A LOVE LETTER TO RAVES
This is a love letter dedicated to all people who have attended an event, party, rave or gig in Brisbane (Meanjin). It’s a love letter for anyone who’s been made to feel uncomfortable or unsafe. And it’s a love letter to the events themselves. It’s because we love these events that we want to improve upon the culture that’s been built.
The pandemic lockdown has been hard on everyone. But it’s been particularly rough for creative industries, with events and cultural spaces being forced to temporarily pause or adapt. However, this offers us the unique opportunity to reflect, engage and restart Brisbane’s music scene. In doing so, we can adopt values now that will drive the events for coming years.
Events and parties in the Brisbane electronic music scene are overwhelmingly curated, designed and managed by hetero, cis, white men. Thankfully, most event organisers are committed to safe raving. However, personal experiences often drive decision-making, and unless someone has experienced what it’s like to feel uncomfortable or unsafe at a rave, they are less likely to know how to prevent it in the future. It is for this reason we offer you our experiences.
A total of 41 womxn who regularly attend Brisbane’s electronic music events were engaged to discuss their previous experiences of safety at raves, and provide feedback about how events could be improved in the future. It is their lived experiences that form this letter and the 10 measures it proposes.
These 10 inexpensive and achievable measures, when put into practice, aim to create a safer experience for all attendees. We offer these measures to the wider community in the hopes that they will be adopted by events organisers and inform future event planning.
Not all of these measures are achievable at every single event, especially those restricted by venue.
Please consider them gently.
10 LOVING MEASURES FOR SAFE SPACES
These were designed with unlicensed events in mind, however many of the measures are still relevant to licensed venues.
We ask organisers to hold to account and re-educate those who act inappropriately
When reaching out to womxn of the community, the most highly requested measure was accountability for those who act inappropriately at events, and assurance that the behaviour won’t be repeated. Often when substances or aggression is involved, accountability and re-education in the moment is not possible. We ask that in those instances, the organisers take the name and phone number of the person (if possible), and follow up at a later time to explain what the behaviour was, and why it was inappropriate. We ask organisers to keep a tab on any re-offending at their events and if necessary compare this information with other organisers, to check that they are not also dealing with the same repeated people/behaviour.
We ask organisers to ensure that equal accountability occurs for all attendees, including friends. Lived experiences from participants indicated that organisers may have given their friends an easy-ride with their behaviour, choosing not to kick them out because they believe their friend had only good intentions. However, good intentions do not negate the fact that the actions may still be inappropriate. We ask that organisers treat their friends no differently.
We are asking everyone – not just organisers – to commit to re-educating their friends about their actions in the long-term, through constructive and educational conversation. The effort to take productive steps of re-education should always come before the last-resort of community exclusion (where appropriate), as a re-educated person can carry the new knowledge to all the other spaces they inhabit.
We ask organisers to treat the person reporting the behaviour with respect and belief. This involves returning to them to explain what the outcome was, to reaffirm that their report was taken seriously and that speaking up was the right thing to do.
“Sometimes I would even feel guilty for reporting it - because there never seemed to be consequences. Like maybe I was being dramatic and I shouldn’t spoil the fun for them”
2) IDENTIFYING THE ORGANISERS
We ask the organising team to clearly identify themselves
On many of the facebook bios for events, there is often a disclaimer asking attendees to notify one of the organising team if they witness or experience anti-social behaviour. This flags the organisers as being the point of contact. However, at the event itself there is often little to no indication of who they are or how to reach them. A clearly established point of contact (particularly in the lead-up to the event) sets the tone for the party and what is expected of punters, and gives confidence to attendees that they will be supported.
We ask organisers to make themselves easily identifiable as our point of contact if we are in need of assistance. This could mean:
Posting an image of the organising team’s faces on the Facebook event in the lead-up, allowing punters to familiarise themselves beforehand.
Wearing an easily identifiable piece of clothing at the event, e.g. matching shirt, identifiable hats, high visibility vest, glow sticks. This item should be established in the Facebook event beforehand so people know what to look for.
Providing a mobile number for attendees to text if they are in need of assistance. This should be distributed in the Facebook event beforehand, and displayed clearly on a sign at the event.
These measures are especially important at events that do not have security or a door person, such as park parties.
3) SOBER TEAM
We ask that there always be at least one organising team member who is sober
We all know decision-making skills can be warped by substance use, and an organising team is no exception. In the instance of anti-social behaviour or even a major emergency, we need to be able to rely on someone with the capacity to make rational and calculated decisions. (If our point of contact is drunkenly dancing at the front of the crowd, it automatically indicates to us that they are not in a position to help!)
During community outreach, ‘sober organisers’ was a widely requested measure. So, we ask that every event have at least one sober team member. It demonstrates to us that the team is approachable, will take issues seriously, and has the capacity to keep us safe and comfortable.
4) SAFE SPACE & WATER
We ask for a small-scale safe area, and to freely provide water to everybody
During community input, it was made clear that many womxn don't feel comfortable leaving people by themselves at a party when they are heavily intoxicated. Instead, we often bear the responsibility of taking care of others and getting them home safely (etc.), while we ourselves might be under the influence. In the unfortunate instance of anti-social behaviour, there is also rarely an opportunity or safe space for us to recollect ourselves. A dedicated space would not only help in these situations, but also provide an invaluable place to recover when someone is shaken, unwell, or in need of assistance. Further, having a space where someone could cool-off for 15 minutes may potentially prevent attendees from pushing themselves beyond their limit.
We ask that parties provide a small-scale dedicated safe area (as private as possible). Such a space encourages attendees to ask for help when they need it, knowing that they will be cared for by a trustworthy person. This space can be as simple as offering a bean bag with water and snacks on hand. It may not need to be manned constantly if it is located in a secure space (not crowd-accessible). However, it should always be monitored by a trusted team member. Organisers should ensure punters are aware the space is available if they need it (e.g. Facebook event post, signage on the night).
