‘Safety should be free’: an interview with anti-spiking group ‘Safer Spaces’

‘I feel that making clubs act more responsibly is the best way forward’

With an apparent rise in spiking cases in the UK, students have been standing together to boycott nightclubs and campaigning for safer environments on nights out. One Lancaster student, Liam Berry, is developing Safer Spaces, an application that aims to hold nightclubs accountable for how they have reacted to spiking, and has been surveying students on how safe they feel about their experience when going out.

We spoke to Liam to ask why he decided to set up Safer Spaces and what he believes clubs in Lancaster can do to help.

‘What can I do to help the situation?’

When asked what made him set up the campaign, Liam shared the story of when a work friend of his was spiked back home. Liam spoke about how the bouncers had handled the situation poorly and decided to “kick them out onto the street”. Seeing the issue happen close to home showed just how severe of a problem it was. He said: “It got the ball rolling and I started wondering what can I do to help the situation.”

‘I would really like to thank everyone getting involved’

Liam explained how the overall response had been crazy so far. He said: “I would really like to thank everyone who’s getting involved even just by word of mouth, it helps me more than you know. People start out pretty sceptical about if it can work and will give a funny look but once I talk them through what I’m doing they generally share my excitement for this project.

“The only negative feedback I’ve really had so far is people misunderstanding the concept, like a lot of people think that I’m trying to police the individuals who spike people and whilst that would be an ideal solution they quickly point out that’s just shy of impossible.”

He then went on to say: “Maybe one day there’ll be an opportunity to help in a more direct way but not yet. I feel that making clubs act more responsibly is the best way forward so far, as well as providing information to clubbers about the venues they’re visiting.” Liam also stated that he is thankful for the Sugarhouse’s response and the helpfulness of the staff on the issue.

‘Long term, I have a vision of every club in the UK being on our platform’

Berry aims for the platform to be launched in every club in Lancaster to prove that a difference can be made. He said: “The app is coming along now but in the beginning, especially considering I’m not the most knowledgeable web developer, I was a bit stumped.” He tells us how “the platform will be 100 per cent free and I think that’s non-negotiable. Safety should be free”. Revenue will ideally be funded through drink company sponsorships.

When it comes to how clubs can improve the situation, he highlights how “there’s so much clubs can do and I’m sure now especially, we’re going to start seeing some really innovative ways. I do know that Sugar has these tests behind the bar for drinks to see if they’ve been tampered with. I think that should be the standard.”

‘The platform will work optimally if we have everyone using it’

When asked what students can do to help, Liam emphasised that the responsibility should not be on those at risk. “The main thing that students can do is pretty simple: please tell your friends and family. Supporting our Instagram would also really help as that’s where I like to update people on our progress”.

Liam has visions of the platform being up and running by the new year. He said: “It’s pretty dependent on how smooth development goes but I don’t think that’s outside the realm of possibilities.”

If students would like to contact Safer Spaces, they can message their Instagram.

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Lancaster clubs respond to boycott amid national rise in spiking

• 13 per cent of Lancs students say they’ve been spiked since clubs reopened, survey finds