How do we balance risk and safety? What makes our weird world distinctive and alluring (at least in entertainment terms) is that ‘time out of mind’: the sense that anything could happen – wonder, magic, heightened sensations – not the every day.
That’s a tricky balancing act, because the artists and audiences are in our care but don’t want to be subject to a rigmarole of rules. The cost of creating the illusion of free reign is in having people who control audience traffic spot trouble and solve problems, which can be expensive.
None of us wants heavies in hi-vis jackets spoiling the atmosphere, but we don’t want trouble either; we need friendly-faced folk with presence and authority.
Can we keep costs reasonable, sustain the festival bubble, and still be confident we’re not putting the punters and the whole experience in jeopardy (risking reputational or legal meltdown)?
People do self-police but need guidance. For Without Walls, volunteers are vital – they know the people, the place, and, with support and training from festivals, deal adroitly with most issues – while our artists are pros at dealing with overexcited punters and cantankerous people.
That said, and however low-profile, safety cannot be skimped on – our duty of care is paramount.