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  • Phoebe Gardner

Britain's Bouncer Underworld

Updated: Oct 15, 2019

(Written 2016)




Bouncers come under fire constantly from party goers, whether it is verbal or physical abuse. Bouncers notoriously have a bad reputation, but there is a deadly side to this career: we forget that these people are employed to protect us at night and in many situations do so by putting their lives at risk.


My interview with a door supervisor at a local student pub and bar (for legal reasons it can't be named) in New Cross/South East London has been rescheduled for days due to an increased amount of violence at weekends. The supervisor wanted to keep his identity secret, Eddie is a fake name he gave me. I finally met him last evening while he was working a shift at the pub. I sat at the bar until it quietened down enough so Eddie could chat with me, in this period I watched the organisation between himself and the other door supervisors. They were all polite and worked smoothly and systematically - not aggressively and in a thuggish manner like they are usually portrayed.


Eddie has worked here for 10 months, he became a supervisor as it “helps people have a good night out, we keep everyone safe”. I ask Eddie about the criticism he gets from customers on a weekend, “I don’t find it difficult getting criticisms from drunk people because they're drunk. They don’t act like that when they're sober, I’ve actually had people come back to me after a night out and apologise for their behaviour”. Eddie says this confidently while quickly I.D checking another customer walking into the pub.


He was portraying customers positively disregarding the public's ignorance to his job, I was surprised by this and continued to ask him about the darker side (if there was one) to his job. “I do regularly face dangers from my job. Threats of being stabbed, I don’t find it intimidating it’s what I’m here for. Definitely had situations where the knife has actually been pulled out at me, I’ve been punched in the face a number of times, but this is when I’m stopping a fight between people. I’ve had blood all over my face before which isn’t good. If I found it intimidating though I wouldn’t be doing this job, yes of course sometimes I do find it scary but most of the time no”.


“Corruption is everywhere, not where I work now because I’m in charge, but everywhere else yes.” Eddie continues on to talk about the controversial reputations bouncers have on corruption and abuse of their power. I asked if he had any personal experience “I’ve been to festivals where people have been let in from the side door and been charged £20 each to get in”. 


Eddie has had “a lot” of memorable moments in his career, but he reckons the most stand out moment was “not letting Shaggy the singer into the Olympic Games" Eddie pauses to laugh "because he had a can of coke which he was trying to bring in, he thought he could just walk in with it and not have the same rules as everyone else.”


To be a bouncer you need a Security Industry Authority (SIA) licence but Eddie says this isn't all you need.. “you need to actually have a brain, have common sense, be able to read people and not to be scared. We are physically allowed to stop danger, just as you are like citizen arrest, I can only use reasonable force to stop harm to myself and others”. The pub starts to get busy, I thanked Eddie for his time and let him get back to his job, as I was leaving he called laughing “one other problem are the hours, I’m asleep ALL the time!”


Since this interview violence has become such an issue at this pub that the door supervisors now have to wear knife-proof vests. Unfortunately, Eddie has now left the pub also after an extremely violent incident where a member of the public attempted to gouge his eyes out. Maybe it's time we start thinking about changing our attitude towards bouncers, without them would our Friday and Saturday nights out become a danger to our own lives?

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