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Scheme launched to tackle sexual violence at gigs

Run by women, for women, the Safer Spaces initiative will be in place at a number of UK and international music festivals this summer

By James Hanley on 08 Mar 2022

Community organisation Safer Spaces has officially launched in response to issues around sexual violence, harassment and abuse at music festivals and events.

Safer Spaces was set up in the UK by two sisters, Anna MacGregor and Madeleine North, in 2021 as a result of their personal and professional experiences, allied to the VAWG (violence against women and girls) “tolerant and systemic culture of assault and abuse of women and girls” at concerts, festivals and other events.

The volunteer-led initiative will be in place at a number of UK and international music festivals this year to offer a comfortable, safe space for women and girls who feel overwhelmed, uncomfortable or who have been sexually assaulted, abused or harassed. It follows a report by YouGov, which revealed that one in five attendees had experienced sexual assault or harassment at a festival, while two in five young female festival-goers have been subjected to unwanted sexual behaviour.

“Safer Spaces wants to eradicate VAWG and harassment throughout society by raising awareness, training professionals and members of the community to challenge behaviours, identify abuse and respond and support people who have experienced or been impacted by assault, abuse or harassment,” says Anna MacGregor, CEO and co-founder of Safer Spaces.

“Festivals, events and artists are uniquely positioned to really emphasise a zero tolerance approach”

“As a country we are creating better services, structures and legislation to respond to VAWG, but it is not enough. VAWG is a systemic and longstanding issue, embedded culturally and socially. We need to engage with people directly, creating safe spaces for women and girls and educating and challenging male violence. Festivals, events and artists are uniquely positioned to really emphasise a zero tolerance approach and show women and girls that they are valued and that male violence is condemned.”

Specially trained volunteer outreach teams will be sent to festivals to offer on site, face-to-face support, whilst educating and engaging festival goers, staff and vendors with zero tolerance and “don’t be a bystander” messaging, to de-stigmatise talking about and reporting sexual violence.

Safer Spaces’ tents offer a welcoming safe space where women and girls can come and hang out, use facilities and escape to some calmness. The tents also provide a safe space to report incidents via private disclosure cabins and get professional support. While Safer Spaces is gender informed, all services are gender inclusive, turning no one away that needs a safe space.

The scheme was piloted at the UK’s 50,000-cap Boardmasters festival in 2021, with around 60 specially-trained volunteers heading to the event. Safer Spaces also took its services to Isle Of Wight festival and SoundStorm in Saudi Arabia. In 2022, Safer Spaces will be in place at Boardmasters, NASS festival, Love Saves The Day, Forwards and BoomTown, with more to be confirmed in the coming months.


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