BIG ISSUE NATIONAL VENDOR WEEK
LEARN MORE
Music

Primavera Sound tells MPs how UK festivals can fight misogyny and sexual harassment

Put more women in music line-ups and in your workforce if you want to keep female guests safe at festivals, a major European festival has told British MPs.

Just one in ten headliners were female at the UK’s top music festivals last year. Image: Joey Thompson / Unsplash

With the UK’s festival season kicking off in a matter of weeks, concerns are turning to how to keep women safe at the crowded, alcohol-fuelled events, where research has shown one in three women who attend a music festival has been sexually assaulted or harassed.

But one European festival is leading the way in making sure their event is welcoming to women, LGBTQ+ people and other marginalised groups, and they’ve shared their wisdom with the UK parliament. 

Marta Pallarès Olivares, head of international press and PR at the Barcelona-based festival, recommended that the British music festival industry make sure it has diverse staff members in terms of race, gender and sexuality, in order to make all audience members feel safe at their events.

“If you have a lot of women in your company, people from diverse backgrounds, it’s probable that [they] have felt unsafe, have felt scared going home afterwards or got lost between stages, so then when [they] are able to work on the other side of the business, [they think about that] and create the kind of festival they want to attend,” she told parliament’s women and equalities committee.

The committee is currently examining misogyny in the UK music industry to figure out what steps can be taken to protect audience members and festival goers from harassment and improve the treatment of women working at events.

Your support changes lives. Find out how you can help us help more people by signing up for a subscription

There have been some positive steps, with over 100 UK music festivals signing the Safer Space at Festivals pledge in 2022, committing to tackling sexual violence at their events.

However, research commissioned by Durham University found that one in three women who attend a music festival has been raped, groomed, rubbed up against, catcalled or leered at.

“Crowded stage areas can provide a cloak of anonymity for perpetrators who harass, grope or assault,” said Dr Hannah Bows who worked on the research. “Perpetrators can disappear into crowds quickly and are difficult to locate by security or other staff.”

Delphi Mangan, who works as a freelance sound technician at music events, described the music industry as dominated by “cis, white, heterosexual men” who “hire in kind and pick their friends for teams”.

She said that, in her experience, “there is no support and nowhere to report abuse”.

In written evidence submitted to the committee’s inquiry, Mangan described how she was hired to work at a venue where she had previously repeatedly been harassed by one of their full-time staff members who followed her around the building making “deeply inappropriate comments about her appearance” and sexual remarks. 

Get the latest news and insight into how the Big Issue magazine is made by signing up for the Inside Big Issue newsletter

Despite reporting this to management, he continued to be employed by the company and was placed on the same shift as her. After again complaining to the venue, she ceased to receive offers of work from them.

“That is what happens when you report harassment as a freelancer more often than not, you just don’t get hired again and the culture never changes. You have nowhere to go, no-one to report to and in the end, no work.”

The BBC found that last year only one in ten headliners were female at the UK’s top music festivals

After receiving “hell on earth” levels of backlash after announcing a gender-balanced line-up of artists in 2019, Olivares told British MPs that Primavera Sound organisers believe the decision led to more LGBT people and women choosing to work at and attend the event, making it safer as a result. 

“If we don’t change the ways that we used to do things, at some point our audiences are going to stay at home,” she said. “If we only try to cater to the audience who used to buy tickets, at some point they won’t be there anymore.”

Do you have a story to tell or opinions to share about this? We want to hear from you. Get in touch and tell us more.

National Vendor Week 2024

A celebration of people who are working their way out of poverty.
Vendor martin Hawes

Recommended for you

View all
Spandau Ballet star Tony Hadley on communism, punk and how music saved him from a stint in borstal
Tony Hadley
Letter to my Younger Self

Spandau Ballet star Tony Hadley on communism, punk and how music saved him from a stint in borstal

Take it from me, going to gigs by yourself is liberating and life-affirming
Malcolm Jack

Take it from me, going to gigs by yourself is liberating and life-affirming

'Against the odds': How the Lubber Fiend made Newcastle's music scene exciting again
a young woman performs on stage at The Lubber Fiend in Newcastle
Venue Watch

'Against the odds': How the Lubber Fiend made Newcastle's music scene exciting again

Composer Cassie Kinoshi: 'Understanding one's own mental health is of utmost importance to me'
Cassie Kinoshi
Music

Composer Cassie Kinoshi: 'Understanding one's own mental health is of utmost importance to me'

Most Popular

Read All
Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits
Renters: A mortgage lender's window advertising buy-to-let products
1.

Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal
Pound coins on a piece of paper with disability living allowancve
2.

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal

Here's when UK households to start receiving last cost of living payments
next dwp cost of living payment 2023
3.

Here's when UK households to start receiving last cost of living payments

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know
4.

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know