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HearHer Festival: Redressing the balance

I am only just recovered from the intense adrenaline rush of putting on a three-day music festival. The inaugural HearHer Festival took place in a rainy holiday park in Poole, Dorset, in the UK, on the weekend of 11–13 October. I’ve felt emotionally and physically battered but so, so happy at what my team and I achieved.

HearHer Festival is a music festival with an all-female line-up. It’s a statement against the gender imbalance in music festival line-ups in the UK and abroad.

The percentage of women-fronted bands or female solo artists at Download last year was just 3%; at Trnsmt it was 11%, Kendal Calling 14% and Glastonbury 29%, just to mention a few, according to Ann’s Cottage’s British Festival Report. The average – between the UK and the US, at all major festivals – was coming out at 19% in total.

With the Keychange initiative at PRS making festivals rethink their bookings, this year has seen significant improvements, especially with Glastonbury wowing us with 42% female-fronted or solo artists on their bill. But Emily Eavis was recently quoted as saying that while she would love to book women in the top slots at Glastonbury, “the pool isn’t big enough. Everyone’s hungry for women but they’re just not there.”

Huge talent absolutely is there, but women are not being given the slots to hone their performances – they are not being nurtured from the off.

HearHer is not a novelty ‘woke’ response to male-dominated festival bills, but a celebration of talent

HearHer is more than just a weekend of music; HearHer is part of a movement. We also support women in production and sound engineering and want to provide apprenticeship opportunities for the engineers coming through. After being a victim myself of the PledgeMusic collapse just this last year, I want to also be able to provide artist bursaries towards the costs of artists’ first EPs/albums.

This festival is about women uniting with a clarion voice to say that this has to change across the board. At the festival, Soak said that booking women should not just be a novelty; it should be commonplace. I want HearHer to remain the small, boutique festival it is today but be a nurturing space from which bigger festivals can pluck our artists and take them to the next level.

HearHer is not a novelty ‘woke’ response to male-dominated festival bills but a celebration of talent, and a platform that hasn’t currently been provided. HearHer was never about excluding men – we wanted them to attend and many did, along with kids and even dogs! We provide a safe space for everyone, and the feeling at our little festival, I think, was unique.

I am excited at the prospect, in a few years – when we have reached a parity in festival line-ups, or close to – of welcoming the first male artists or male-led bands to HearHer. I think that would be really something to celebrate.

 


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‘Man-free’ Statement festival guilty of discrimination

Sweden’s Equality Ombudsman has ruled that the recent Statement festival, held in Gothenberg on 31 August and 1 September 2018, violated both Swedish and European anti-discrimination legislation by claiming to bar “cis men” from attending.

According to the Diskrimineringsombudsmannen (DO) – which opened an investigation into the festival in July – Statement didn’t actually prevent cisgendered (cis) men, or those born male, from buying tickets or attending. However, media statements from organisers to that effect, as well as the event’s description as the “world’s first major music festival completely free from cis men”, constitute discrimination based on gender, the ombudsman ruled.

Under the Discrimination Act 2009, it is illegal in Sweden to discriminate against individuals based on their sex/gender, ethnicity, religion, disability, sexual orientation or age.

“According to the European Court of Justice, communications and public statements that clearly discourage persons from protected groups from taking part in an activity are to be considered discrimination,” reads a DO statement. “This applies even if there is no identifiable person who has suffered damage.

“Consequently, the DO’s conclusion is that the festival’s statements have violated the prohibition of discrimination based on gender.”

“Testival’s statements have violated the prohibition of discrimination based on gender”

Statement was conceived by Swedish comedienne Emma Knyckare as a “safe space” for female music fans, after several Swedish festivals were hit by reports of sexual assaults. (The most prominent, Bråvalla, was cancelled as a direct result, with promoter FKP Scorpio blaming “some men” who “cannot behave”.)

Knyckare raised 533,120 kr (US$60,395) on Kickstarter to fund the festival, whose line-up, which included Rebecca and Fiona, Loreen (pictured), Jenny Wilson, Gnucci, Cleo, Joy and Frida Hyvönen, was also “completely free from cis men”.

No action will be taken against organisers, though the festival remains under “supervision” by the DO.

Statement, meanwhile, is defiant in the face of the DO decision, saying it will continue “changing the world”.

“It’s sad that when 5,000 women, nonbinary people and transgender people experience a life-changing festival, a few cis men lose it completely,” it says in a Facebook statement. “The success of the Statement festival shows that is exactly what we need, and the DO’s verdict doesn’t change this fact.”

 


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Swedish govt investigates man-free Statement festival

Sweden’s Equality Ombudsman (Diskrimineringsombudsmannen, DO) has contacted organisers of the new Statement festival as part of an investigation into whether the event violates the Discrimination Act by prohibiting men from attending.

Billed as “the world’s first major music festival for women, non-binary and transgender [people] only”, Statement – set to take place in Gothenburg on 31 August and 1 September 2018 – was conceived by comedienne Emma Knyckare as a “safe space” for female music fans, after several Swedish festivals were hit by reports of sexual assaults. (The most prominent, Bråvalla, was cancelled as a direct result, with promoter FKP Scorpio blaming “some men” who “cannot behave”.)

Knyckare raised SEK 533,120 (US$60,395) on Kickstarter to fund the festival, whose line-up will also be “completely free from cis men” (ie men born men). According to a press release from Sweden’s Kulturrådet (Arts Council), which is providing funding to the festival, “the long-term goal” for Statement is to open up the festival to “cis men”, although year one remains a female, non-binary and transgender only event.

Under the Discrimination Act 2009, it is illegal in Sweden to discriminate against individuals based on their sex/gender, ethnicity, religion, disability, sexual orientation or age. The DO, therefore, is investigating whether Statement is “compatible with the prohibition of discrimination related to sex”.

“Shutting out potential visitors based on their gender means that there is reason for us to check they comply with the rules”

“This means,” says the government agency in a statement, “among other things, that we are contacting the organisers of the festival and asking them a number of questions about the information we have received that cis men are not welcome. Then a legal assessment will be made based on the Discrimination Act.”

“It is well known that there are serious problems with sexual assault and abuse at music festivals, and that actions are needed to make sure all visitors feel safe,” says the DO’s Martin Mörk. “But it is important that these measures do not violate the Discrimination Act.

“[Statement’s] completely shutting out potential visitors based on their gender means that there is reason for us, as a regulatory authority, to check whether they comply with the rules.”

Knyckare told the Kulturnyheterna (Cultural News) programme that she has taken legal advice. “You can do it [discriminate based on gender] at a private party, or through a society like men already have, like a gentleman’s club.”

Failing that, she added, “we’ll have to push on anyway and deal with the consequences.”

 


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