Ten years after her son was almost killed with a broken bottle, Marjorie Golding, founder of the PoP Campaign, tells Hannah Dunleavy about her bid to make injuries like his a thing of the past.
Marjorie Golding at home in Newport Pagnell.
On Christmas Eve 2004, Marjorie and Robert Golding got one of those phone calls that every parent dreads.
“We’d been with my daughter,” Marjorie starts. “We got in about 12.30, so it was Christmas Day. The phone was ringing when we put the key in the door. It was one of our neighbour’s sons. All he said was ‘Blake’s been in accident. He’s been bottled’.”
Blake, Marjorie’s and Robert’s son, lived at home with them in Newport Pagnell, Buckinghamshire, and was working a second job as a doorman at a nightclub in Milton Keynes. He was 21.
What the couple didn’t then know was that he had intervened when a customer hit a female colleague with a bottle and, in the ensuing struggle to get him out of the door, had also been hit in the face with the bottle. When it broke, the man dragged it up though Blake’s hairline, then hit him in the cheek with it, before finally stabbing the bottle into his neck.
“We actually beat the ambulance to the hospital.”
The first person they saw was the head doorman (who also received stitches for an injury he sustained wrestling the bottle from Blake’s attacker).
“He said to us, ‘it’s really bad’.”
Marjorie described what happened next as “40 minutes of pure hell.”
“We could see the commotion. We could see bloody footprints on the floor. We couldn’t see Blake. I didn’t know what to do with myself.
“Then a doctor came and said ideally they’d have transferred him to Stoke Mandeville, but they just didn’t have the time. He was in such a bad way. He’d lost four pints of blood.”
The couple were told later that the main thrust of the bottle was less than half an inch from their son’s jugular- “any closer he’d have bled to death.”
“They said we could go in to see him quickly before they operated. One at a time. When Robert came out he looked white as a sheet. And I thought, I’ve got to in there. Adrienne, my daughter, couldn’t go alone, so I said we’d have to go together.
“I’d always been OK with other people’s blood, but when my kids were little if they cut themselves, I’d feel physically sick.
“And when we went behind those curtains. My God. The pictures don’t do it justice.
Her eyes fill up: “I just remember saying to him ‘your beautiful eyes are still OK’.
She stops to wipe away another tear. “I’m sorry. It’s silly. It is because it’s 10 years ago.”
Blake had more than 50 stitches: “I don’t know exactly how many because they stitch in layers.
“He puts on a really good show. When he had that picture taken with the stiches, I said to him ‘you don’t always have to smile for the camera.’”
“But it’s a show. We bought him home on Boxing Day, we tried to do a little bit of Christmas. Had some of his friends round. Had a bit of lunch. He just went upstairs and cried.”
She pauses. “We have been to hell and back.”
Part of that trauma, naturally, comes from the process of achieving justice – something the Goldings aren’t convinced they’ve seen.
Blake’s attacker pleaded guilty.
“He was charged with GBH with intent. We were told he would likely get a six-to-eight-year-stretch. He got two years. He was out on tag in seven months.
“I tried not to think too much about him, because I wanted to concentrate on Blake. Robert was the opposite. He was so angry.
“But then, about a year ago, I suddenly from nowhere, got really angry. And I thought, where’s this come from?
“It’s not just that night. It goes on and on. And it has a negative impact on just about every aspect of Blake’s life, which then has a ripple effect right through the family.”
For example, the scars on the outside. When Blake returned to work, Marjorie says, he became concerned that no-one was making eye contact.
It goes on and on. And it has a negative impact on just about every aspect of Blake’s life, which then has a ripple effect right through the family.
“He went for other jobs, but would go to the interview with this idea that people wouldn’t give him the job because they’d think he was a hooligan. I’d say ‘tell them what happened to you’ and he’d say ‘I don’t want a job out of sympathy.’ Everything was a Catch-22.
“He wasn’t earning enough money, then overspending to feel better about himself. I was going through his bank statements with him and you know, he was always in credit, even if it was just by a pound. Until that night.
“You can blame just about everything on that night.
“And, so,” she says “I had my idea to start the campaign. I said, what about if we can make something positive out of this negative? What if we could change the law?”
Immediately, it’s like Marjorie’s invigorated, a Marjorie I’m not sure she even knew existed before she launched the PoP (Plastic Bottles or Plastic Surgery) Campaign. (“The first big bit of public speaking I did,” she later tells me “was at a national Home Office Conference, in front of 500 police officers. I was really scared. But I did it. It was brilliant platform for us.”)
The family started PoP in June 2005, aiming to get tough polycarbonate glasses to replace glass ones and to have glass bottles replaced by Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) ones – or the contents of the bottle decanted into a polycarbonate glass – in late-night city centre bars and clubs.
