Boozed-fuelled party goers are a common sight in many city centres on Friday and Saturday nights and over the festive season. As the number of people visiting Preston steps up, so does the amount of beer they drink.
This year for the first time volunteers from the British Red Cross have joined forces with the police to provide a late-night ‘nightsafe’ centre in the former Post Office building in Birley Street.
Street Pastors and ambassadors from Preston’s business improvement district are also involved.
The newly-created walk-in welfare station is open from 10.30pm until 4am between now and New Year’s Day, and will be available for party goers with minor injuries and ailments, in a bid to keep hospital Accident and Emergency departments free.
On Saturday night, around 30 people attended the welfare point, and they assisted others by patrolling the streets with officers
Emmanuelle Pennarun, British Red Cross event first aid co-ordinator, says: “Our highly trained Red Cross volunteers have been providing first aid and other support to revellers, helping people who are feeling unwell, have suffered minor injuries or more serious ones, or become distressed or disorientated.
“Together with partner agencies, on Saturday night we helped around 30 people, for example, and that included everything from sprains, abrasions, to alcohol intoxication.
“As well as helping with someone’s physical injuries, we are also on hand to provide emotional support for them.
“On each shift, we have around six dedicated Red Cross volunteers – all of whom give up their time to help people in crisis.”
Lancashire Police’s geographical inspector for Preston, Phil Orme, said that using the Post Office as a base for the Red Cross, police and the street pastors has already been very successful.
He says: “It has been extremely busy, certainly this last weekend in terms of footfall in the town centre on Saturday night, it was very, very busy.
“It seems to be going really well.
“It has got to the stage that the Red Cross volunteers are going out with officers and dealing with people on the streets rather than them having to find their way to the centre.
“When footfall increases at this time of year we get people who have too much to drink.
“It’s not been too bad in terms of violent crime.
“Over the last couple of years we have used the venue for a briefing point for officers.
“This year it is more of a one stop shop.
“Officers there are dealing with issues such as lost property. It is the first time we have got on board with the street pastors, the Bid Ambassadors provide water and the Red Cross have been invaluable.”
Insp Orme said, after the Christmas and New Year period, the use of the site will be reviewed, in the hope that it can be used again.
Of course, as well as the new temporary centre, the city’s street pastors are working hard to help aid party goers and keep them safe.
Nina Woodfield has been a street pastor for the past five years and explains what the role can be like at this time of year.
“I am going out on Friday night, they call it mad Friday because the offices are out.
“There is such a sense of people wanting to have a good time. That is great, but whether it is peer pressure, or going along with the crowd, that good time seems to sometimes end with having far too much to drink which is a shame.
“We have seen many people just sat on the kerb, they don’t know where they are. This happens time and time again. They have had a great time, but they have had too much to drink. They can’t remember where home is or what they are doing.
“We are able to sit with them and offer practical assistance and make sure they get home safe.
“We talk to them, it’s amazing how just jogging their memory can help.
“We walk them home or walk with them until they catch up with their friends.
“We don’t preach, we just speak to people.
“This Friday the volunteers will be out from 4.30pm until around 4am on Saturday morning. We want to be there to help these young people.
“A lot of people think we are wonderful, they hug us and love us. It’s absolutely great.”
The street pastors help party goers in a number of other ways too.
They offer flip flops to people wandering around in barefoot, and they also provide sandwiches and water if there is a need for it.
Dave Brown, co-ordinator from Preston and South Ribble Street Pastors, said that on Friday night there will be 22 street pastors in Preston – because it is predicted to be such a busy night.
This is a change to a normal weekend, when Friday nights are usually quieter.
In September, the street pastors switched their nights from Friday to Saturday.
This Saturday there will be five pastors out.
He says: “We are part of the response in the city centre to make it as safe as possible.”