Bev Craig, the leader of the Manchester City Council, gave an enthralling speech at Reclaim the Night. Following this, she joined Jess Walmsley and Erin Botten to be interviewed for another episode of Under the Spotlight.
Her speech at Reclaim talked about the lack of change in Manchester in regard to sexual harassment. She recalled her time as the Wellbeing Officer at the Students Union (SU), and how reclaim also took place during her time. Hence one of the first things we did when we brought her into the Mancunion office is see which editions she might have been in. Talking for a few minutes about how the SU was during her time and what parts she remembered.
“I think there are a whole raft of things that need to change.
However, during the speech, she added, “We cannot in five, ten, or 20 years time be stood here having the same conversations.” Positively, Craig exclaimed that she does see stuff changing. For example, the councillor referred to the increased diversity of the protestors and having speakers from marginalised groups.
It is also key to note that during her time, men were either not allowed to participate at all or were sent to the back of the march. Nowadays, men are included and welcomed in the feminist march against harassment and misogyny.
Bev Craig noted this modern development, stating, “I think having the participation of man in it is actually quite an interesting development. It can be quite powerful when we think about some of the societal changes that we need to see.”
Craig continued saying that for things to change, more political and legal conversations need to take place. For example, Manchester City Council has had conversations about making misogyny a hate crime.
Craig explains this discussion, stating, “categorizing that [misogyny] in a way that gives some legislative back into it – I think that needs to happen as well. Of course, we’ve seen challenges around police forces across the country and some of the attitudes that are there. I think there is a whole raft of things that need to change.”
Bev Craig came out being one of the few politicians who accept that there is a lot more work that they need to put in. She remained determined to go the extra mile and make these changes.
Reflecting back on her time leading Reclaim in 2008, seeing increased diversity at the protest and the emergency centres. Stating, “we need to do more to recognize the intersection difficulties communities face.”
Chang is slowly coming in, adding, “we’ve done a whole bunch of other things to make sure that people from other marginalized communities are feeling safe, but we’ve been at the forefront of tackling some of those big issues for quite some time.”
She was questioned about the long waiting in Manchester for counselling such as St. Mary’s. Craig responded, “[The Council] has seen its budget cut by more than £428 million a year since 2010.” This in turn makes it harder for them to fund the required changes.
“We’ve tried to get extra money flow into St. Mary’s [and] see extra resource go into there,” she added. “But I do think there is a challenge for accessing consciousness support, people need it rather than six, eight months down the line. And we’re working to do everything we can to try.”
Craig expanded on her Night Time Charter, saying that it’s aimed at organisations employing a female workforce between the hours of 6am to 6pm. Its point is to increase accountability, making any nightlife venues safe from harassment for both staff and customers. This does not just include nightclubs or bars, but even places like McDonalds, who have signed up to the charter.
Bev Craig’s main goal for the Night Time Charter? To incorporate night safety into every part of daily life. Giving an example of architects being asked to put in LED lights to reduce their carbon footprint. The problem with LED lights is their intensity or lack thereof. With streets being less well-lit in order to reduce companies’ carbon footprint, people feel more unsafe walking about at night.
Hence, Craig point’s out the purpose of the charter is”to have those conversations when you’re designing things at the beginning when you’re able to debate with all of the top architects.”
We asked how many businesses have been involved with the charter. The councillor stated that there are a lot of nightclubs and bars that have signed up for the charter and these venues are seeing progress with it.
“I think that’s what’s quite energetic about it, because it is really flipping the way people think, by training sessions for some of those businesses. So we’ve done things like active bystander training, the door staff people running the bars night and it has been really well received.” However, Craig is trying to put pressure on places like McDonalds to make them safer spaces.
From there the subject was moved onto spiking. Over a year ago, in November 2021, there was the End Spiking Now protest and Girls’ Night In. We asked about what changes have been made since it.
Bev Craig stated, “I’m a big fan that if you say you’re going to do something, do it but you do it for meaningful and lasting change.” Adding that the Council has put stricter rules on the licensing of places to ensure that they are safer.
The Council has also added a focus on policing and monitoring the spiking cases. Craig expending on this, saying she has had conversations with police on how such crimes can be reported.
“I’m a big fan that if you say you’re going to do something, do it but you do it for meaningful and lasting change.
Coming back to Reclaim: last year’s Reclaim the Night included a theme of sex workers. Hence, we asked what the Council would be doing about it.
Craig replied saying that the council is currently working with a lot of organisations: “I think one of the things that have come through to us really, is that actually, for most normal people, you think about the people that are relevant to you.”
As a result, the Council wants to have conversations with individuals, and talk about charities and what support can be provided.
Finally, Bev Craig was asked about her favourite sign at the protest. While meant to be a light-hearted question, Craig couldn’t help but talk about how important the DIY signs are. She alluded to how it shows how deep and individualistic the problem is.
As the interview ended she got up; had a little chat about our plans with Under the Spotlight. Then, with a determination to make a change, Bev Craig left the office.