“I talked to Blake about it first because I would never had done something unless he was happy with it. And he was.
“So, I just got somebody at work to do me a little website. I paid him with a bacon sandwich. Then it just went a bit bonkers for a while.”
In the past nine years, the couple have travelled the length and breadth of the UK talking to the police, Pubwatch schemes and Home Office conferences.
“We believe it should be law. Across the board. With no grey area. We don’t want to use the existing laws because that requires a victim before the law can step in.”
Marjorie hands me one of the campaign plastic pint glasses. It’s not the sort a sends your pint shooting up out of the top, it’s thick, durable and, apparently, keeps your drink cooler than glass.
“After I’ve drunk something out of this,” I say, “I’m going to collect my nephew and then run it over with my car.”
“The police have done that,” she laughs. “It didn’t break.”
The campaign has faced some resistance from the hospitality industry.
“I personally think it’s the initial cost. They dress it up and say ‘we might be perceived as troublesome, if we’re glass free.’ In actual fact, when we talk to the general public about nightclubs that are glass free, it’s the exact opposite.
“I’ve had people quite high up in organisations say to me ‘but when glass is broken, our staff are trained to put up a cordon and remove all the glass safely.’ In a nightclub where people are standing shoulder-to-shoulder? It’s just not possible.
“But, in quite a lot of areas, the police thought it was such a good idea, they got a grant and bought polycarbonate glasses for their area. And provided them nightclubs who wanted to give it a go.”
I spoke to an eye surgeon I’d met. He’d been getting called in every weekend to deal with a glass-related injury. He told me since the glass-free trial started he hadn’t got called in at the weekend once
The feedback from these clubs has been overwhelmingly positive, Marjorie says. They report incidents of accidental injury to staff are down and customers aren’t cutting their feet. Cleaning is easier at the end of the night, so the wage bill is lower. They say the dance floor’s in better condition and the furniture doesn’t need repairing so often.
All this, Marjorie believes, makes the more expensive non-glass glasses, cost neutral.
“It really is a no brainer.”
Particularly when you consider the other major benefit is yet to be counted. No-one is getting glassed in those nightclubs.
“It happens to thousands of people. And that’s this year. You got to remember to add that on to the people it happened to last year and the year before. We’re 10 years on and we’re still not out from under this.”
For Marjorie and Robert, their biggest success lies in Hull, a city which had, “just awful” statistics on alcohol-related violence.
“Their police force got the biggest grant from the Government and they bought thousands of polycarbonate glasses and invited the city’s big venues to a meeting, where we gave a presentation. They gave them the initial glasses they’d need for free if they signed a guarantee they’d trial them for a year. There was a 90% take-up.
“A year later, I spoke to an eye surgeon I’d met. He’d been getting called in every weekend to deal with a glass-related injury. He told me since the glass-free trial started he hadn’t got called in at the weekend once.”
Not long after, the Hull Daily Mail reported the estimated cost saving to the NHS in eye-surgery alone in the first year of the plastic-only trail was £7.2m. (No really.)
“I’m very proud of what we’ve achieved,” Marjorie adds. She should be.
That’s not to say, it’s not hard work. Both she and her husband have worked full-time and funded the campaign themselves. (“You make the time. You fit things in. You just do it.”)
In December 2012, they handed in a petition of more than 115,000 signatures into to 10 Downing Street, and met with the Minister of State for Crime Prevention.
But, that’s not the end, clearly.
“You do have to keep thinking of things to keep kicking it up the backside.”
This involves researching other cases around the country (Marjorie blames the fact most stories of glassings are only reported locally for it failing to be seen as a national issue).
She tells me about Emma O’Kane, a 27-year-old mother of three, killed in 2008 when a bottle thrown by a man being ejected from a Manchester bar hit a pillar close her and exploded, severing her jugular.
“When I think that poor girl died in the time we’ve been campaigning. I find that… very frustrating.”
So, do the Goldings believe the law with ever be changed? Robert, who has wandered in, is sceptical, believing it will take a glassing involving someone high-profile for people to pay real attention.
His wife is more optimistic.
“I don’t know how long we’ll do this for. Because doing it, it pulls you back a little bit. Every time.
“But I feel we’ve done a lot. We’ve got the ball rolling. Yes. I think it will happen.”
To sign the PoP petition, click here [https://www.change.org/p/prime-minister-david-cameron-david-cameron-reduce-glass-related-injuries-in-late-night-bars-and-night-clubs] and to like the campaign’s Facebook page, go here [https://www.facebook.com/pages/Pop-campaign/306946002739942?fref=ts]
Hannah Dunleavy is the deputy editor of Standard Issue. She likes whisky and not having to run anywhere.