Edinburgh Street Pastors plan second team to keep revellers safe

Lawrie Hudson with a pair of the flip-flops they offer to women who have ditched their heels. Picture: Scott Taylor

Lawrie Hudson with a pair of the flip-flops they offer to women who have ditched their heels. Picture: Scott Taylor

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A HOST of guardian angels hope to expand their mission to help drunken revellers stay safe in the city centre at night after securing a number of new volunteers.

The Edinburgh Street Pastors plan to launch a second team to offer a helping hand to party-goers spilling on to the city’s streets on Saturday nights after a £45,000 grant allowed them to commission 14 new volunteers.

Sometimes it is just giving someone a lollipop to keep the peace. If a smiling middle-aged woman is giving you a lollipop, how can you stay aggressive?

Linda Farrar

Set up in 2009, the pastors have been credited with helping ease the strain on emergency services by offering first aid, doling out flip-flops to girls who have ditched their heels and ensuring drunken people can get transport home.

Originally based near the Omni Centre, the pastors – who are all church-going Christians – now have around 60 people in their ranks.

This allows them to patrol party hotspots in George Street, the Cowgate and Lothian Road every Friday night.

They currently only have enough staff to cover one Saturday per month, despite Saturdays being a busier night for the city.

Team leader Linda Farrer, who started helping out just over two years ago, said the team hopes to expand down Leith Walk as well as to have permanent patrols near a number of popular nightclubs.

Linda, a retired biomedical scientist, said: “In the six years we have been running, we have gone from having a team of three people to having 58 volunteers covering all of the city centre.

“We want to develop that as much as we can as the more people we can get out on the streets the better.”

Clad in distinctive uniforms, the pastors also offer cups of tea or lollipops to defuse tensions among groups, although they do not intervene in any conflicts.

Linda said: “We do whatever we can to keep people safe. Sometimes it is just giving someone a lollipop to keep the peace. If a smiling middle-aged woman is giving you a lollipop, how can you stay aggressive?”

Their calming presence has been so helpful that the team were invited to join the City Community Improvement Partnership by city chiefs last year.

The initiative has also been hailed by police for helping officers to keep calm on the streets. Inspector Simon Acheson, of Police Scotland, said: “I am in no doubt that the work of the Street Pastors is invaluable in terms of deflecting and preventing some of the alcohol issues that we would otherwise have to deal with.

“It’s clear that the Street Pastors have a significant role to play in preventing crime and keeping people safe.”

The Street Pastors organisation was started in London in 2003 by Reverend Les Isaac and it runs in more than 270 towns and cities across the UK with over 11,000 trained volunteers.

The expansion has been supported by a £45,000 grant from the Church of Scotland’s Go For It Fund.

lizzy.buchan@edinburghnews.com