Going out is great fun, until you’ve had too much to drink, suddenly feel sad, or are harassed by fellow clubbers. At Oost, floor angels are there to make you feel safe again.
It is a busy Saturday at nightclub Oost. The music is playing and the dancefloor is filling up quickly. A light show moves to the beat of the music. Drinks are ordered at the bar and bodies are moving to the techno rhythms. It’s dark, but she can quickly be spotted: a girl wearing a neon yellow t-shirt emblazoned with the words ‘Oost Floor Angel’.
When Oost opens its doors on the weekends, floor angels are there to greet you when you arrive. They are part of the awareness team from Oost that wants to provide a safe space for everyone that goes to the club.
‘They call us the “eyes and ears of Oost”’, says Hesta McCarthy Fisher. The twenty-year-old international and European law student has worked as a floor angel ever since Oost introduced the concept last May. Even though Hesta and her classmate Chloë van Beukering had only been to Oost once at that time, they applied straight away. ‘We just thought it was a great initiative.’
Both Chloë and Hesta believe that every club and bar in Groningen could use an angel. ‘I don’t think it’s ever a bad idea to have somebody walking around to make sure that people are okay’, says Chloë.
Hesta is motivated, among other things, by her own experiences with catcalling. ‘I feel that, as women, we need to support and protect women, and therefore I do what I can in this regard.’
The floor angel team has since grown to a group of approximately twenty-five people. ‘Some people study, and others are in their thirties and have a job’, explains Hesta. ‘I think what makes me love Oost is the energy and the people that work there. Everyone is just lovely and super welcoming, and I would never have met them, if I hadn’t worked here.’
Circulating the club
On most weekends, Chloë and Hesta work three-hour shifts, circulating the club and looking out for the guests. Most of the time they make sure that guests can find help if they’ve had too much to drink, are feeling sad, or have experienced unpleasant behaviour from others at the club.
‘If I see someone who looks sad or too drunk, I go over to them and ask them to go outside and get some fresh air and then I sit and talk with them. If they are too drunk, we make sure they get home safe’, says Chloë.
Often, they take care of the problems themselves, by providing the partygoers a friendly face and someone to talk to. ‘I always think it’s really nice to just have someone that you know is not gonna get you in trouble. Someone who isn’t gonna tattle on you, but just be there if you need some extra support. That might just ease your mind on a night out’, explains Chloë.
‘Girls are really grateful. I often get a lot of hugs, especially from drunk girls’, laughs Hesta.
If there is a more pressing problem, they alert the floor managers or security guards, who then take over. One night, Chloë needed help herself when she was working: ‘I was outside, checking on everybody that was smoking, when I was harassed by a group of probably seven or eight men. I was standing a little bit away from the door and all I had to do was turn around and wave to the security guard and manager who were standing farther away. They walked right over to me and asked me what happened and then they kicked all the harassers out.’
‘It is nice to know that I am doing something positive’, Hesta says. ‘I’m creating a safe space for people regardless of their gender, race, or sexual orientation. It’s important that everyone has a good night, because being social is an important part of life when you’re at university. It should not be ruined by awkward and uncomfortable situations.’
At three in the morning, when the party is at its peak, the two floor angels make their way out of the crowded club. Their work is done for the night, and they can go home and sleep. While they close their eyes, two new angels are circulating the nightclub, keeping an eye on the many clubbers.