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Jill Barclay: Hundreds join torchlit march for safer streets in Aberdeen

The march makes its way along the pavement of Union Street. Image: Chris Sumner/DC Thomson
The march makes its way along the pavement of Union Street. Image: Chris Sumner/DC Thomson

Hundreds of people joined a march through Aberdeen city centre to voice frustration and demand greater safety for women after the death of Jill Barclay.

The Reclaim the Night march was organised by Aberdeen Women’s Alliance (AWA) to coincide with the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.

Torches were lit at St Nicholas Square as the cold winter night set in, with 12 women drumming to drive up the energy in the crowd – formed of women, children and men.

Sandra Macdonald, the leader of Aberdeen City Council’s Labour group and a founding member of the AWA, held a megaphone to address those who had gathered.

She said: “We, as women, do not want to walk in fear on our streets.”

Sandra Macdonald speaks ahead of the march. Image: Chris Sumner/DC Thomson

Remembering those lost

The crowd of hundreds set off at 6pm, travelling west along Union Street to Union Terrace, and then towards the plaza beside Common Sense cafe.

There, a minute’s silence was held to remember Jill Barclay and other women who had been lost to violence in Aberdeen and beyond.

Mrs Macdonald acknowledged the gardens that the plaza overlooks were often seen as dangerous for women, but expressed hope that the ongoing development with its new lighting would make it a “safe and peaceful place”.

Councillors and other supporters gather around a candle lit in memory of Jill Barclay. Image: Chris Sumner/DC Thomson

Among the organisations represented at the march were Unite the union, the Soroptimists and Rape Crisis Grampian.

Aberdeen University student Sashka Bakalova, 23, said: “I believe it’s very important to support other women in the fight for safety on the streets, and also to be protected from domestic violence.

“I believe the way to do that is come together and march, or do any sort of peaceful demonstration to raise our voices and make sure the people in charge, the lawmakers, hear us.”

Reaction to tragedy

Jill Barclay was walking home through Dyce when she was allegedly attacked in the early morning of September 17.

The 47-year-old mum had attended an Adam Ant concert at the Music Hall the previous evening, before spending the remainder of the night at the Spider’s Web pub on Station Road.

Jill Barclay. Image: Facebook/Bryan Rutherford

A vigil held a few days after her death at the roundabout near where her body was found attracted between 300 and 400 people.

A man has since appeared in court charged with her murder and has been remanded in custody.

Reclaim the Night

Mrs Macdonald said the march reflected a general post-Covid concern about the safety of local streets as well as shock over Jill Barclay’s death.

Councillor Sandra Macdonald. Image: Kenny Elrick/DC Thomson

She said: “I think there is a feeling that women, coming out of the pandemic and because of Jill Barclay’s murder, have felt uneasy.

“I think we need to, as a society, recognise that, address it, and ensure that women do feel safe when they go out in the streets.

“We’re coming up to Christmas time, the nights are darker and longer, and women really must feel confident about coming out into society.”

Marchers held signs during the walk through Aberdeen city centre. Image: Chris Sumner/DC Thomson

AWA also took the demonstration as an opportunity to direct women who are facing violence or abuse to places where they can find support.

Information on local and national charities, as well as specialist services for LGBT+ people and those who don’t speak English, is available on the AWA Facebook page.

More than £27k raised in Jill’s memory

A separately organised music night at the New Greentrees pub in Dyce raising money for the family of Jill Barclay followed on the same night as the city centre march.

More than £27,000 has been raised in her memory so far, through a GoFundMe page set up two months ago.

The site describes her as a “much loved partner, daughter, a parent of two, the best friend, a kickboxing ninja, a raver” and “a human with a heart of gold”.

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