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Cross-Sector Collaboration Sees Fitness And Leisure Facilities Continue Safety Improvements With ‘Ask For Angela’ Pilot

muslim woman lifts heavy weights in gym

ukactive, This Girl Can, Safer Business Network, the Metropolitan Police Service and the Mayor of London have joined forces to launch a pilot of the ‘Ask for Angela’ campaign across 11 fitness and leisure centres in southwest London.

Lampton Leisure and Anytime Fitness are leading the way by signing up some of their sites for an eight-week pilot of the nationally recognised safety campaign, which has previously demonstrated success in the hospitality sector.

Originally designed for licensed venues, ‘Ask for Angela’ allows people who feel like they are in an unsafe situation to ask staff for help by discreetly using the code word “Angela”. 

The ‘Ask for Angela’ campaign aims to help promote safety and wellbeing for anyone who feels vulnerable or who finds themself in an uncomfortable position, and the organisations behind it want to explore its use in other public settings, starting with the fitness and leisure sector.

The pilot builds on recent work from ukactive and This Girl Can as part of ‘Safer Spaces to Move’, a two-year funded project that aims to address sexual harassment and intimidation by supporting more fitness and leisure facilities to improve their services for women and girls.

Launched on 26 February, the pilot will see an external evaluation agency capture the impact and learnings to help determine how well the campaign works in fitness and leisure facilities and whether it is suitable for adoption more widely within the sector.

Staff at each facility, including those on the front desk, gym floor and management, have been provided with a range of training tools to ensure they can best support users if they ask for ‘Angela’.

These tools include a dedicated training handbook and an animated training video that have been developed specifically for the sector, including advice and information on:

  • What behaviour might constitute sexual harassment and intimidation in a gym setting and the wider context on the laws which surround this.
  • How to respond when a customer ‘Asks for Angela’ and how to support and assist them to ensure they feel, and are, safe.
  • When, how and to whom incidences of sexual harassment or intimidation can occur within a gym or leisure setting, as well as when to escalate a matter to senior management. 
  • How to embed ‘Ask for Angela’ alongside existing policies.

Each facility has been provided with an ‘Ask for Angela’ communications toolkit including physical and digital posters; assets for digital screens and equipment; social media posts; an email template for member communications; and an email signature for staff to help raise awareness of the campaign.

Research from ukactive and This Girl Can found that four in 10 women surveyed (42%) had experienced some form of sexual harassment or intimidation in their fitness or leisure centre and more than two-thirds (68%) never reported it either because they did not know who to report it to or they did not think it was serious enough.

The pilot aims to help ensure all members and visitors feel safe and supported so that if they experience any form of inappropriate behaviour, they feel confident and comfortable reporting it to staff discreetly.

Harriett Jones, Interim Director of Sector Development and Head of Consumer Engagement at ukactive, said:

“The fitness and leisure sector is determined to play its part in creating a safer nation, where everyone feels confident and comfortable in our communities. 

“The Ask for Angela pilot is another great example of the work underway through the Safer Spaces to Move Project to improve the fitness and leisure environment for all users so that everyone can enjoy the benefits of being physically active in safe and welcoming facilities.

“It’s also part of a wider drive to ensure our sector’s workforce feels supported and equipped to manage any incidences of inappropriate behaviour.

“We look forward to working with our members, partners and consumers to understand how this campaign could help drive improvement and what lessons we can take from its application in the hospitality industry.”

Head of Campaign Activation at This Girl Can, Claire Edwards, said: “For some, going to the gym can be an anxious experience.

Wearing tight clothing, changing in front of others, entering often heavily male-dominated spaces, as well worries about getting active and not being good enough are all too common – often for women and girls.

Our research found that safety concerns restrict women’s freedom and comfort in fitness and leisure centres and pose a significant barrier to them enjoying exercise.

‘Ask for Angela’ will reassure women and girls that they can, and should, seek help or report any situation that has left them feeling uncomfortable and that staff will be on hand to help.

The campaign has a proven history in the hospitality sector and we’re confident it will be beneficial to the health and fitness industry.”

Gareth Lewis, Director of Operations at Anytime Fitness UK, said: “We’re looking forward to our clubs supporting the leisure sector’s trial of ‘Ask for Angela’’.

While gyms and leisure facilities are generally very safe places to be, the presence of ‘Ask for Angela’ provides an extra level of reassurance for visitors that if they were to experience any intimidation or harassment, the facility’s staff are fully trained in how to handle this.

We hope that the pilot is a huge success and further builds on the great work that ukactive and our wider sector are doing in breaking down barriers and helping people feel safer and less intimidated when they set foot in a gym or leisure facility.”

Hannah Wadey, CEO, Safer Business Network said:  “We are delighted to be one of the leading partner organisations in developing the ‘Ask for Angela’ campaign and training adapted for the fitness and leisure sector.

Safer Business Network has been instrumental raising awareness of the ‘Ask for Angela’ campaign across the licensed trade, and it is fantastic to see other industry sectors now adopting the safety campaign.”

Detective Superintendent Brittany Clarke, Lead Responsible Officer for Violence Against Women and Girls, Metropolitan Police, said: “Gyms and leisure centres are generally safe places where you can keep fit and have fun. 

However, no one, regardless of gender, should be made to feel threatened or intimidated when working out.

“It’s clear that some people have found it difficult to report instances like this in the past so that’s why we suggested bringing ‘Ask for Angela’ into this environment. 

We are delighted to be a part of this project and hope it will make a difference to customers.”

Amy Lamé, Night Czar for Mayor of London, said: “The Mayor and I are determined to make London the safest and most welcoming city in the world.

We want women, girls and everyone out in London to be safe and to feel safe – whatever time of day and night and whatever they are doing in the capital.

“’Ask for Angela’ is well established across the hospitality sector in London as a vital way of supporting anyone feeling vulnerable or targeted to get quick and discreet help when they need it.

I’m thrilled our Women’s Night Safety Charter is supporting this work to get the scheme piloted in the capital’s gym and leisure sector and staff are receiving dedicated training to ensure they’re ready to give the appropriate support to those in need.”