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Festival Strawberries & Creem
Courtesy of UN Women UK

UK musicians are joining up to end sexual harassment for women at festivals

The initiative, Safe Spaces Now, is calling for change at live music venues and accountability for abusers

UK musicians are joining with gender equality organisation UN Women UK to call for an end to harassment and abuse of women at festivals, gigs, and other live music events. 

The music industry initiative, called Safe Spaces Now, is asking companies, events, and venues to commit to safety by implementing new measures, while condemning abusive behaviour in these spaces.

“More than 7 in 10 women responding to our survey earlier this year said they have been sexually harassed or assaulted in public, and this number rose sharply for 18 to 24 year-olds,” said Claire Barnett, Executive Director of UN Women UK. “The behaviour isn't created by live music events. However, we know that the threat and the reality of violence ruins live music for so many women and girls.”

UK musicians including Anne-Marie, Clara Amfo, Mabel, MNEK, and Rudimental have signed an open letter, calling for widespread change in the industry. Glastonbury Festival, The Eden Project, and event company DICE have also added their signatures.

Next month, Strawberries & Creem festival – a Cambridge-based youth culture festival with a 50-50 gender split of performers – will work with UN Women UK to test-run a safety-focused festival strategy. This is set to include redesigned spaces, acknowledgement of behaviour within them, and staff training to recognise potential abuse and respond appropriately.

“We are using behavioural insights to spread codes of conduct throughout the events, using creative ways of helping people understand what is and is not acceptable behaviour, and how to take action if they see their friends acting unacceptably,” explained Barnett. After the festival, the organisation will measure the difference these changes make so that other live music venues can learn from them as they reopen.

According to Barrett, this return to concerts and festivals post-pandemic provided a unique opportunity to create a change. “We have a really important opportunity to make this transition more consciously than before,” she said. “Enough women and marginalised people have raised their voices this year that we can see this is no longer optional, it's a minimum standard.”

She continued: “All people deserve to feel safe at live music events, whatever their gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, accessibility needs, or identity. We need organisations and individuals to start seeing gender equality as a powerful lever in making the UK music industry even better, even more vibrant and inclusive – not a problem to be solved, but part of the solution.”