The editor of a local weekly was forced to shelter in a shop doorway when ugly scenes broke out as he joined forces with a team of Street Pastors for the night.
Tristan Harris, who edits the Bromsgrove Standard, swapped his notepad and pen for flipflops and lollipops to experience a typical Friday night out in the town and raise awareness of the volunteers’ work.
And what had been a largely uneventful evening turned nasty when a violent brawl broke out after closing time.
The outing was organised in response to figures which showed reports of anti-social behaviour had dropped by 18pc on Friday nights since the Street Pastors were introduced in July.
“I thought it would be good to get out and see for myself how they operated – especially as they are out for extra dates over Christmas and New Year,” he said.
“The things that surprised me the most about the evening were the way the Street Pastors were received by those who were out on the town. A lot of people were coming up to them, chatting about how their week had been or how their night was going and asking for lollipops, which seems to have become their trademark.
“But the most shocking part of the evening was when, after a very calm and good-natured night, a street brawl broke out. I have been out in a lot of town and city centres and have never seen trouble as bad as that – what started with raised voices and pushing, ended up in several fights breaking out within minutes. It really was frightening how quickly it escalated.”
During the six-hour experience, Tristan helped out as the pastors went to the aid of intoxicated revellers – calling taxis and picking them up off the floor – as well as handing out lollipops, advising people where they could get help, and giving flipflops to girls struggling in their high heels.
Things got tense when, after the town’s main club closed at 3.30am, an argument escalated into a fistfight.
In his feature on the evening, Tristan wrote: “People are punching each other, with at least four or five fights breaking out… I am stood with my back to a shop doorway, trying to avoid being caught up in the melee. One man falls to the floor and I wince as I see him kicked in the head and hear the thud of the foot making contact.
“Another has a suspected broken ankle after a fall caused by the scrapping. The victim, whether through shock or what he has consumed, wants to get a taxi. But the pastors, along with his friends, convince him he needs an ambulance.”
Speaking to HTFP, Tristan added: “When I mentioned to people beforehand that I was going out with the Street Pastors, some said they did not have a clue what they did, while others seemed to have a pre-conceived view that they went out preaching about God or the Bible or the evils of drinking – but it was nothing like that at all.
“I’m hoping people will get a true picture of what the Street Pastors are about and the difference they can make.”
The full story can be read here.