As Electric Forest in the USA becomes the first prominent festival to add a female-only campsite, and the scrutiny on sexual harassment and violence at summer events zeroes in, Access asks the UK events industry – would gender segregation make festivals safer?

Paul Reed
General manager, AIF
“Don’t be a bystander”

“Personally, I feel that segregation on campsites will not solve anything and is exclusionist. It would also be sending the message that this issue is entirely about men assaulting women, which isn’t always the case. I think that investing in more campsite security and welfare on-site is key, alongside ensuring that you have good systems and multi-agency dialogue on-site to pre- empt and respond to such incidents. There is also work to be done in educating audiences to be more aware of what is happening around them. Within the AIF, we are talking about an awareness campaign, potentially around the message of ‘Don’t be a bystander’.

“This is a serious issue to our members and the wider industry, but I must underline that there has been a significant amount of unhelpful scaremongering in the media about this in the last 18 months – I would argue that if you compare crime statistics from any comparably-sized town or city centre on a Saturday night, festival sites are one of the safest places to be.”

David Boswell
Managing director, TSG
“Looking after people is priority #1”

“Everyone, regardless of gender, nationality, colour, religion or sexual orientation, should feel safe at British event sites.

“Any event depends on its audience and looking after people is the organiser or promoter’s first priority. Cost is another key concern when you’re putting an event on, of course, but a proper process, from ticketing through to the egress, should, and does, diminish the risk of harassment without unbalancing the books. I don’t see female-only campsites, or any segregation, as a necessary part of that equation. A festival site, for instance, is a temporary town or village and requires a similar degree of planning, people looking out for each other and security.

“The latter element is my particular concern. An audience should be checking their worries in when they swap a ticket for a wristband. To that end, in these uncertain times, a multi-agency approach to their security beyond the fence line is the most thorough approach. That means embracing initiatives like Operation Gothic, the police service’s contacts network and information share for event facilitators, and supporting traditional security services with the likes of TSG.”

Penny Mellor
Event health, safety and welfare consultant
“People’s behaviour matters, whatever their sex”

“There seems to be two issues here. One is how to ensure people feel safe at events, especially when camping. The other is whether sex-segregated campsites would improve this.

“From my experience of people reporting anxieties about conditions on campsites through to suffering a serious assault on a campsite, the main issues seem to have been around lack of security or overcrowding. Although fortunately rare, we have had reports of people being intimidated or attacked on campsites, involving both males and females as victims and perpetrators.

“People at events are asking for a visible and responsive security presence on campsites and somewhere to easily get appropriate help if they need it. There is a need to provide a secure and safe place for everyone and I am not sure that sexual segregation of campsites is the answer. It is people’s behaviour that matters, whatever their sex.

“Sex-segregated campsites could be problematic. It assumes that sexual division is clear. Managing this may be not be straightforward, as there have been difficulties in other sex segregations, such as when transvestites, cross- dressers or people undergoing sex changes are made to use male or female toilets inappropriately.

“It also assumes that the perpetrators of abuse are of the other sex, especially males, but this is not necessarily the case.

“At many family camping events, segregated camping would not work, nor events where couples are camping, nor, indeed at events where someone meets a new partner and wants to share their camping space.

“Looking more fundamentally at behaviour change, the starting point could be promotion of awareness that any abusive or anti-social behaviour will not be tolerated at events. Event organisers can have security management systems in place and those attending can be vigilant and proactive in preventing.

“It is up to everyone not just to support the notion that abusive and anti-social behaviour is unacceptable, but also to do something about it. Let’s promote that at events.”

Photo Credit: Alive Coverage