! We’re working on Australia right now. We’ve had a lot of people email us from Australia saying ‘Hey, we want to have this campaign out here, how can we go about it?’.
So now we’ll be setting up within the next year or so.
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