Look out for each other: Safe Gigs For Women

- 8/10/16 -

There has never been a more important time for us to look out for each other. You may feel unaffected or unaware of any change in your environment, or in fact have never experienced, witnessed or heard of  any indecent or violent act in your life. Be thankful and stay aware that while your experience may differ from others, this should not take away from the experience of others.

When a presidential hopeful decides to de-emphasise his apology about horrific statements boasting of and promoting sexual assault with a distraction meant to discredit his opponent, we have to really double down on the message: let's look out for one another. Let's all say that no man has or has ever had the right to invade a woman's personal space. A man should never expect communication or interaction of any kind from a woman just because he wants it. And he can never touch a woman in any way without her consent. The level of relationship does not matter in any of these instances.

This is obvious to most, but seems to elude some, especially in crowded places where everyone is there to have fun and alcohol may be involved. These aren't excuses for awful behaviour. Sure, fun dancing, and moshing (while respecting people's boundaries) are all encouraged, but unwanted attention or physical interaction is not. We're with Ian Mackaye, and shows should be for everyone.

As Xtra Mile fans, let's make sure this is our ethos and mantra. And this includes calling this behaviour out when we see it, and supporting those who are experiencing or have experienced it. We can weed this out together and make our nights wonderful for everyone who attends. Isn't that what we're here to do: have the best times together? We'd like to state this as a label: we do not want you at our shows if you intend to or think you can harass women in any way. Stay home and do some thinking about who you are instead.

Tracey Wise (Twitter @safegigs4women) runs Safe Gigs For Women. She tours the UK seeing her favourite bands and trying to get the message out there that live music shows should be safe for everyone. Here, Tracey relates the experience that made her take a stand and bring this positive message to gigs all over the UK, and more about her mission. Please be aware that though not explicit in detail, you may still find the story upsetting. She also shares some more information on Safe Gigs For Women and also a White Ribbon Campaign Safer Music guide. Read and help make a difference. www.sgfw.org.uk

Tracey Wise

I’m a music obsessive, self confessed. I went to my first gig at 14, triggering a 21-year love affair with live music. I’ve travelled across the country and abroad to see the artists I love. I put festivals above summer holidays. Music is 'the thing' by which I define myself, and I don’t think I could go a day without it. I’ve learnt so much through music. Music has repeatedly influenced my reading and blogging. Frank Turner taught me about Joseph Grimaldi and English folk music. With the current instabilities both at home in Britain and across the world, Oxygen Thief and Will Varley have made me realise that there are people still feeling and doing amazing things for other people.

After all this time at gigs and festivals, if there’s one thing I understand it's music crowds. Over the years I’ve earned my pit scars. And the thing I love most about live music is the way it encourages people to be free in their thoughts and natures – the euphoria that comes with hearing your favourite acts and bands singing songs you love, along with countless others feeling the same as you. So imagine my disappointment when at a huge music event last year watching my favourite band, I found myself the target of sexual harassment. And despite not being the first time that this had happened at a gig, something in me clicked.

The dark, sweaty, crammed nature of mosh pits do not make it acceptable to grope, grab or act in any other threatening way towards a woman without her consent. And I appreciate in mosh pits it can be hard to assess what is accidental but what happened to me wasn’t in the mosh pit and was clearly deliberate. It was a full on, two handed grope, in clear view of other people to see. Other people who did nothing to help me when I was clearly in distress.

Rather than turn inwardly or feel guilty for all the things women are told that they should’ve avoided when they have been sexually assaulted (having alcohol, being on their own in the dark, being in a strange city, wearing “too much make up”) I founded Safe Gigs for Women. Initially this was a Twitter account where women could share their stories of harassment at gigs and festivals. From this, the project has grown to include the following aims:

  1. Talking to venues, promoters, and festivals – Discussion is needed to ensure they take the safety of women seriously and are responding appropriately. Gigs and festivals appeal because they are escapist, but this doesn’t exempt venues and festivals from their responsibilities towards the safety of audiences.
  2. Gig goers – It’s not about preaching, disapproving or spoiling fun. It’s not about ending mosh pits. It’s just about understanding how an individual’s behaviour impacts on others. Men especially - you are our biggest ally in this. Set an example, call out those who don’t always act in a way you consider appropriate.
  3. Talking to music press, record labels, bands and artists  After what happened to me, what I struggled with most is feeling that the band I love would not condone what happened at their gig. Having bands and artists support is crucial – they speak to a bigger audience than I ever could.

It’s no mistake that it’s Xtra Mile Recordings I’ve turned to for help with this. Some of their artists have already spoken to me, shared blogs for me, shared our website and followed this project online. Consider the passion and awareness of so many of their bands – the reason I love so many of them –  and it makes sense that Xtra Mile would be the label I approached to help us get our message into the wider music scene, a message I hope many of you reading will take out to your gigs and festivals with you, in order to achieve Safe Gigs for Women.

Safe Gigs For Women are having a Music Memorabilia Auction in Balham on 26 october 2016 from 7pm. Read more here.

Tracey also helped launch the White Ribbon Campaign Safe Music guide at Boomtown Fair in the summer. You can read about the campaign here. You can also support the campaign via Paypal by clicking the 'Donate Now' button in the top right corner of that page.

Read Frank Turner's blog on how he feels about such behaviour at shows here. Warning: there are swear words involved.

Look out for Tracey and her stall at various XMR gigs. Say hello, speak to her about the campaign and take a badge to wear with pride. She might get you to sign a thing with rainbow pens. Take that opportunity. 


More from Brad Barrett at Twitter @artbaretta or on www.bradbarrett.co.uk.