They’re Huddersfield’s Christmas angels.
While revellers celebrated the festive season in town centre pubs and clubs, members of Huddersfield Street Angels were on hand to help them stay safe.
Volunteer members of the group – formed almost 10 years ago as an initiative of Huddersfield Churches Together – usually patrol the town centre on Saturday nights to provide help for anyone who becomes vulnerable while out partying.
This year, two teams of Street Angels were out and about for “Mad Friday” on December 23. Two teams will also be on patrol on New Year’s Eve.
Help offered by the Street Angels can range from giving directions to administering first aid, providing bottled water for people feeling dehydrated, blankets for people feeling the cold or sick bags for people who’ve overdone the drink and have to travel home by car.
Chairman Ian Atkinson said there have been no major incidents to report so far over the Christmas and New Year.
One woman was given a pair of slippers to wear rather than risk treading on broken glass in her bare feet after her high heels became too uncomfortable while another needed help tracking down her friends after becoming separated from them.
It meant there was time to hand out cakes and buns to busy bar staff at a number of pubs in town.
“The idea is that at the end of the night the bar staff can sit down, have a drink and have a few mince pies on us,” said Ian. “This is the third year we have taken cakes round. We put an email out to churches and asked them to donate and we always get a good response.”
The Street Angels – identifiable by their orange high-vis jackets – patrol in threes or fours and are based at the Mission Cafe in Lord Street.
Ian added: “We usually set up about 9.40pm and start patrolling close to 10pm until midnight when we come back to the cafe for a coffee and – at this time of year – to warm up. Then we’re out on the streets until about 2am or 3am.
“We will have been going 10 years next March. There are about 12 or 15 of us out regularly and it’s really nice because people now know who we are. We liaise with the police, but we’re there to make sure people having a good time get home safely. We can also have a laugh and a joke with people.”
Ian said “misconceptions” about the town’s nightlife deterred some potential recruits from joining.
“People hear stories about how something happens in town and think it is a really violent place,” he said. “It isn’t at all. You get the occasional incident, but for a town of our size there really isn’t much trouble at all.
“You learn on the job – by going out and seeing the town centre isn’t really as bad as some people might think. We walk a fair few miles on a night, but what really matters is being able to talk to people – and listen to them as well.”