About safer spaces policies
Safe (or safer) spaces policies have become increasingly present in our live music scenes. Some venues have them, some venues have something similar but with a different name. Some venues are not sure whether they need one or not, and some venues want one but don’t know where to begin. Some venues think such a policy is not for them.
During our research into sexual harassment, groping and violence at live music events, we found that those venues who had good, regularly updated and thoughtfully enforced policies had better reputations amongst those who are more at risk of sexual violence (typically, but not exclusively, women).
Many venue managers and promoters feel dismayed and appalled when an incident of sexual violence or harassment, or racism, ableism or other form of abuse or assault occurs at a gig. These kinds of incidents have such a negative impact on the victims/targets that they may never attend the venue where it happened again. They may even never go to a gig again. One venue we spoke to told us:
“Now that we have the safer space policy, people feel more comfortable [reporting sexual harassment] on the night when we can prevent it, and not have the night ruined straight away. Whereas before it’d be, like, lack of closure: having to go home and write a formal complaint.”
During our research we explored a range of responses by venues and promoters. We found that clearly written anti-violence policies which support the positive and proactive engagement of audience members are a useful way forward. They provide guidance and reassurance for the audience; they empower staff members to know how to be proactive and responsive; they improve the reputation of the venue; and they create an atmosphere in which everyone’s gig experience is valued.
We know that writing a policy is not easy. It can take time and lots of thought. And some venue managers might not feel confident about writing a policy: as one of our interviewees put it, ‘I’m not the expert on rights and policies. I’m really good at running things smoothly and efficiently but writing isn’t [one of my strengths]’.
To help with the process of putting together a policy that works for your venue, we have created a five step guide for you to use in discussion with your team. We have also created a sample policy which you can talk over with your team. We encourage you to go through the five steps rather than adopt our sample policy wholesale without discussion. But do feel free to adapt and adopt as best suits your venue and community.
How to use the guide:
- Discuss the questions in the guide with your team and community, read our sample policy, and then write your own.
- First, discuss the venue’s ethos and goals with your team and community.
- Second, conduct an audit of what you are already doing and what more you would like to do.
- Thirdly, discuss the writing of the policy, terminology, language and structure.
- Fourth, consider how you might publicise the policy so that your community is informed.
- Finally, make a plan for how to keep the policy under review.