As I joined the Angels, it became clear they vary in age, and backgrounds, which seems to be one of their key strengths. For example, the eldest Street Angel in Camberley is Anne Bannan, aged 75. So why does she do it, and what do the clubbers think about her? Isn’t she too old to make any difference to young people out on the town? Well, from what I saw, she is a valuable member of the team, and her age is her secret weapon. She said “I love it, I really enjoy it. I like to talk to people”. It seems people also like to talk to Anne. She regularly gets hugs and kisses from revellers, out having a good time. I caught up with Anne, and Richard Tudor, as they were chatting to Kellie, out with her girlfriends enjoying the atmosphere. Kellie said “I wouldn’t allow my mum out”. She really respected Anne, and valued the presence of the Angels on the streets. “I love you Street Angels, you really are amazing”, said Kellie, as we parted.
Peter Caddick (one of the Angels) mentioned a so called “Street Angels Effect”, resulting, he believed, in more people out on the town, since the Angels started patrolling a year ago. This got me thinking, that part of this “Street Angels Effect” is that the Angels are like having your mum, dad and grandparents out with you on the town. You wouldn’t start a fight in front of your mum would you? They make you feel calm, and homely. The general feeling is that of love and admiration for what these volunteers do each weekend. OK, but maybe that’s not the whole story. Camberley has soldiers out partying too. Surely the likes of Anne would be no match for a soldier? Perhaps not, but ex army officers are also Angels. It has been known for an Angel to order a soldier to drop and do 20 press-ups, for swearing in front of them! So perhaps respect is a very big part of the effect too. These “officer angels” have seen some action, and can really empathise with what our soldiers are feeling, and how they are reacting. This earns the Angels great respect. Perhaps this is another part of the “Street Angels Effect”.
But they aren’t just a friendly face to chat to in the evenings. They are trained in first aid, and carry over 20 items in their kit bag, to assist people in need. Everything from foil blankets to sharps bins. They also witness some pretty upsetting sights. Whilst I was out with them, there was a heart attack, and a suspected miscarriage.
When I caught up with Peter Caddick and Kathy Fuller, they were chatting to Charlotte, Zoe and Sami outside Que Passa. The girls had been handed lollypops, one of the Angels signature marks. Lollies are very popular (especially the vimto ones apparently). They gain trust, keep noise levels down, help prevent fights, and stop arguments. That’s a lot to think about next time you give your child a lollypop.
As we entered the early hours of Saturday morning, I came away from Camberley feeling a great sense of calm, happiness and full of admiration for what the Street Angels are doing, and the difference they are making to the lives of young people out at the weekends. I guess you could call it the “Street Angels Effect”.