‘Fear is limiting women’s lives’: Campaigners march through Islington to demand safer streets

The march goes through Highbury Fields. Photograph: Julia Gregory

Walkers chanted “We’re not safe until everyone’s safe” as they took to the streets of Islington to highlight the lack of safety for women and girls.

The walk saw 50 women, children and men head from the Town Hall on Upper Street to St Mary’s Church in Holloway Road, where work has been done to improve safety in the park.

It comes after Islington Council asked people about safety in the borough.

More than 1,700 replied, with both men and women saying anti-social behaviour, a lack of visible policing, and groups of men make them feel unsafe.

Women said poor lighting was also a cause of concern, whilst men also highlighted intimidation.

One woman participating on the walk said she wanted to see better lighting near her home and explained how she altered her route because of it.

Jessica Plummer of the Love and Loss support group said: “It’s important that we can walk the streets without fear. People should be able to walk freely.”

Plummer campaigns for safety after her 17-year-old son Shaquan Sammy-Plummer was murdered at a party in 2015.

“Instead of the hate, turn hate into love and darkness into light,” she said.

Local MP Emily Thornberry (right) joined the walk. Photograph: Julia Gregory

Anita Grant, chair of Islington4Women, which holds regular women’s walks to bring the community together and explore the area, said: “We support women to feel safer on the streets and to gather information about that so we make it safer.”

She wants to see family-friendly streets: “The more people that are on the streets, the better.”

The walk also visited Union Chapel, one of the borough’s Safe Havens, where people can ask for help if they feel unsafe.

Participating venues have a sticker to show that staff can help people if they feel threatened or harrassed on the street, unwell, or need some help.

Katharine Crewe, Union Chapel’s social justice and community outreach worker, said: “We are proud to be a Safe Haven, as an extension of what we do as an entertainment venue to keep people safe and support one another.”

Other Safe Havens include fast food restaurants, newsagents, shops and restaurants, community centres and hair salons.

Other venues include Islington Town Hall, Central Library and Highbury Leisure Centre.

Cllr Sue Lukes, who has responsibility for community safety, said women feel less safe than men.

She said: “Residents are saying ‘We deserve to feel safe’. We want everybody to work with us to make it happen.”

She added: “Fear is limiting women’s lives. Abusers use women’s fears of outside the home. Women make life choices based on their fears.

“One of the  things that we have learnt from the pandemic is that we work together to look after each other.”

Islington South and Finsbury MP Emily Thornberry, who joined the walk, said: “What we are talking about is male violence. We need men to appreciate that is what we are talking about.

“They have in turn a responsibility to ensure that they themselves are not unwittingly intimidating women, and they really should consider not walking too close to them – but equally, when a woman is being hassled, to ask if she’s alright.”