Far from the madding crowd.

As a skinny gawky teenager I could never comprehend in a million years what my future job role would entail or that I would be able to eject equivalent of two rugby teams' worth of drunk and violent men with just four colleagues to back me up. But just a few years later that was exactly what I was doing. Pre 2003 you didn’t need to be qualified to become a door supervisor and though some towns and cities had their own licensing initiatives and criminal records check were not on the agenda. This often meant that “Bouncers”, as they were known then were stereotyped and it was rare to see a female on the door. Not particularly an imposing presence at 5ft 7 it was difficult at first. Customers were as surprised as my male colleagues when they turned up at a new venue and saw me there and it sometimes took time to build a working relationship with them. The most embarrassing situation a female door supervisor could be in is when they are in total control of a situation and a male colleague runs in and “rescues” her and it did happen once or twice. On a plus note it was very self-satisfying rescuing them right back the following week and they didn’t make the same mistake twice! A prime example was after I stopped a male door supervisor from being jumped by a group of males. He then went onto describe a long drawn out story of how he had bounced them off of walls and locked them up one by one launching them all out of the front door, grunting as his story unfolded and reliving every painful manoeuvre in great detail. Unbeknown to him the entire incident had been watched on CCTV and it clearly showed a very different story. By the time the SIA was introduced in 2003 we were a far more common presence and although being subjected to regular comments of, “Cor I wouldn’t mind being thrown out by you”, from the guys or more derogatory comments from the girls I fast became addicted to working the doors. It afforded me a lifestyle of having to work to make ends meet but being able to socialise at the same time and over the years I have forged many friendships via door work. Initially things could rile me and in the beginning breaking up brawls actually gave me a buzz but I quickly learnt to wind my neck in! The power of the adrenaline coursing through your veins versus getting home safe and sound and at a reasonable time became a non-contest and somehow I don’t think my employer would have been very impressed with me turning up at my office job wearing a suit and heels whilst sporting black eyes and broken limbs! Communicating calmly, although it was not always easy, when abuse and other provocations start to fly, it became second nature and I wouldn’t ask someone to leave without an explanation and always gave them the chance to protest. Although this was not fool proof as some people simply will not walk outside in the first place, no matter how kindly or softly they are spoken to, communicating with your team and letting everyone know what's going on around you, prevents a verbal altercation turning into something physical. A typical night on the doors starts with the venue safety checks, checking fire exits are not blocked and that the emergency lighting is fully working. All venues will have regulations set down by the local licensing authority and it’s essential that it’s available to door staff to refer to and this could be anything from plastic drinking vessels, to when the music must go off. Once the initial checks have been done I would check that the first aid room was clean, tidy and fully stocked. Once the other door staff arrive some venues would have a quick briefing that would include what event was on, who has been recently barred and any other specific issues relating to the type of event that night be on that night. We may also have been given police intelligence and then we would all be sent to our posts. It’s essential that as a door supervisor you forge good links with the local police as there will be a time when you may need them. On a weekly basis we would all take a look through the “Barred from One, Barred from all Book” a local initiative set up by the police and Pubwatch schemes to prevent trouble moving from one hot spot to another. I often worked on the front door doing searches which provided you with the opportunity to have a quick chat to the customer and it was often at this point that people would be sent away because they were presenting as being too intoxicated. This is particularly useful in today’s economic climate where people are prone to consuming large amounts of shop bought alcohol before entering which impacts on the venue when things go wrong or someone becomes ill. Nowadays things are very different with the increase in the use of CCTV, radios, Town watch schemes and hi visibility clothing and of course the introduction of the SIA licence has served to weed out people that were not appropriate for the job in the first place. You now qualify as a door supervisor rather than size and gender being your only assets. Fake Ids are now more common and cause a huge problem but by reporting and handing in fake ID, or ID that you don’t believe belongs to someone to the police, we all become part of a larger picture tackling this issue. Over a 20 year period I have had the privileged of working in concert venues, pubs and clubs, festivals and sporting events. I have never asked for autographs nor had my picture taken with a celebrity despite having met and worked with some high profile people. I changed from a gawky teenager into a confident woman and my kids think they have the coolest mum on earth and I wouldn’t change a single minute of it! Deborah White.

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