Bouncers TX: 7 Nov 2013, Week 45


Episode 4/6, Thursday 7th November, 10pm, Channel 4

Filmed in Essex, this series shows a Britain that’s out to get smashed and doesn’t seem to care about the consequences. The bouncers are the ones cleaning up the mess - they’re the sober and wry observers of our weekend antics.

But the series also features warm, insightful and funny stories that explore what’s behind people’s night-time behaviour.

Colchester in Essex is a small town that comes to life at night. It’s a garrison town and has a university and everybody, it seems, loves a drink. Queen Street is the hub of the town’s late night drinking – if it’s going to kick off, this is where it will happen. The film follows five bouncers who work along this strip at Silk Road, TP’s Sports Bar and the kebab shop.

This film shows that bouncing is a profession of two ‘schools’ – old school vs new school. The job became legitimate and licensed in 2001, but there are those who remember the ‘good old days’.

On the doors at the town’s Silk Road are head doorman Curtis and his right hand man Jamie, who’ve been bouncing a combined 30 years. They keep their doors safe with a lot of know-how, but they’re always ready to get their hands dirty if required.

Curtis is, in his own words “not one of these new doormen, that deal with things the PC way. If you can’t protect your doors, you’re just a shirt filler, just a badge”. He is a much-respected staple of Queens Street and the doorman that other doormen want to be. Curtis’s approach is to give as good as he gets – and he does get a lot of grief from the hordes of well-refreshed revelers he comes into contact with.

Curtis’s lieutenant Jamie watches the inside of Silk Road, removing the wrong sort through the back door, who usually end up fighting in the alley. He may be a big man covered in tattoos, but there’s a softer side to Jamie and he hates being around drunk people and spends his nights dreaming of the day when he can go to the country, put up a “six foot fence’ and live in peace and solitude with his beloved dogs.

New to the job is Alex, on a one-man mission to prove that doormen are diplomats, not brawlers. Alex is the most unlikely doorman you’ll ever meet – his approach to the job, as with everything in life, is philosophical: “A doorman is like a nuclear weapon, everyone has one, but you don’t want to use it because of the chaos it creates,” he says. Watch out Sartre.

Perhaps uniquely for a bouncer, 25-year-old Alex has never been in a fight in his life. But how will he cope when he is sent to work in Clacton-on-Sea, which is a notorious hotspot or trouble.

Meanwhile Sue brings a female perspective to the job: “Just because I’m small doesn’t mean I can’t look after myself,” she says. It’s hard to understand why a pretty and petite young woman would want to spend every weekend on the door of a nightclub, where “Men think that they can touch you, just because you are a woman”. But Sue has a past fraught with heartache and her journey to becoming a bouncer means a lot more to her than just as a way to earn a few quid.

We also meet Shide, who watches over the late night kebab shop. Not every kebab shop has a bouncer, but at this one it’s necessary. When everyone gets kicked out onto the streets at 3am, things can turn nasty – and they usually do.

Producer/Director: Cathy Durbin
Executive Producer: Liesel Evans
Production Company: Century Films

Episode 3/6, Thursday 19th September, 10pm, Channel 4

Sunderland is Newcastle’s next-door neighbour and rival. It was once home to the world’s biggest shipyards and the deepest coal mines in Britain, but since the decline of local industry, the city has seen tough times and high levels of unemployment.

But that doesn’t mean people stop going out for a good time. In Sunderland you can get ‘very well refreshed’ for under a fiver. And the club with the latest opening hours is Passion. There are different themes to pull in the crowds every night - from rock night and ‘dress to impress’ to gay night. But Passion is most famous for student night, featuring 50p drinks.

Passion’s head of security is self-confessed ‘bad boy done good’ Jeff. The 48-year-old has been a bouncer for over 23 years. “When I first started I would say that doormen had a lot more respect,” says Jeff. “All the lads know I’m capable of doing stuff, it’s not something I like to see, but everyone knows I can if I need to.”

Jeff’s protégée is Erdem, an amateur cage fighter who competes under the name ‘Crazy Turk’.

With five clubs and around 40 bars, it’s not just Sunderland’s doors that need bouncers. For three nights a week, 49-year-old Gordon Smallwell and his colleagues are employed by the local council as marshals to supervise the boisterous taxi queues.

“It’s unfortunate that you need marshals on places you wouldn’t expect like a taxi queue,” says Gordon. “But what would happen if we weren’t there? You could have stopped someone getting their head kicked in, even killed…You’re a counsellor, social worker, philosopher, friend, enemy, sometimes just a shoulder to cry on – it’s all rolled into one.”

