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'Ask for Angela' trialled in gyms and leisure centres

This Girl Can has worked with other partners to launch a pilot of the nationally recognised safety campaign at 11 sites in south-west London.

11th March 2024

Our This Girl Can campaign has worked with ukactive, Safer Business Network, the Metropolitan Police Service and the Mayor of London to launch a pilot of the ‘Ask for Angela’ initiative across 11 fitness and leisure centres in south-west London.

Lampton Leisure and Anytime Fitness have signed up some of their sites for an eight-week trial of the nationally recognised safety campaign, which was originally designed for licensed hospitality venues.

‘Ask for Angela’ allows people who feel like they are in an unsafe or vulnerable situation to ask staff for help by using the code word ’Angela’.

This phrase will indicate to staff that they require discreet help with their situation and a trained member of staff will then look to support and assist them. 

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

A smiling woman on a rowing machine in a gym

"For some, going to the gym can be an anxious experience," said Claire Edwards, This Girl Can's head of campaign activation. 

"Wearing tight clothing, changing in front of others, entering often heavily male-dominated spaces, as well as 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."

'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.

Claire Edwards

Head of campaign activation, This Girl Can

The launch forms part of This Girl Can's current ‘Safer Spaces to Move’ project with ukactive, in which we’re aiming to tackle sexual harassment and intimidation by supporting more fitness and leisure facilities to improve their services for women and girls. 

Our research with ukactive 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.

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’, including a dedicated training handbook and an animated training video that have been developed specifically for the sector. 

Two social media graphics for the 'Ask for Angela' campaign. The first features an animated female character with text in a speech bubble: 'This gym proudly supports Ask for Angela'. Separate text at the bottom is 'For discreet help, speak to a member of our team and Ask for Angela. The second graphic has that same text at the bottom, with the following text in a box at the top: 'Feeling like you're getting unwanted attention?'

The ‘Ask for Angela’ pilot, which began on 26 February, will be evaluated by an external agency to help determine how well the campaign works in fitness and leisure facilities, and whether it is suitable for wider adoption by the sector later this year. 

Further reaction

Harriett Jones, Interim director of sector development and head of consumer engagement, ukactive

"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."

Hannah Wadey, CEO, Safer Business Network

"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

"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."

Gareth Lewis, Director of operations, Anytime Fitness UK

"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, that 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."

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