Five Step Guide to Writing a Safer Spaces Policy for Your Venue
This guide is designed to help you write your own safer spaces policy*. It involves a set of questions for discussion with your team to help you establish what is important, what you are already doing and what more you can feasibly do.
*We use the word ‘policy’ throughout, but this might not be the language that suits your venue. We have some other suggestions of terms you might use - see step 3 below.
How to use the guide:
Go through the questions 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.
- 1. Venue/promoter ethos: who are you and what do you want to create?
1.1. What kinds of bands and artists do you regularly put on?E.g. genre, local/national/international, gender, ethnicity, signed/unsigned?
1.2. What are your core beliefs about music making?E.g. Should making music be an opportunity for everyone? Should only the very best artists perform in your venue?
1.3. What are your core beliefs about music listening?E.g. Should going to gigs be about watching and hearing beloved artists? About discovering new music? About being social? About keeping the scene alive?
1.4. What are your core beliefs about the music industry?E.g. Do you value DIY? Do you believe specialist companies have an important role to play? Do you feel the music industry should be about local artists or national/global musicians? Do you have a sense that the music industry supports equality of opportunity or not?
1.5. What are your own positions in the world and how might they affect your views on music?E.g. your gender, ethnicity, class, sexuality, age, dis/ability, political position?
1.6. Who are your regulars and what do they expect of the venue?
1.7. What do you want to do and create with/in/around your venue?E.g. What kind of atmosphere do you want to create? What kinds of music making activities do you want to encourage?
1.8. Do you want to support marginalised groups?E.g. creating a diverse audience and staff; enabling access for women, LGBTQIA, disabled people, people of colour; aiming for gender and ethnic diversity on the stage?
1.9 How do you want your audience to behave and interact with one another?E.g. do you want to encourage/discourage dancing, fighting, drinking, flirting, politeness, listening, talking? Is using language such as ‘sweetheart’ and ‘love’ okay?
- 2. Venue/promoter self-audit: what are you already doing and what more would you like to do?
2.1. What practical measures do you already have in place to ensure people feel happy and safe? Look at the following list for examples:
Proactive, friendly and welcoming staff from diverse backgrounds Seats Step free access to the gig room Staff/collective have received anti-sexual harassment and violence training, e.g. from Good Night Out or local rape crisis centre Staff/collective have received accessibility training from Attitude is Everything Some sort of anti-violence, abuse, harassment and discrimination policy A policy of gender diverse bills and prioritising performers from marginalised groups (e.g. people of colour, LGBTQIA people…) A quiet space that people can retreat to Toilets accessible for people with mobility disabilities Some toilets are gender neutral Sanitary products are provided free in all toilets Corners and corridors are well lit Advice for customers/audiences on how to behave in the venue Well-advertised assistance for people to get home safely, e.g. help with taxis A reporting tool and clear instructions for how to use it, should an incident occur
2.2. What other practical measures can you put in place now?
2.3. What other practical measures would you like to put in place, and what support/guidance/resources do you need to do that?
2.4. What are you comfortable doing when things go wrong?E.g. removing a perpetrator from the venue; banning the perpetrator from the venue; working with the perpetrator to change their views; notifying Pubwatch and other local organisations (e.g. BACIL radio); reporting racism as a hate crime or Islamaphobia via Tell Mama; calling the police?
- 3. Writing the policy: who is it aimed at and what language will best suit your venue?
3.1. Who is your policy aimed at? Who do you want the reader to be?E.g. your regulars, potential new gig goers, marginalised groups
3.2. What impact do you want your policy to have on people who are structurally disadvantaged (i.e. those with ‘protected characteristics’ under the Equality Act 2010, which includes women, trans people, people of colour, disabled people, LGBTQIA people, etc.)?E.g. to increase their comfort in the venue, encourage their participation?
3.3. What impact do you want your policy to have on your regulars?E.g. to feel included, to support your policy, to help you achieve the policy’s goals?
3.4. What impact do you want your policy to have on people who are new to the venue?E.g. to know more about the venue and what it offers, to understand what behaviour is welcomed (and what isn’t) before they arrive?
3.5. Do you need separate policies for audiences and for staff/collective members?E.g. a front of house policy aimed at developing community amongst the audience, a staff policy which includes procedures?
3.6. What will you name your policy? Look at the following list for some examples and pros and cons. It is important that you feel comfortable with the language of the policy.