Like many bouncers, Gordon has a second job, as a caretaker. He works a sixty-hour week, but the anti-social hours are taking their toll and he’s looking for a new job.

Less than half an hour away is the nightlife nirvana of Newcastle, where up to 100,000 people go out drinking each weekend. Whatever the weather, the unwritten rule for clubbers in Newcastle is never to ruin your look with a coat or an umbrella.

One of the most popular venues in the area known as the ‘Diamond Strip’ is nightclub Tup Tup Palace. 47-year-old doorman Mark Tully has worked there for two-and-a-half years.

“I’ve been bitten, punched, scratched…and that’s just me missus!“ says Mark. “I like to have fun with people, so I might ask them to sing us a song at the front door.”

A former member of the Armed Forces. Mark thinks being on the door is about more than keeping the wrong people out: “It’s a human instinct to help people when they’re a little bit down and they need a little bit of help. It’s just the decent and the right thing to do.”

Meanwhile 39-year-old grandmother Maxine Brewer is out having a good time with her niece and friends. It may be 4.30 in the morning, but she’s keen to carry on.

“Sometimes people will say ‘Grow up, go out with people your own age, what you doing going out with young girls?’,” says Maxine. “But I have a good night and I enjoy myself and who are you to tell me what to do. If I go out and have a good night with the girls there’s no harm done to anybody.”

But Maxine would rather stay in with her 29-year-old boyfriend Kev, who’s been working in security in Iraq.

And Jordan is out for a night of 50p drinks with his mates, Jay and Courtney. Once inside the club, Jordan’s on the hunt for girls. “It turns into a bit of a competition, who can pull the most,” says Jordan. “It’s sort of like proving something to the lads, proving a point.

But, after a few drinks, Jordan gets into a fight and the police get involved.

Producer/Director: Becky Maynard

Executive Producer: Liesel Evans

Production Company: Century Films

Episode 2/6, Thursday 12th September, 10pm, Channel 4

This new series is an intimate and explosive portrait of Britain by night, seen through the eyes of the people best positioned to witness it first hand - door staff.

Filmed in the North East and Essex, the six-part series shows that Britain is out to get smashed and it doesn’t seem to care about the consequences. The door staff are the ones cleaning up the mess; they’re the sober and wry observers of our weekend antics.

But the series also features warm, insightful and funny stories that explore what’s behind people’s night-time behaviour.

Newcastle, once famous for coal mining and shipbuilding is now better known as Britain’s party capital, with 1around 70 bars and clubs in the city centre alone and twenty million people every year visiting to sample the famous night life.

The gay district, known as the ‘Pink Triangle’, is bustling. On the doors of Eazy Street bar are Paul and Jeff, who’ve been best mates since they were kids.

The bar’s now seeing more straight customers, drawn by the late license and cheap drinks. And trouble’s never far away. “I take my safety very seriously, I’m a dad,” says Jeff. “If I can get away without having a fight then great. But the minute someone tries to physically hurt me, that's when I restrain them or do what I have to do. It’s a very hard job.”

Newcastle’s oldest and most famous gay bar is the Yard. Head doorman is Ray who came to the bar after many years on the city’s notorious Big Market.

“I don’t drink, so it’s my social life,” says Ray. “People think ‘You’re a doormen, you’re a thug’. Well I’m not like that.”

Ray’s joined by 21-year-old Scott, who’s only had his doorman’s badge for five months and is on a weekend trial at the bar. He loves working at the Yard. “This is where I feel comfortable. I’m gay myself, so I blend in,” says Scott. “Some people like to do mountain biking, some people like to jump out of planes. Well I like to work on the door.”

But at £10 an hour, like many other doormen, Scott has a day job – as a nursing healthcare assistant.

Likewise, 18-year-old student April has a second career as a flyer girl at the Yard, tempting in passers by with drinks promotions. “When you’re 18, all you think about is alcohol and going out and getting drunk,” says April. “I’ve got loads of stuff to do for college, to make sure I get my grades. I haven’t done any of that yet, I’d rather just get drunk.”

With underage drinking on the rise, father figure Ray takes no prisoners when it comes to ID. “If I let in a 17-year-old, I’ll lose my license,” he says. Jeff has a young daughter and he’s equally strict. “I hope my daughter’s going to be a nun when she’s older,” he says.

Meanwhile 25-year-old Jack is unemployed and struggling to get interviews, despite applying for eighty jobs in six weeks. He’s been living with his parents for six months. And now he’s been barred from the Yard after not being able to pay for a drink. But can he use this knockback to turn his life around?

