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A Magazine for Sheffield

Stay Safe, Stay Sheffield

Sheffield may be the safest big city in the UK, but the death of a young woman after leaving a nightclub last November highlighted the dangers that people still face on the city's nightlife scene, especially if you're a woman, and especially if you're alone.

Responding to this crisis with a decidedly positive approach, Stay Safe, Stay Sheffield (SSSS) is a new project aiming to harness the city's creative momentum to offer practical support to people finding themselves in trouble on a night out.

They have already held their first fundraising event, a launch party at Golden Harvest where posters by local artists including Geo Law and Emma Trafford were up for sale. Some took a serious approach, with Nova Cox's design prominently featuring the words 'Don't Follow Me' in block lettering. Others are more irreverent, such as the submission by Lisa O'Hara, which has 'Get Your Filthy Paws Off My Silky Draws' picked out in elegant script. The group are adapting these posters to be handed out as flyers, with emergency contacts and helpful information about personal safety listed on the back. I asked Olivia Neller, singer with Blessa and one of the project's founders, what inspired the project's launch. "I kind of see volunteer work as something nobody wants to go near. Existing groups, local churches for example, aren't really taken seriously. What they're doing is really good work, but I wanted to create something that people our age could engage with." For Olivia and co-founder Jess Stockton, the project being female-led marks a crucial difference to similar outreach programs. "When you have three white guys going down the street giving out stuff, the reaction that they get isn't always positive, even though what they're doing is positive." She believes that SSSS will only work if a diverse range of people get involved. "We've had loads of male volunteers come forward, which is insanely good, and I would hate for anyone to come away thinking that this is just a project aimed at women. It isn't. It's all genders, and we want to get into trans issues as well." Founded on anti-harrassment principles, the group is practically-minded about the support it wants to provide in the early hours. "These fundraisers are going to help us get hold of enough water and charge bars for mobiles," says Olivia. "We need testing kits for rohypnol, GHB and ketamine. We need a project phone and emergency cash." If you have creative skills or if you want to volunteer for a few hours on a Friday or a Saturday night, SSSS want to hear from you. "If people want to get involved in any way, they should email us or get in touch through Facebook. We're open to anything – poster submissions, or if anyone has an idea for an event. If someone wants to write an article about something that's really bugging them, they can do it under this banner. It's not just two people running this thing. I want it to be taken on by everyone. In terms of going out to clubs to offer that support, the more volunteers the better." While raising cash to kickstart their outreach work, the group have already begun looking to the future. "The big goal that me and Jess discussed is to use our charitable status to get a property, to create a safe space where someone can go," Olivia tells me. "That kind of place should just be there, always, in every big city. There should never just be no-one there." @staysafestaysheffield )

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