Women’s Officer Eleri Jones was told she would never fulfil the part of her manifesto that pledged a campaign to improve the lighting in Singleton Park but refused to back down. The result? New lights scheduled to be installed during summer before students return in September.
The words “Singleton Park” and “safety” have been synonymous since the 1960s, with officers at Swansea University struggling to improve the situation for almost thirty years. Now, as her year in office draws to a close, Eleri Jones has achieved what many said was impossible, and ensured that new lights will be installed in the park and made ready for when students return to Swansea in September.
Speaking with the Siren, she explained how her campaign to make the park a safer place had unfolded during her year in office.
“I was advised by some people involved in the Union to remove ‘Improving Singleton Park lighting’ from my manifesto, but didn’t listen,” she said. “I thought it was an important issue, and winnable if it was approached in the right way.”
“I’ve now completed my manifesto, and it feels brilliant. The only point which I adapted in a way was my idea to introduce a ‘Safe Space’ on campus. However, I decided to tackle this in a different way – through continuing Self-Defence classes, using the Zero Tolerance campaign to improve our Bars into Safer Spaces, and by trying to work on a more individual basis through case work with women students.
“I knew my manifesto was ambitious and that the lighting situation was a huge mountain to climb – but we do things as officers not because they’re easy, but because they’re right.”
The lights are due to be fitted in the park during the summer, with costs to the University totalling around £12,000 including labour. Swansea council will be working alongside both the Union and University to assist with the technical side of the project.
Many Full-Time Officers in different positions had pledged to deal with the situation in their campaign manifestos, including former Women’s Officers Nel Richards (2007-08) and Leoni Munslow (2008-09), and former President Luke Young (2009-2011).
Safety was a key issue raised during many of the officer campaigns, as students and locals alike were left vulnerable due to the lack of lighting on the paths and surrounding area. In January 2011 a woman was left unhurt but badly shaken after she was grabbed by a man on her way through Singleton Park in the direction of the hospital.
Singleton Park during the Light Up the Park event in 2008. Photo by Victoria Kidgell
Ms Jones continued to highlight the positive impact that the new lights will have on Swansea students.
“The footpath will be fully lit with LED lights, meaning that students will be able to see underfoot which will help with falls and accidents, and more importantly – feel and be safer in the park at night,” she said.
The new, modern light fixtures have a 10-12 year guarantee rate, which means that they are unlikely to break suddenly. They are also resistant to water damage and more difficult to impair through vandalism.
Ms Jones told us that she knew previous methods used in campaigns would be too time-consuming, and since she didn’t intend to re-run for her position, she knew that she would have to act quickly. This involved four months of extensive research into the park’s history, speaking to past officers and activists, and consulting with local residents and the local council.
“Eventually, with the help of Stuart Rice in arranging meetings with the Lighting Departments, I discovered these new LED light systems. Then it was a case of lobbying the University, which I’ve been doing for about two months now. I gave presentations, compiled proposals, worked out figures and eventually persuaded the Pro Vice Chancellors to listen to me. Then I spoke to Estates, gave a final presentation – and they agreed to pay for the new lights.”
“I used two key arguments which I think made the difference: the NUS Hidden Marks Report, which is the piece of research where the Zero Tolerance campaign stemmed from, and the fact that the University purchased Singleton Lodge last year for over £140,000, therefore investing in the park when these lights were a priority. The Hidden Marks report found that women students were feeling particularly unsafe in Welsh Institutions due to inadequate lighting around campus.
“I wanted to improve the lights for our students, and whilst it’s been difficult and at times frustrating; Singleton Park lighting is a success not for me, but for the students who voted for me based on that manifesto point.”