Protesters face catcalls as they take to Blackpool streets to Reclaim The Night

Protesters braved icy weather marched through Blackpool to make the streets a safer place for women.
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The campaign against harassment and violence against women happening in the resort aims to Reclaim the Streets from those who may make women feel uncomfortable or at risk when out - day or night.

But the founder of the Reclaim Blackpool Map, Antonia Charlesworth-Stack, who was on the protest march, claims the marchers faced catcalls from some people as they passed through town.

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The Reclaim The Night march, by an estimated 60 protesters of mixed genders and ages, was organised by Safer Streets co-ordinator Aviel Lowndes of Empowerment Charity, and gathered at the Upside Down Coffee cafe in Edward Street, where they heard speakers including Aviel, Antonia, who is deputy editor of Big Issue North, Ali Eland of Fylde Women's Aid and Lynn Williams, leader of Blackpool Council

Protesters get their message across on the Reclaim The Night march in Blackpool. Picture: Elizabeth Gomm.Protesters get their message across on the Reclaim The Night march in Blackpool. Picture: Elizabeth Gomm.
Protesters get their message across on the Reclaim The Night march in Blackpool. Picture: Elizabeth Gomm.
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Reclaim the Night: Protesters will march through Blackpool town centre to end vi...

They put across the message that it is the right of every woman to feel and be safe to walk the streets without fear of violence and harassment, and were joined by Blackpool North and Cleveleys MP Paul Maynard.

Stories of abuse against women, some as young as schoolchildren, are plotted on Blackpool’s Street Harassment Map, founded by Antonia.

Last year, local textiles group Knittaz With Attitude responded to the stories with a craftivism project called We're Sew Done.

Blackpool North and Cleveleys MP Paul Maynard with two of the protesters on the march.Blackpool North and Cleveleys MP Paul Maynard with two of the protesters on the march.
Blackpool North and Cleveleys MP Paul Maynard with two of the protesters on the march.
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Their creations, based on actual stories of harassment, were placed in the locations of the harassment and culminated in an exhibition and book.

Antonia said: "When I started Reclaim Blackpool Map, women in major cities were gathering in protest and at vigils to share their outrage and grief following Sarah Everard's murder and broader concern for our precarious safety of women on the streets and in public places.

"In Blackpool there was no visible protest movement, despite the efforts of some local women to organise a march at the time.

"The mapping project provided a space for us to share our stories and come together to raise our collective voice and speak out against the insidious sexual harassment women and girls face every day.

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"With more than 100 stories now on, our voice is beginning to be heard and it was an incredible feeling to see women finally coming together in person to take a physical stand against sexual harassment.

"I was given the opportunity to speak to the crowd at Upside Down cafe before the march and share some of the stories from the map that related to the areas we were marching through.

"On Cedar Square, for example, one woman was solicited for sex by a group of men in a car who made frightening sexual comments.

"At several of the bars we passed, women have recorded stories of spiking and sexual assault. On the Comedy Carpet, which we also passed, a man exposed himself to a female skateboarder and masturbated.

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"For anyone that still doesn't get it, the problem was made startlingly clear by the catcalls some protesters witnessed during the march, one of which was a threat of rape.

"It's just sickening considering there were lots of children in attendance too.

"Most men wouldn't dream of this kind of behaviour but the important thing for them to do is to call it out when they see it and make it clear that it won't be tolerated.

"Despite a few instances of harassment there was also a lot of support for us out on the streets and it was a really positive and heartening experience.

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"We need more women to come forward and share their stories on so we can continue to campaign for change on their behalf.

"We have had some really positive conversations about how the stories could influence things like licensing decisions and future funding bids for more safety measures and educational programmes. This is just the start of the work."

Mr Maynard said: “I attended the ‘Reclaim the Night’ march as I believe it is important that everyone can enjoy a night out without fear of intimidation and harassment.

"Blackpool is well known as a party venue and a good night out, which brings people in to the town to support our important hospitality industries.

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"Residents and visitors need to feel safe to ensure they keep coming to the town centre and any action I can take to highlight this campaign I will.

"With new laws being introduced that will make street harassment punishable by up to two years in prison, and with education and awareness I do hope that this intimidation of women and girls becomes a thing of the past.”

Participant Chris Webb said: “I was proud to join the inspirational Reclaim the Night protest around Blackpool town centre.“As a UK White Ribbon Ambassador, I believe it’s right men actively reflect on their own behaviours, beliefs and actions – and we must encourage men and boys to take an active role in preventing men’s violence against women and girls.“Unfortunately, on the very march used to call for safer streets for women and children we heard disgusting cat-calls and abuse from men on the streets that very night.“More must be done to ensure our streets are safe for women and children so they are no longer subject to sexual harassment and as men we must take a more active role and stop being bystanders.“It’s wrong and it must stop.”

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