‘I have listened to it all’: What it is really like being a Nightline volunteer

An interview with a Notts Nightline volunteer


Maybe you’ve called Nightline while drunkenly walking home. Or, perhaps, in the midst of exams and deadlines, you needed to talk to someone about stress and anxiety. But have you ever wondered what it is actually like to be the volunteer on the other end of the phone?

Ran by students, for students, Nottingham Nightline is a listening service, open primarily at night whilst extending to 24/7 in exam season, which you can call, instant message or email to talk about anything in confidence.

All volunteers are anonymous, however, The Tab Notts was given an exclusive opportunity to talk to a volunteer to find out what being there is really like. Here’s what we learnt:

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Patch, the Nightline mascot. (Image: Nottingham Nightline)

They have a secret office on campus to take calls

The office location is “top secret“, but we were told that it’s somewhere on one of UoN’s campuses. The exact location remains a mystery.

“Maybe you walk past it every day, maybe you never walk past it at all… You’ll never know unless you join.”

Volunteers actually get to sleep while on shift

“We’re not nocturnal mole people or overworked NHS staff – we do actually sleep on shift,” the volunteer The Notts Tab.

The official Nottingham Nightline website says that volunteers get an average of five hours per night but, in reality, it depends. “Some nights I’ll barely sleep and others I get a full eight hours,” they disclosed.

They even get calls about the Game of Thrones finale

“We genuinely do take calls about everything. I’ve listened to it all”, the Nightline volunteer said. Some callers rant about the Game of Thrones finale, others have a deep conversation about living with family over lockdown. 

“I’ve heard all about tricky relationships, coursework deadlines and housemate drama.”

The one thing that was emphasised the most: They’re here to listen. Whether you’re calling because you’re bored during quarantine, or you’re walking home at night and feeling scared, they’ll listen.

“You’re not ‘wasting our time’ by calling. Ever. So many callers say this to me on the phone. From 7pm-8am every night of term, we’re committed to helping every single person who uses our service.

“No problem is too small or too big, and even if it’s 3am and I’ve just lurched out of bed to reach the phone, I’m here for you.”

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Patch running to help raise money for Nightline. (Image: Nottingham Nightline)

Everything really is anonymous

“We take this [anonymity] very seriously,” the volunteer said. “Unless you’re a friend of a committee member, you’re unlikely to know or spot a Nightline volunteer as they walk down the street.”

“We’re basically the MI6 of Nottingham,” they joked. “Full secret agent vibes.

“The truth is, the biggest heroes of the organisation are the ones you’ll never even know existed.”

Volunteers can eat FREE snacks non-stop

“They have LOADS of snacks in the office. Possibly one of the best things about being a Nightliner are the boxes of free snacks the committee leave for volunteers on shift.

“My personal favourites are the bougie Kinder Buenos that I never seem to find the budget for in my own weekly trip to Lidl. Yum.”

Sometimes they struggle to get over calls

“Yes, it can be a tough job, but we’re prepared for that,” they admitted. “I won’t lie, some of the calls do stick with you. Luckily the good thing about being friends with Nightliners is that they’re inevitably great listeners, and we have a great internal welfare system that helps us out as well. You’ll never have to struggle on your own.”

Where is the office?… Uni Park? Jubilee? Sutton Bonington?

There aren’t callers all the time

To fill up their time when there aren’t any callers, volunteers play things like board games, Uno and Among Us to name a few. Cups of tea are made a lot, too.

Tiredness after shifts is so common that they have a special phrase to describe it

Volunteers are students; some of them “actually try to function the day after doing a night shift.”

“There’s nothing like the feeling of solidarity when you emerge, bleary-eyed, from a Wednesday night shift and join the crowds of dead-faced, barely-left-Crisis freshers walking to lectures”, they said, “It takes a special type of energy to puzzle through 9am seminars on six hours of interrupted sleep. We’ve taken to calling this the ‘Nightline Hangover'”.

They love to get messy on Ocean Fridays

“Like every society, we also have wild, messy nights out at Ocean. Although it’s been a while, I have some great memories from Nightline nights out.

“We also do pottery painting, dog walks and pizza nights, if you’re going for a more wholesome vibe.”

Though nights at Ocean have stopped in Covid-times, Nightline has not. The service has stayed open, and is staying open, over lockdown. In fact, there were only three days when the service didn’t run due to Covid-19.

To find out more about Nightline, check out their website. Their number is also on the back of every student ID.

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