Ipswich: Bid to banish potent cheap alcohol goes from strength to strength

Ipswich blazes a trail in effort to stop street drinking

Ipswich blazes a trail in effort to stop street drinking - Credit: PA

A ground-breaking campaign aimed at banishing cheap, high potency alcohol from shops in the town is going from strength to strength today.

Around two thirds of Ipswich’s 122 off-licensed premises have now taken the pledge as part of the multi-agency Reducing the Strength campaign.

The figure equates to 80 stores including national chains as well as independents.

Suffolk’s Assistant Chief Constable Tim Newcomb said, “The support we have received from independent and national retailers has been fantastic.”

Police and their partners are working to get the remaining shops and off-licences in Ipswich to sign up to the initiative.

Andrew Whiting a recovering alcoholic also backed the campaign and spoke of the shattering effects cheap booze has had on his life.

Mr Whiting agreed to tell his story in the hope it would steer others, especially youngsters, away from a descent in to alcoholism.

Most Read

The 53-year-old had been sleeping rough in the former Suffolk County Council headquarters in St Helen’s Street when he was spotted by Ipswich’s street drinking liaison officer Pc John Alcock around to a year ago.

At the time Mr Whiting, who was brought up in Kelsale near Saxmundham, was soaking wet as he sought shelter from the rain.

He said: “I have always been a drinker and it’s led from being a social drinker to being a chronic alcoholic.

“I thought drink would solve my problems, but it doesn’t.

“They are still there next morning when you wake up.

“I began drinking at the age of 15. It was social drinking.

“When I started working and earning money, some I saved and some I would get drunk with.

“My parents tried to get me to ease down.

“I’ve had good times with drink and I’ve had terrible times.

“I have been arrested, put in cells and I have served prison terms.

“You can lose your loved ones and lose people’s trust.

“My drinking got out of control in my teens. By the time I was 25 I was a heavy alcoholic. I wasn’t in control of things.”

Mr Whiting’s life spiralled out of control.

He relied on friends to put him up for the night, the Salvation Army, sleeping in a tent, or finding empty buildings where he could sleep.

When he was sleeping in the former County Hall he would wash in the toilets in Major’s Corner to try to keep himself clean.

He said: “I was drinking Frosty Jack cider. I have drunk most ciders. Me and five mates tried Frosty Jacks with orange juice and blackcurrant, but the next day all I did was be sick and have tears coming out of my eyes.”

Super-strength lager and cider led to Mr Whiting living his life in a haze.

“You don’t realise it takes effect so quickly. I have fallen asleep, woken up and wondered where I am.”

Mr Whiting said he desperately wants to warn youngsters who have the potential to do well for themselves to stay off the cheap alcohol which has blighted his life.

“When you get to rock bottom and you are living the gutter it’s hard to get out of it.”

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter