The Safest UK Cities For First Dates

We know that going on a first date is exciting. It’s a time of much anticipation, and maybe, just maybe, the start of something special. However, it’s important to ensure that you stay safe during that all-important first meeting with someone.

If you’ve opted for the go-to first date spot in the UK such as a bar or a pub to meet a new person, you’re in luck, as there are a whole host of ways that these venues can help you to ensure you feel safe when you’re off on a first date.

Although this did pique the question, here at Criminal Injuries Helpline, how many UK cities actually have those all-important safety initiatives in place at their venues to keep everyone safe?

How Many Venues In The UK Have ‘Ask For Angela’?

One of the most popular safety initiatives used nationally is ‘Ask For Angela’ which features the use of the code word; ‘Angela’ to enable an alert amongst a venue’s bar staff that you need assistance due to an uncomfortable situation. Originally developed in 2016, it was adopted by the Metropolitan Police that same year and has now become a recognised initiative for keeping everyone safe across the country.

If you find yourself on a first date where the other person isn’t quite who you thought they were, choosing a venue where the ‘Ask For Angela’ safety initiative is in place will ensure that you have a way to subtly and safely alert the bar staff that you need help either getting away from your ‘date’ or exiting the venue. Of course, if you’re off on a first date, you’d rather not need to use ‘Ask For Angela’ at all, but it’s a safety precaution that’s guaranteed to give you peace of mind whilst out dating, plus, it’ll help you out if you do end up needing to ask for Angela.

With councils up and down the country agreeing that it’s better to have the option to ‘Ask For Angela’ than not, it’s widely recommended that venues like bars and pubs in UK cities have this safety initiative in place. However, we wondered which UK cities are the safest for a first date, and how likely you are to walk into a pub or a bar that has ‘Ask For Angela’.

So, here at Criminal Injuries Helpline, we took a random sample of 225 pubs and bars across 15 major UK cities, to begin to understand how prevalent ‘Ask For Angela’ is, and how likely you are to encounter it whilst you are on a first date.

The UK cities with the most ‘Ask For Angela’ venues.

Out of the venues and locations surveyed:

  • Reading, London and Brighton have the most ‘Ask For Angela’ venues, with 73% self-reporting that they had the initiative in place.
  • Whereas, Bristol reported the least pubs and bars with ‘Ask For Angela’, with only 20% of venues having the initiative.
  • Second to last, Glasgow’s venues reported 33% of their pubs and bars having the ‘Ask For Angela’ safety initiative in place.

How Did The Venues Respond?

Having spoken to a whole host of venues from across the UK, we found that responses were mixed when it came to whether they partook in the ‘Ask For Angela’ safety initiative, or not. 

It seemed that many venues that have the initiative in place were proud of it, replying to us with an enthusiastic yes followed by a description of how the appropriate training is rolled out to their staff, plus them having ‘Ask For Angela’ posters up, explaining the initiative to those reading them. However, there were some venues that we spoke to that replied with a ‘what? Hang on, let me ask my manager.’ 

This was followed by a short mumbling conversation at their end of the phone line, and then a quick ‘hello? Yes, yes, we do.’ 

Of course, it’s great that managers of some venues are aware of the initiative, however, it is doubtful that someone could ask for Angela in their venue, without their staff being aware of what the initiative means. in some cases staff are aware, but untrained to handle any situations that may arise. Other responses that we had included a significant number of venues stating that they ‘were aware of the initiative, but they don’t have any posters up.’ 

This does suggest that you would only be able to use ‘Ask For Angela’ in their venue if you had prior knowledge of it, as there isn’t any information about the initiative being available within the venue. However, even if you were aware of the initiative, you wouldn’t be sure if the venue were, because they aren’t making it clear that option is available to you.

Despite this, those that do partake in the initiative were often passionate about the fact that they did. We spoke to David, from Shed Bar, in Leeds, who remembers an instance earlier in his career when ‘Ask For Angela’ was used, and since, he’s ensured all staff are prepared when it comes to the initiative. He hasn’t heard it used at Shed Bar, but they’d be ready, if they did. Going to a pub or bar where their team is poised and ready to activate an alert, like they are at Shed Bar, if you’re feeling unsafe on your first date gives you significant peace of mind, and it’ll always give you an option to subtly exit a situation with the help of the venue’s staff. Therefore, walking into a venue for that all-important first meeting with someone that has the ‘Ask For Angela’ safety initiative properly in place can only be positive when it comes to your safety.

Have You Heard Of ‘Ask For Clive’?

Around 1% of the venues that we spoke to also stated that they partner with ‘Ask For Clive’, alongside partaking in the ‘Ask For Angela’ safety initiative. ‘Ask For Clive’ is a charity that works with venues to promote inclusiveness and to create welcoming environments for the LGBTQ+ community. 

‘Ask For Clive’ is an initiative used by venues to reinforce that discrimination will not be tolerated, in order to create a safe space for the LGBTQ+ community. If you’re on a first date, and the person you’re meeting is making you feel worried, this scheme ensures that you can safely alert a venue’s staff with the knowledge that you are in a LGBTQ+ friendly environment.

However, with hate crimes due to sexual orientation doubling since 2017, it seems alarming that only 1% of the 225 bars and pubs we contacted specifically stated that they are partnered with ‘Ask For Clive’.

So, we turned to the public to see if they’d ever heard of ‘Ask For Clive’ and, out of 100 respondents, only 6% said that they had heard of ‘Ask For Clive’.

