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Brian Coney
17 May 2022, 14:44

Over 100 UK festivals join campaign to tackle sexual violence

Boomtown Fair, Parklife, Reading & Leeds, and many more have backed the initiative 

Over 100 UK festivals join campaign to tackle sexual violence

Over 100 UK festivals have united for a campaign to tackle sexual violence.

First launched in 2017, the Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) has updated a charter - the Safer Spaces At Festivals campaign - that is now supported by a total of 103 UK festivals, including Boomtown Fair, Parklife, Reading & Leeds, and Boardmasters.

Relaunched yesterday (16th May) to address the issue of sexual violence in 2022 and beyond, the initiative sees festivals commit to the character of best practice, which has been updated with input and guidance from the likes of Good Night Out, Rape Crisis England and Wales, Girls Against, UN Women, and Gigs For Women.

The Safer Spaces At Festivals charter - which can be read here - states that it is committed to raising "greater awareness about sexual violence at festivals, which can be experienced by anyone from audiences to artists to staff and volunteers," taking a "survivor-led approach to tackling sexual violence, underpinned by policies, procedures and training," and spreading "key messages about content and bystander intervention."

The charter specifically asks the participating festivals to commit to taking all allegations of sexual harassment, assault and violence seriously, as well as promptly acting upon and investigating the information. Among other requirements, festivals will "actively promote the principle of consent regarding sexual activity on-site at events, defining consent as s.omeone engaging in sexual activity if they agree by choice, and they have the freedom and capacity to make that choice' and reiterating that consent can be revoked at any time."

In a statement, Rape Crisis England and Wales' communications officer Kelly Bennaton said: "Festival-goers deserve to know that if they report sexual assault they will be listened to and believed, and that those working on site are equipped to handle all reports with knowledge and empathy. They also deserve to know that festivals are taking a proactive approach in preventing sexual assault, and that abusive behaviour will not be tolerated.”

“The original Safer Spaces campaign has had a positive impact across festivals for music fans and festival staff alike," added AIF membership and operations coordinator Phoebe Rodwell. "Festivals are microcosms of society and sexual violence is a problem that persists in our society. Our understanding and approaches to tackling the issue are evolving all the time."

"That’s why it’s important that we renew the Safer Spaces campaign in 2022 with up-to-date messaging, resources and practices, to prevent sexual violence and promote a survivor-led approach, helping festival organisers to fulfil their duty of care at events.”

The news comes four months after it was revealed that reports of sexual assault and rape in London nightlife venues reached a six-year high last year. As indicated in the Safer Spaces At Festivals charter, it also comes four years after a YouGov poll reported that 1 in 5 festival-goers had experienced sexual assault or harassment at a UK festival in their lifetime.

Last month, a foundation was launched to provide support for survivors of sexual abuse in the music industry.

In September last year, the Musicians' Union called on the UK Government and various music industry bodies to come together to do more to tackle the issues of sexual abuse and harassment within the music industry.