- Must be abided by
- Sounds objective so depersonalises it (better for staff)
- Understandable, familiar language
- Sounds imposed on audience
- No sense of agreement with clientele
- Sounds formal
- Decided by venue
- More friendly term than ‘policy’
- Calls for clientele to take personal responsibility
- Can be questioned - “well I didn’t agree”
- Ideally created in discussion with clientele
- Not claiming agreement with clientele
- Questions over how enforceable it would be
- Decided by venue
- Positive language – this is what we are for
- Overtly political language may discourage some
- Decided by venue
- Emphasises potential for ‘harm’ to occur and need to address it
- Acknowledges role of emotions in being in a space
- Familiar from health and safety discourse in UK
- Takes ‘harm’ seriously
- Familiar terminology as increasingly widely used & discussed in media
- Sometimes imprecise and without clear definition
- May not at first glance indicate discrimination/ prejudice element
- Safety can’t be guaranteed
- Sometimes unclear for whom the space is safe for
- Typically emphasises safety from, i.e. focussing on negative
- History within LGBTQIA and feminist movements
- Safer is preferred as increasingly recognised that safety cannot be guaranteed, only worked towards
- Implies protectiveness over groups who may be made vulnerable by circumstances (protected characteristics of Equality Act 2010)
- Addresses whole audience, staff/collective, bands etc.
- Everyone regarded as equally responsible
- Self-responsibility, rather than formal responsibility
- Venue responsibility unclear/downplayed
- May be unclear who it is aimed at
- Popular with, but not exclusive to, DIY organisations
- Emphasis on venue responsibility
- Highlights practical measures
- Positive language
- Loss of ‘harm’ narrative
- Unclear where source of term is, but possibly associated with civil rights movement
- Emphasises community and good manners
- Everyone regarded as equally responsible
- Loss of ‘harm' narrative
- Source is Wikimedia Foundation
- Associated with hackathons & IT conferences
- Implies atmosphere as well as buildings, rooms
- Can include emotional and psychological space
- Can refer to spaces between people
- Unclear where ‘space’ begins and ends - does it include outside the venue, online…?
3.7. Who is the ‘we’ behind the policy?E.g. manager of the venue, collective or staff running the venue, the community or scene more broadly?
3.8. What tone will you use to write the policy?E.g. formal, informal, conversational?
We recommend that your policy be written in language which is:
- Positive - emphasise what you are doing and what your audience can do rather than what they can’t do, although as you will see from our ‘dream policy’ we have included a section on ‘don’ts’
- Clear – use the shortest, but most appropriate word you can and keep sentences short. Remember that some people reading the policy will have dyslexia
- Concise – make your point in as few words as possible
- Visual - where appropriate visuals can be a valuable aid to understanding
- 4. Publicising the policy: how will you tell people about the policy and keep them updated?
4.1. How will you publicise the policy and ensure that people can access it easily?
4.2. Will you create a shorter version of your policy?E.g. a page length version with enough information to ensure that people understand the point without taking too long to read?
4.3. Will you use physical materials?E.g. well-designed posters, zines displayed prominently in the venue.
4.4. Where will you position the policy on your website and social media pages?E.g. on the front of the website, on the accessibility page, on its own page?
4.5. How will you use social media to ensure the message remains fresh in your audience’s minds?E.g. regular reposting, thumbnail images of key points, regular direction to the online policy?
4.6. How will you gain support for your policy?E.g. celebrate its induction with a party or special gig (possibly a fundraiser to help with any costs incurred); engage with local and music journalists to help spread the word?
4.7. How will you communicate the policy to those who will be working in the venue, such as bands, promoters and sound engineers?E.g. include the policy in the info pack, ask promoters and bands to commit to the policy in advance, discuss directly with artists before and when they arrive?
- 5. Reviewing the policy: how will you make sure the policy continues to work for you?
Once the policy is written it is not ‘job done’. Any policy needs to be reviewed to make sure that it is useful in the way intended, or if it needs to be amended.
5.1. How regularly will you review the policy?E.g. every year, after every time the policy has to be ‘used’?
5.2. Who will be involved in the reviewing process?E.g. all staff/collective members, just managers/senior members, regulars, bands, representatives from marginalised groups?
5.3. How will suggestions be implemented?E.g. put to a vote, owner has final say, some other mechanism?