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Safe Spaces Now for Music Festivals.

Andy Robertson

The Safe Spaces Now is becoming a familiar fixture on music festival sites throughout the UK but there are still only about 100 events that have taken up this campaign. What should festival organisers be doing to embrace this initiative and help keep women and those from marginalised groups safe during a musical festival.

Music festivals do not have the best reputation for keeping women safe and UN Women UK have reported that 70% of women say they have experienced sexual harassment in public places including live music events. Durham University conducted a survey in 2018 amongst female festival-goers which revealed that that a third of women had been sexually harassed at a festival and 8% had been sexually assaulted. A YouGov poll in 2018 also found that nearly half of female festival-goers under 40 had experienced sexual harassment ranging from unwanted attention, verbal harassment, groping, sexual assault and rape. This is far from acceptable and the Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) launched a ‘Safe Spaces at Festivals’ campaign in 2017.

What is Safe Spaces Now?
Created and promoted by the UN Women UK organisation the Safe Spaces Now project is an attempt to address the ongoing harassment of women working in music and attending live music events. Despite previous efforts the research suggests that harassment continues to be an issue. The AIF also relaunched their supporting campaign in 2022 to promote ‘Safer Spaces at Festivals’ which includes a charter of best practice to tackle sexual violence, harassment and assault at festivals.

Implementing Safe Spaces on a Festival Site.
Every festival may have a different view on the best and most appropriate way to provide somewhere that can be consider a safe space but the overall aim remains the same which is the provision of safe and inclusive space for women and marginalised groups. Festival organisers can create a dedicated secure area on-site which are supported by fully trained staff and volunteers. The staff should coordinate with on-site police or medical staff for more serious offences experienced and reported. In addition, the safe space provides an outlet for the distribution of more information and educational material. 

Publicity for Safe Spaces Now.
For festival organisers investing in a safe space facility, it should be well publicised as this will reinforce ticket sales and attendance by women who may have had exposure to bad experiences at festivals in the past. It also provides reassurance to any women who perhaps feel apprehensive about attending a music festival. Both the AIF and UN Women UK have open charters and letters which clearly indicate the organisations that have publicly committed to the provision of safe spaces. Participating festival organisations should post information about their involvement on their websites and social media channels.

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Photo by Rosemary Ketchum via Pexels

Andy Robertson
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