Juliette Bains: Why I’m backing nightclub groping ‘zero tolerance’ campaign

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MOST of us would say that we know what to expect from a night out in Leeds.

A few nice bars, possibly a club, a dance and then maybe an ill-advised takeaway on the way home.

But recently it’s come to light that some revellers - particularly students - are getting a bit more than they bargained for when embracing the city’s nightlife.

A recent study showed that showed 55 per cent of Leeds students said that personal safety was one their major worries.

It fits in with a similar national survey by the NUS’ Hidden Marks Report that revealed 37 per cent of women said they have suffered inappropriate groping or touching when out and about on UK university campuses.

With Leeds home to one of the biggest student populations in the UK, this is worrying to say the least.

As someone who’s (a little too) often out in Leeds at the weekend, and as a former Leeds student myself, I asked some of my female friends about it and it seems that these are issues that ring true for many of them.

Sadly, it seems that most of them, including myself, have had similar experiences, from being pinched on the backside by complete strangers in bars to being manhandled whilst with friends on the dancefloor.

It seems like the nightclub dancefloor especially acts as some sort of hormonal petri dish for unpleasant machismo and sexual aggression.

There’s very much a feeling of ‘if you ignore it, they’ll go away,’ and none of us have thought to report this behaviour before.

And we’re not the only ones, as the study also showed most students said they didn’t feel what had happened was serious enough to report, and felt ashamed and embarrassed to do so.

I imagine many women brush it off as part of the territory of a night out - with a darkened room, music and alcohol all playing a part, and have come to see it as the norm.

But when you think about it, that’s simply not right is it?

Why should anyone - male or female - have to get used to strangers invading their personal space like that?

And does the silent acceptance of such behaviour lead these people to believe they could get away with more serious forms of sexual harassment?

These are questions that Leeds University Union is currently trying to tackle head-on.

Its new initiative called ‘We’ve Got Your Back’ aims to try and stamp out sexual harassment in clubs and bars across the city.

The pioneering campaign will provide specialist training for people working in around 30 local nightspots, and will give advice to staff members about how to identify and deal with victims of harassment.

Venues will also be encouraged to set up areas where victims will feel comfortable reporting what has happened to them.

Some big of the city’s biggest names have been quick to add their support to the campaign, including the University of Leeds, Leeds City Council and the West Yorkshire police and crime commissioner.

It’s great to see some big organisations throwing their weight behind what could be a really beneficial scheme.

But at the same time it’s pretty sad and quite concerning that there’s such a need for something like this in the first place.

As well as providing much-needed support for the after-effects of sexual harassment, more needs to be done to tackle the root of the issue so that it doesn’t happen in the first place.

As they say, prevention is better than a cure.

The scheme isn’t a quick fix, but hopefully if people start to learn that there are repercussions for their actions, it might make them stop and think about their behaviour in future.

Food for thought as restaurants rush for Oliver awards

There’s no denying that Leeds has an abundance of restaurants, offering everything from tapas to thai and sushi to South American.

There’s sure to be something to satisfy even the fussiest diner, but we can all appreciate that it’s not an easy industry to get into, with so much competition around and an economy that has been challenging - to say the least - in the last few years.

So it’s particularly encouraging to see so many entries for this year’s Oliver awards.

This year over 187 restaurants have entered the firecely-fought competition to take one of the top titles, which range from Best Fine Dining and Outstanding Contribution to Best Newcomer.

It’s obvious that the city’s dining scene is packed with hard-working culinary talent, and this goes to show that our eateries are still taking pride in the food they serve.

Last year it was Crafthouse at Trinity Leeds that stole the limelight at the glittering awards.

But so many new venues have been added to the dining scene line-up since Crafthouse came along, and some stalwarts are continuing to up their game.

So it will be interesting to see who comes out on top at the 2015 event.

Personally, I take my hate off to anyone brave enough to enter the industry and follow their passion for food, as sometimes it seems to me that even when you have the right location, staff and food, you also need a huge amount of luck to make these things work.

Take La Grillade for example, which closed down earlier this year despite being much-loved by many.

So good luck to everyone taking part.

A surprise in store if you go down to the woods

A few weeks ago I wrote about the opening of the eagerly-anticipated 
Wood Beneath the 
World.

But I finally got to go and experience it for myself at the weekend, and it certainly didn’t disappoint.

The show underneath Leeds Town Hall involves a secret wooded underworld, with eerie music, a handful of actors, a large-scale forest installation and secret rooms.

The one-hour show might not be everyone’s cup of tea as it’s quite interactive, a bit 
spooky and, well, pretty weird.

But if you’re up for trying something new it’s definitely worth popping down.

Oh, and for those not really into arty theatre-type things, the pop-up bar in the old police cells is well worth a visit.

With candle-lit tables, mulled wine and blankets to complete the Christmas feel, and just a stone’s throw from the Christkindelmarkt, it’s the perfect festive escape.

But you’ll have to be quick if you want to get involved, - it is booking up fast.

Alexandra Shulman. PIC: PA

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