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Over 100 UK festivals sign up to charter tackling sexual violence

The AIF's 2017 charter has been updated for the 2022 season

By Joe Goggins

Reading Festival main stage
Reading Festival is among the events to sign up. (Photo: Seemann/Wikimedia Commons)

Over 100 UK music festivals have signed up to a new charter, pledging to tackle sexual violence at their events.

Signatories to the charter, which was initially drawn up by the Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) in 2017 but has been updated for the 2022 season, include Reading and Leeds, Latitude, and Parklife. The charter, which advises on best practice in response to the problem of sexual violence at festivals, was developed in collaboration with experts at Rape Crisis England And Wales, Good Night Out, Safe Gigs For Women, Girls Against, and UN Women. The AIF have called their approach “survivor-led”.

Amongst the policies laid out by the charter are guidance on bystander intervention, which has been devised by the anti-harassment charity Right to Be. The advice includes the ‘5 Ds’ (Direct, Delegate, Distract, Document and Delay). Key participators are sharing the news of their involvement on social media today (May 16).

Discussing the charter in a press release, AIF Membership & Operations Coordinator Phoebe Rodwell said: “The original Safer Spaces campaign has had a positive impact across festivals for music fans and festival staff alike. Festivals are microcosms of society and sexual violence is a problem that persists in our society. 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.”

Meanwhile, Kelly Bennaton, the Media & Communications Officer at Rape Crisis England and Wales, added in the same release: “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,” Bennaton went on. “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.”