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Tuesday, 22 June 2021
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Nightline celebrates 50 years of supporting students

A confidential anonymous listening service, founded in Essex but now available to more than 1.6 million students across the UK, ROI and beyond, is celebrating its 50th anniversary.

Nightline was born from a conversation between three students – Marilyn Griffin, Maggie Barwick and Flick Mesger – at the University of Essex in early 1970. For some time they had been providing a listening ear to fellow students, but at that moment they wondered if there was a different way of providing support, particularly at night when students may feel at their most vulnerable, but other services are closed.

With help from the University Chaplain Reverend Malcolm France and Professor Geoffrey Hosking, who were both involved with the local Samaritans service, the first group of Nightline volunteers was trained in the principles of active listening and empathy.

Later that same term, on 7 May 1970, in a disused prefab office on the edge of the University grounds, Essex Nightline opened its lines for the first time. Within three days, they had their first call. Within a year, the Nightline concept was replicated at Imperial College London, and by 1972 nine Nightline’s had opened across the country.

Today there are 39 services in the UK and Ireland affiliated to the Nightline Association. Between them, Nightline services cover 120 Higher Education institutions and give 1.6 million students access to confidential listening support. There are also Nightline-inspired services across Europe, the USA and Canada.

Reflecting on Nightline now, Marilyn Griffin, one of the three students involved in the original conversation in 1970 said:

“From the beginning, Nightline was for students, by students.”

That remains true today. Nightline is founded on principles of anonymity and non-judgement, allowing students to talk to someone who understands what it means to be a student. Nightline’s play a key part in the cocktail of support offered at university, providing a local service, supported by a nationwide network.

Upon entering their sixth decade of service, Chair of Trustees for the Nightline Association – Emily Wheeler – said:

“While every charity aims for a world where their services will no longer be needed, our Nightline’s will remain as long as young people need us to provide the anonymous, non-judgemental peer support that helps them make the most out of their student experience and be there when they need us the most. Thank you to all our volunteers, past and present, for the incredible dedication, passion and skill that they have brought to Nightline and the wider community; the world needs Nightline and needs them.”

You can find out more about Nightline 50 at www.nightline.ac.uk/NL50.

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