For many of the untold thousands of fresh-faced Freshers (trying saying that after a few drinks) who have just descended upon Nottingham, this week offers the opportunity to let one’s hair down and go a little mental. The focus might be on having fun, but Freshers Week doesn’t just pop into existence, all over Nottingham there are hundreds of people working diligently behind-the-scenes to help it run smoothly. One such group is the Street Pastors, and on Monday night I joined them to help uncover a bit about the ‘other side’ of Freshers Week.
You’ve probably heard of the Street Pastors – they’re an international Christian organisation run by volunteers, and is devoted to looking after people whose night’s out have taken a turn for the worst. They don’t evangelise or talk about religion, their focus is purely on caring for those who need it. You can often find them outside clubs, distributing water and haribo to those in need. They also deliver first aid, transport the uber-pissed home (or to hospital) and occasionally break up fights. It’s not for the faint hearted.
I was a little apprehensive about joining them for a night – I mean, I had been warned to wear old clothes due to the likelihood of projectile vomit. Still, in the name of journalism I journeyed into the city centre to meet them, dressed in an old jumper and the world’s ugliest trackies. There were six of us in total, being led by the founder of the Nottingham Street Pastors, Jo Cox-Brown. After a brief pep talk we filled some backpacks with as much useful stuff as possible and hit the streets.
Within thirty seconds of starting out, a lone, completely rat-arsed student collapsed in front of us. After helping him to his feet, Jo did her best to help him on his way. He returned the favour by being totally abusive, and trying to convince me to abandon the Street Pastors and go partying. I wasn’t tempted, he was basically a knob. After twenty minutes of enduring his twattyness, he was eventually coaxed into a taxi. A good start.
At about 11 we headed towards Rock City, where the night had begun to claim its first victims. We helped one poor bastard empty his guts into a bin bag, as he kept telling us how sorry he was. The vomit was obviously not great, but at least he had the good grace to feel bad about it. He wasn’t alone in his misery though, dotted about were students slumped in their old school uniforms, each presumably making a mental note to pace themselves a bit better next time.
I stayed with the team until 2:00, as they went from club to club. Jo was full of stories of really bad nights, but Monday seemed almost serene in comparison. The small army of Week One Reps were doing a brilliant job of looking after the fledgling first years, and so the Street Pastors were not desperately in need. Once the week is through, and the Reps have slipped away though, the team is going to be very busy.
Before I went out with them, I had wanted to write a mildly sarcastic article about the Street Pastors, but I just can’t do it. They were just too bloody inspiring. It takes a special sort of person to volunteer for this job, spending night after night caring for the pissed and rowdy is not something most people are cut out for. If you see them on a night out, take the time to say thank you – they deserve your appreciation.