Producer/Director: Chris McLaughlin

Executive Producer: Liesel Evans

Production Company: Century Films

Episode 1/6, Thursday 5th September, 10pm, Channel 4

This new series is an intimate and explosive portrait of Britain by night, seen through the eyes of the people best positioned to witness it first hand - door staff.

Filmed in the North East and Essex, the six-part series shows that Britain is out to get smashed - old and young, rich and poor, and across cultures - and it doesn’t seem to care about the consequences. Puking, fighting and falling over, it’s all part of the great British night out - and it’s the door staff who are left to clean up the mess. But as well as some of the shocking and unsettling elements of our drinking culture, the series also features warm, insightful and funny stories that explore what’s behind people’s night-time behavior.

The door staff see it all; they are sober and wry observers, commentating and interpreting our weekend antics. Through them we take a jaw-dropping look at why Brits love getting so drunk and what makes us behave so badly. The series shows that working on the doors is more challenging than ever. It’s not just enforcing door policy. Meeting and greeting, administering first aid, being guidance counsellors, mediating in domestic rows… who knows what the night will bring?! And all the while revelers take their safety for granted.

We also follow the stories of punters on their nights out - from ‘pre-loading’ at home on cheap supermarket booze and high-octane drinks promotions in the city bars, to staggering home with a kebab – and everything in between. And, once the hangovers have cleared, their sober insights reveal why they behave as they do. Is it just about having a laugh...or are there other factors at play?

The first programme focuses on bouncers working in the port of Blyth, a former hub of Northumberland’s coal mining and shipbuilding industries that’s seen tough times. The Quay is a venue popular with late night drinkers. On the door are 44-year-old Shaun Scullion and 25-year-old Ben Taylor, who have twenty-five years’ experience between them. But they’re new to Blyth and Shaun’s zero tolerance approach, including everyone proving their age, is taking a few locals by surprise. “I’m there to do a job – to look after the safety of the bar patrons – I’m not there to be liked,” says Shaun. “If you look a bit intimidating that’s a good thing… cuts down on bad behavior. You have to use a certain level of force." Shaun has noticed a recent change in punters’ drinking. “The way people are coming out now and consuming so much alcohol in such a short space of time, it’s really changed,” he says. “A lot of people just want to try to get as smashed as they possibly can, and they’re not really bothered about the consequences.”

Twenty miles south of Blyth is Newcastle’s fashionable neighbourhood of Jesmond. Once home to footballers and popstars, the terraces along the main strip are now more likely to attract stag and hen do’s. On the door of Osbourne’s Bar for the last decade is former paratropper Jim Rennick, aka ‘Jesmond Jim’, who’s something of a local legend and popular with the regulars, especially the ladies. “People come from everywhere…there’s that much totty out, it’s unbelievable. I’ve never seen so much false tan in my life,” says Jim. “It amazes me how many pints the girls drink… half the time the girls are pissed before they even get in the bar.” Jim and his his partner on the door Naz have to step in when tempers flare between two groups of women over who had a table first.

The programme also meets some of the punters on a night out. 26-year-old Paul and his friends save a few quid by ‘pre-loading’ at home in Blyth before they head out, as well as carrying on drinking after the bars shut at 3am. “I never think I should tone it down because where we live there’s nothing else to do,” says Paul. “If you want to spend your hard-earned money on going out and having a good time with your friends then go do it.”

Meanwhile Scott has been barred from Blyth’s pubs for a year thanks to the local pubwatch scheme after hitting someone with a glass in a fight. Now he’s putting his case to the pubwatch committee by apologizing for his actions and asking for a second chance.

Jim and Shaun, who’ve both been attacked and injured plenty of times over the years, know that whatever’s done to them, they can’t retaliate.“It’s definitely getting worse, especially the younger ones, and they know for a fact that you can’t touch them,” says Shaun. “The teacher can’t give them a back hander because they’d get suspended. To be quite honest they think they’re untouchable.”

Ex-paratrooper Jim isn’t about to do anything to jeopardise the job he loves. “What would you do if somebody spits in your face, it’s hard to just walk away. When you’re fighting men, when you’re proud men…the first thing you would do is knock them out,” he says. “If I hit him back; that’s my revenue gone. I’m fucked. So that’s the first thing I think about - ‘Don’t do it, don’t do it’.” But while Jim wouldn’t even contemplate packing in working on the doors, Shaun’s finding the anti-social hours and wages that haven’t risen in twenty years hard to stomach - so he’s qualifying as a social worker. “It’s not dissimilar to the role I’m doing at the minute,” he points out.

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