Here To Listen: An Interview With Nottingham Nightline

University can be hard. One minute you’re living it up with your mates, the next you’re probably the loneliest you’ve ever felt. Impact Features’ Maddie De Soyza chatted with Anni, co-ordinator of Nightline, a student-led service that aims to provide all students at the University of Nottingham with someone to talk to during some of the best – and toughest – years of their lives.

What is Nightline and why do you think it’s so important?

“Nightline is a student-run listening and information service run by students at the University of Nottingham, founded in 1973. Although we mainly advertise ourselves to University of Nottingham students, we do not discriminate and will happily take calls from non-students. We take calls on a wide range of topics, from mental health and loneliness to financial concerns and relationship issues, and also deeper issues such as suicide.

We are open every single night of term from 7pm to 8am. Nightline is so important because we are open when other welfare support services are closed.

Everyone knows how hard university can be. The great thing about Nightline is that it is peer-to-peer; all our volunteers are students and therefore callers know that who they’re speaking to genuinely understands what they’re going through.”

What inspired you to join the Nightline team?

” Everyone thinks they know how to listen but it is actually a skill that goes beyond what most people assume”

“I joined the team five years ago, when I was in my second year studying English at the University of Nottingham. I got chatting to someone on the Nightline stand at the Freshers’ Fair and knew I also wanted to help other students, whilst meeting like-minded people on the team. It’s also great for CV-building. But more so than that, I think it’s really important to learn the skills that Nightline promotes: active listening and empathy. Everyone thinks they know how to listen but it is actually a skill that goes beyond what most people assume.”

As Co-ordinator of Nightline, what does your role involve?

“I’m in charge of making sure the service operates smoothly. It’s my second year in the role. We have a committee of 19 and I’m in charge of making sure they get the support they need. I work alongside our Support Co-ordinator, and together we make sure everything is running the way it should.”

How do you manage your role whilst also studying for a PhD?

“Nightline is quite a big time commitment, but our Committee is so fantastic that they get on with their roles without me having to do much. Now that this is my second year on the job I’ve got into the swing of balancing things!”

What makes volunteering for Nightline worthwhile for you?

“You know you’ve made an impact”

“For me it’s that feeling of going home at 8 o’clock in the morning and knowing you’ve maybe had no sleep, but because you answered the phone, somebody, somewhere had someone to talk to. Sometimes callers will thank you; sometimes they’ll simply end the call. But either way you know you’ve made an impact.”

What do you look for in potential volunteers?

“We look for a willingness to help others. We want people who can display an ability to listen effectively. You don’t need any prior experience or qualifications. The main thing that can be quite difficult for new recruits to get the hang of is the notion that we don’t give advice, we are only here to listen.”

What does the training involve?

“We recruit twice a year for new listening volunteers: in October and February. Training is 6 and a half weeks long. There are two big cohort events to begin with – with all the new volunteers – and then we break it down into smaller groups of around 6-8 volunteers. The smaller groups are then trained weekly by two experienced volunteers. They are educated on the wide range of topics we have to deal with, and we place a great deal of emphasis on how to be non-advisory and how to show empathy.

Publicity volunteers are welcome to join us anytime.”

Is Nightline night-time specific?

“During normal term-time, we operate 7pm-8am, but during Freshers’ week and exam periods we are open 24 hours a day. Our email service is open 365 days a year.”

What can I speak to Nightline about?

“Our volunteers are happy to help, and will always be completely non-judgemental”

“Absolutely anything! You can chat to us about anything on your mind – even if it’s the best place to get a pizza at 3 o’clock in the morning. Our volunteers are happy to help, and will always be completely non-judgemental. All our volunteers remain anonymous and every call is treated confidentially.”

Who else do you work with on campus?

“We are part of the Welfare Network, set up by Laura Bealin-Kelly, the University of Nottingham Student Union’s Equal Opportunities and Welfare Officer. We meet with other welfare organisations such as the Nottingham Night Owls, the LGBT network, the Disability Support team, and Student Minds. At these meetings we work collaboratively on different campaigns to promote the welfare and support available to University of Nottingham students.

Nightline itself is part of the national charity Nightline Association, which exists to support and promote Nightline services nationwide.”

How do you receive funding?

“From the SU. We also have two fundraising officers new this year to supplement our funding. They allow us to run publicity campaigns and to improve our training for new volunteers. They’re organising a Fun Run on 19th November – it’s £5 to take part and all proceeds go towards training our new volunteers.”

How can we find you?

“Our phone number can be found on the back of every student card for University of Nottingham students – 0115 951 4985. You can also text us on 07786208408.

You can find us on our website, where there is also an Instant Messaging service. Our email (open all year round) is nightlineanon@nottingham.ac.uk.

We have recently re-launched our PostSecrets campaign, in which you can submit a confession online – anonymously – and one of our design team will turn it into an image and put it on the website.

You can find us at various publicity events, such as the Freshers’ Fair. Every fortnight, we also go to Ocean so feel free to ask us any questions if you see us out and about.”


Maddie De Soyza

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Featured image courtesy the Nottingham Nightline Website. Permission given by Anni Bailey, Co-coordinator of Nightline.

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