Music festival websites to go dark to campaign against sexual assault

By Steve Holden
Newsbeat music reporter

Image source, Getty Images

More than 25 UK music festivals are turning off their websites for a day on Monday as part of a zero-tolerance campaign highlighting sexual assaults.

The Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) wants festival-goers to be aware of on-site support services available to help victims.

It says there is no evidence of any widespread problem, but hopes this will raise awareness of what is being done.

Bestival, Parklife and Secret Garden Party are among the festivals which have signed up to the Safer Spaces campaign.

"It's raising awareness and letting audiences know that if something were to happen, they can report it on site," says Renae Brown, campaign manager at the AIF.

"This is something we should be talking about at festivals. We want people to look out for each other."

The websites will be blacked out for 24 hours from 9am on Monday.

Image source, Tricia Yourkevich
Image caption,
Rob da Bank, founder of AIF and Bestival promoter, is among the supporters of the campaign

"Festivals can be crazy spaces and we're proud that they're places to let off steam but there are limits and rules as there are in general society," says Rob da Bank, the promoter of Bestival.

"We just want everyone to be aware and it's great that some of the UK's biggest festivals have signed up to this.

"It's a positive message and not a scary one. Everyone should be able to go to festivals and enjoy them."

As well as the blackout, more than 60 members of AIF have signed up to a charter of best practice.

It says it's designed to make sure staff and volunteers are trained to deal with sexual violence, or know where to direct someone who may be a victim.

The campaign is supported by groups including Rape Crisis England & Wales, Girls Against and Safe Gigs For Women [SGFW].

"I know people that no longer feel comfortable going to festivals because of unwanted sexual attention," says Sarah Claudine from SGFW.

"We don't want that to be the case at all.

"People should be able to go and enjoy live music without the fear of being assaulted or harassed in anyway."

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Bestival is one of the festivals which has signed up to the blackout

One woman who was raped at a festival sent us her thoughts on the campaign.

"It's so important that there are festivals really trying to actually tackle the rape and sexual abuse that happens at them," she wrote.

"I think men think they can get away with things because it's a festival spirit, and will know that people are going to be a bit out of it, but everyone should be able to have a good time and not feel threatened or unsafe."

There is no exact figure on the number of festivals in the UK, but one website lists more than 800 across the year.

In a survey for AIF, 93% of the 4,000 respondents said they didn't experience any kind of crime at a festival in 2016, including assault.

This latest campaign builds on calls from Girls Against in 2015, which wanted to raise awareness of the problem of people being groped at gigs.

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