The Village Angels: Meeting The Everyday Heroes Of Manchester’s Gay Village
The Village Angels are a group of volunteers who keep nightlife revellers safe in Manchester's Gay Village. Maybe someone has had a bit too much fun and needs help ordering a cab home. Maybe someone has been made homeless and doesn't know where to turn. Maybe someone needs a shoulder to cry on. The Angels are the everyday heroes on hand to provide this support.
Set-up by LGBT Foundation - the charity that supports lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people in the UK - the Angels have offered a non-judgmental street service for visitors to Canal Street and the surrounding areas of Manchester for six years. In 2018, the ambition is to expand the operation across the LGBT community, working with Smirnoff to make nightlife a safer, more inclusive and understanding space for everyone.
To see the work of the Angels first-hand - and to understand what additional investment can achieve - LADbible spent a night filming on the streets of the Village with shift lead Josh Sanderson-Kirk and his team.
"I see a lot of drunk people," Josh told us at the start of his 9pm - 3am shift. "People trying to jump in the canal, people who have got in the canal and attempted to kill themselves. The worst thing you hear is when you hear someone's on top of a building."
It's not an easy job, but as you see in the film, the volunteers remain upbeat and positive and are always full of compassion for those they encounter having a bad time. One minute they're an information service for tourists to this LGBT mecca, the next they're responding to an assault in a nightclub.
Josh got involved with the Angels after a member of his rugby team was punched in a homophobic attack and the Village Angels helped him. He now leads a group of volunteers every Friday night - allowing him to absorb the fun and energy of the Village without having a hangover on the rugby pitch the following afternoon.
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While the street beat ends at 3am, Josh will often find himself on shift for a couple more hours in the Village Haven. This is a newly opened space in the Village, that offers support and a safe space for those who are unable to stay safe or get home without coming to harm. It operates each Friday and Saturday until 5am.
The team's hard work and dedication to helping others is inspirational. But their goodwill can span further with more volunteers and donations, allowing for growth of the street teams, development of the Haven and expansion outside of Manchester.
"I think, ultimately, we need more volunteers," says Josh. "We need as many people who are willing and who are able - and also enthusiastic - to do the role that our brilliant volunteers do. And obviously, of course, it also comes down to money.
"We need money for equipment, we need money for the things we hand out - the plasters, the foil blankets and those big ticket items like the defibrillator. We need more of those to make sure we can do the job that we want to be able to do.
"I'd love to see the Angels in London, in Birmingham and other big cities with gay and LGBT quarters. If they ever want any help [in setting up the scheme] I'm sure the Angels would be more than happy to help."
Smirnoff and the LGBT Foundation are partnering to roll out the Angels nationally in 2018.