In 1970, a group of students at Essex University contacted their Chaplain, Malcolm France, to say that a lot of their friends had been experiencing personal and emotional difficulties recently. The students were, of course, willing to stay up late and listen to their friends and support them, but it was all getting too much and they felt they needed more support. Malcolm France contacted a friend, who was a lecturer at the University at the time – Geoffrey Hosking. Geoffrey was an ex-director of a local Samaritans branch, and saw an opportunity to set up a student version of the Samaritans.

On the 7th of May, 1970, Geoffrey Hosking and a group of enthusiastic student volunteers set up for the first ever Nightline duty, which lasted from 10pm until 8am. Understandably, as such a new service, things were slow at first, and it took until the third night of Nightline being open until one volunteer, Anne Lloyd-Hirst, took the first Nightline call.

Since then, Nightlines have opened up across the country, from Exeter to St Andrews. There are now 34 UK Nightlines, many of which have recently celebrated 30 or even 40 year anniversaries, covering 124 colleges and universities. In 1974 Bangor University opened the tenth Nightline in the UK, and it is still going strong today. Bangor Nightline has gone from a handful of student volunteers to almost 70 volunteers, donating more than 5,000 hours a year to support and assist almost 1,000 callers a year.

In 2009, the Nightline Association – a national body which oversees all UK Nightlines – was set up to drive the movement forward. In 2012, delegates from the UK Nightline Association met representatives from Germany, Switzerland and Ireland in Idar-Oberstein in Germany for the first international Nightline conference.