The prevalence of this campaign to create welcoming environments for the LGBTQ+ community seems disproportionate with the significant rise in hate crimes motivated by sexual orientation as there is a clear need to create safer spaces for the LGBTQ+ community.

The responses to this made us question if the public are aware of ‘Ask For Angela’ too, and how prevalent they see it to be, as a key initiative when protecting all women and men from unsafe situations in pubs and bars.

Have You Heard Of ‘Ask For Angela’?

35.6% of respondents never come across ‘Ask For Angela’ in their city!

Out of 100 respondents from various cities across the UK:

  • 77% said that they have heard of ‘Ask For Angela’.
  • However, 36% of respondents said they never come across the safety initiative in pubs and bars in their city.

From the pubs and bars that we surveyed, Bristol had the lowest percentage of venues that self-reported that they had the ‘Ask For Angela’ initiative in place, alongside only 13% of the venues reporting they use an alternative approach. For example, one bar in Bristol stated that despite not specifically using ‘Ask For Angela’, they include the morals of the initiative into their terms of service.

From a sample of 225 pubs and bars across 15 major UK cities, each of the venues in the locations surveyed have self-reported their own safety initiatives.
  • Despite Reading having one of the highest amounts of pubs and bars with ‘Ask For Angela’, with 73% of venues surveyed reporting they had the initiative, none of the bars and pubs that didn’t have ‘Ask For Angela’ provided information about an alternative safety initiative that they use at their venue. 
  • Comparatively, 93% of London’s venues had either ‘Ask For Angela’ or an alternative initiative in place, coming out on top.

How Safe Is Your City For A First Date?

With more than one in seven women reported to be assaulted by a stranger, according to the ONS, and nearly one in ten of those being victimised in an open public space, staying safe when meeting a new person for the first time is imperative. Therefore, initiatives like ‘Ask For Angela’ can help you out if you’re on a first date in a pub or a bar and you feel like things aren’t quite right.

However, we used the data provided by Police.uk to look into the prevalence of violence and sexual offences in the cities we found to have the most self-reported ‘Ask For Angela’ venues. Because, you need to be safe when you leave a venue too.

By a landslide, Reading had the most violent and sexual offences in December 2022, with 223 cases being reported. This number is significantly higher than Brighton’s, which only saw 23 cases of this nature reported in December. Both cities had 73% of their venues self-report that they participated in the ‘Ask For Angela’ safety initiative, however no venues in Reading informed us that they operated with an alternative safety initiative in cases when they did not have ‘Ask For Angela’. Whereas, 7% of the pubs and bars in Brighton that did not have ‘Ask For Angela’ had an alternative safety initiative in place. 

Violent and sexual offences were London’s fourth most frequently reported crime, with 261 cases being reported, however, this number is still proportionately lower than that of Reading due to the size of the UK’s capital city in comparison.

With 93% of the pubs and bars we surveyed in London having the ‘Ask For Angela’ safety initiative in place or an alternative, it seems that venues in London take our safety seriously.

How To Stay Safe On A First Date

Visiting a venue that has the proper safety initiatives in place when you’re going on a first date is guaranteed to give you peace of mind when it comes to your safety. 

It’s good to know that out of the 15 major UK cities that we surveyed over half of the venues, in 87% of the cities, had the ‘Ask For Angela’ safety initiative in place, or an alternative.

So, you’re more likely than not to walk into a bar or a pub that has ‘Ask For Angela’, or similar initiatives in place, when you’re meeting someone for the first time.

We spoke to Ekra, a solicitor who works with victims of abuse and violence, here at Criminal Injuries Helpline, about personal safety and how to stay safe on a first date. 

These are her top five ways to prioritise your safety when you’re off to meet someone new:

  1. Meet In A Public Area

If you are meeting someone for the first time, don’t meet them at your home or workplace, as this can give a stranger too much information about your life before you trust them. 

Instead, choose a busy venue with lots of people around. So, you’ll also be able to ask for help or alert someone that you’re in an uncomfortable situation quickly and easily.

  1. Tell Your Friends & Family About Your Date

It is important to keep your loved ones in the loop when you’re off on a first date with someone new. Let a trusted person know where you’re going and when you expect to be home, plus give them any details you have about your date, such as their name and their phone number. 

Make sure to update your friend or family member if plans change throughout the night too. 

  1. Look Out For Your Drink

Whilst you are out and about, make sure that you don’t leave your drink unattended. Some date rape drugs are odourless and colourless, so you might not even be able to detect that there is something in your drink.

Just to be safe, look out for your drink and don’t leave it unattended or accept a drink from your date that you haven’t watched being prepared behind the bar. 

  1. Bring A Phone Charger

Before leaving the house, ensure your mobile phone is fully charged and bring a phone charger with you, just in case you need additional battery power.

This will make sure that you’ll always have access to your phone so you can update a loved one about your whereabouts, or call a taxi to get home safely. 

  1. Trust Your Instincts 

If you feel like something isn’t right about your date, believe in yourself! Often, our instincts are right about this sort of thing, and your safety is imperative when it comes to dating. So, don’t worry that an abrupt exit will come across as rude – put your safety first.

Sources

Data collected from:

Office for National Statistics

Police.uk

225 venues self-reported via email and/or telephone their safety initiatives.

100 respondents answered survey detailing how safe they feel in their city.

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