AIF first launched its Safer Spaces campaign in 2017 to raise both awareness of and tackle such violence at festivals and beyond. Since then, a number of other festival-based initiatives have been launched with similar objectives, including the Safe Spaces Now project piloted at the Strawberries & Creem festival last year, and another project – also called Safer Spaces – that was launched in March.
Explaining why initiatives of this kind are necessary – and why they also need to evolve – AIF's Membership & Operations Coordinator Phoebe Rodwell says: "Festivals are microcosms of society and sexual violence is a problem that persists in our society".
Noting that the original AIF Safe Spaces campaign had had a definite positive impact, she adds:
"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".
Commitments made in the charter of best practice
As part of its renewed Safer Spaces At Festivals campaign, AIF has developed an updated charter of best practice with input and guidance from experts at Rape Crisis England And Wales, Good Night Out, Safe Gigs For Women, Girls Against and UN Women.
Today the trade group has confirmed that 105 UK festivals have now committed to embrace that charter, including Bluedot, Boardmasters, End Of The Road, Kendal Calling, Latitude, Leeds Festival, Reading Festival, Strawberries & Creem, Stanton Calling and The Great Escape.
The charter states that all allegations of sexual harassment, assault and violence made at festivals and events will be taken seriously, acted upon promptly and investigated. This commitment is then facilitated by each event having a clear and robust reporting and disclosure procedure, with a simple process for reporting incidents onsite and post event. Festival policies will also include relevant health guidance and connections to local services.
Alongside that, there are also education and communication elements to the AIF campaign. First, the provision of advice on how to be an active bystander, aiming to encourage and enable witnesses to any violence to take action. That includes communicating the 'Five D's Of Bystander Intervention' devised by the campaign group Right To Be, which are: distract, delegate, document, delay and direct.
Festivals will also actively promote the principle of consent regarding sexual activity onsite at events, defining consent as "someone 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.
Festival goers deserve to know that if they report sexual assault they will be listened to
Participating festivals will all share key messaging about this campaign on social media later today, as well as onsite at their respective events this summer.
Welcoming the latest AIF Safer Spaces campaign and new charter, Kelly Bennaton from Rape Crisis England And Wales says: "We're encouraged to see the commitment and consideration from festival organisers in making their events safe places for women and girls. The AIF Safer Spaces Charter acknowledges the importance of dedicated training, awareness raising, and the provision of specialist support services for survivors".
"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", she adds. "They also deserve to know that festivals are taking a proactive approach in preventing sexual assault, and that abusive behaviour will not be tolerated. We're pleased to have worked with AIF on developing this charter, and hope that the wider festival industry will follow its lead".
Find out more about the safer spaces at festivals scheme on the AIF website.