We also ask organisers to ensure that an unlimited supply of water is always accessible. Events tend to get more alcohol-fuelled when there is no available water, as punters quench their thirst with booze. An adequate water supply keeps us all hydrated while we dance our sweaty socks off in 30 degree heat!
5) PARTY SUPERVISOR
We ask that events have a role dedicated to safe raving
A widely requested suggestion was engaging a team member to look out for the health and wellbeing of others – from hydration to inappropriate behaviour. This ‘party supervisor’ would mingle throughout the party, making sure everyone is having the best night possible. This role involves being a point of contact for those needing assistance, while also keeping an eye out for nuanced behaviour that often isn't picked up at first glance (i.e. standing uncomfortably close). A supervisor could look to ensure people have a buddy they can trust, and also act as a ‘street-style’ medic – making sure everyone is being safe with substances and looking after their bodies.
Having a trustworthy, sober and easily identifiable person carrying water and a couple of muesli bars would help the energy and attitude of an event, and encourage people to speak up freely.
Many participants flagged that they would prefer this role to be adopted by a womxn.
6) PERSONAL SPACE
We ask for room to dance without physically touching others
We all know that sweet spot in every venue – you’re close enough to the music to feel the vibe, but not so close that you are packed in next to sweaty bodies. Many participants raised that they wanted there to always be an option to dance without being up close and personal in someone else’s business.
We ask organisers to always give us the option to not touch others, or have others touch us. Thankfully, most warehouses allow this, but there are some venues where space is limited. In those cases, applying this measure might mean the difference between selling to a venue’s full capacity, and saving a couple of tickets for extra space. Additionally, organisers could set up an extra monitor at the back of the room to disperse dancers via surround sound.
7) BATHROOM FACILITIES
We ask for toilet paper, sanitary bins and appropriate facilities
It seems obvious to us, but we’re gonna say it anyway :)
Humans who menstruate require sanitary bins and toilet paper. Period!
We ask organisers to commit to providing sanitary bins and re-stocking toilet paper when it runs out, so that mentstrating attendees don’t find themselves in sticky situations. It’s more sanitary for everyone!
In addition, it’s also important to take into consideration what constitutes as being appropriate bathroom facilities for the crowd, for example the provision of wheelchair accessible bathrooms.
8) BOOKING DIVERSITY
We ask that organisers book and make space for diverse acts
When asked if/why they had ever felt unsafe or uncomfortable at events, the community overwhelmingly responded that it was due to the crowd being dominated by an aggressive, masculine energy.
The line-up and lead-up of an event builds the energy that gets laid down on the night, which should be considered when booking the bill. Cis/hetero/white male-only line-ups attract more masculine crowd energies, while diverse line-ups (in terms of gender identity, sexuality, race, ability, age etc.) attract a more diverse, and therefore safer, crowd energy. Dance music is rooted in the liberation of marginalised communities, and when it's represented as such, that's when it's the most fun and safe for everyone.
We ask that organisers make the space for diverse lineups on their events (FYI: having a single diverse act on a bill of 4 other bros is not diverse!!). Also, booking a diverse act requires trust in that artist’s individual talent. They are not a filler, they’re all killer!
9) INCLUSION BEHIND THE SCENES
We ask that organising teams are inclusive behind the scenes
When reaching out to the community, feedback from a number of femxle deejays unfortunately showed that harassment occurs even while behind the decks, with people taking advantage of the fact that they are physically unable to leave the space. Organisers have a duty to look out for their artists and ensure they are safe and comfortable while working. We ask organisers to continue to check in with their artists and be vigilant for any behaviour towards them.
We also ask that organisers make space for diversity in their managing teams. There are even less womxn on the management teams of electronic music events in Meanjin than there are womxn behind the decks. You’re missing out on what we have to offer! Take the time to reach out to all diverse groups of the community who want to get involved in helping run/manage/volunteer at your event.
Lastly, when booking the venue, consider the communities you may restrict by the site you choose (e.g. wheelchair accessible dancefloors). Ask any potentially restricted communities what they require from a venue.
10) ACKNOWLEDGEMENT & COMMUNITY INITIATIVES
We ask organisers to ‘pay the rent’ to indigenous communities, and consider some of the following community inclusion initiatives
‘Pay the Rent’ - We ask that organisers donate a portion of any profits made to the local indigenous community to acknowledge the stolen land upon which the event is held. The majority of participants advocated for this initiative to be mandatory.
Hold an acknowledgement of country before the music starts.
Hold fundraising events for local issues.
Make events as financially accessible as possible, for example:
- Allow those experiencing financial hardship a way to apply for a discounted ticket.
- A coffee card system for those who attend every single one of your events, e.g. 5th consecutive event is discounted.
- Transparency in ticketing, so attendees know who their money is going to.
other recurring suggestions included -
adequate seating; appropriate lighting; providing earplugs; adequate security based on numbers; ensuring security knows what is expected of them, and aren’t creepy themselves; closer monitoring of dancefloors; checking the event plan with someone outside the managing team.
41 gorgeous womxn of Brisbane's electronic music community
including but not limited to the following babes...
TAMI LEE BERSIN
KATY CHAN DYER
Health facilities, goods and services must be within safe physical reach for all sections of the population, especially vulnerable or marginalized groups, such as ethnic minorities and indigenous populations, women, children, adolescents, older persons and persons with disabilities.
Source: World Health Organization
Anti-social behaviours are acts that create community concern through a lack of consideration to others, and can range from what is 'socially unacceptable' right through to acts that break the law.
Most people consider acts of physical intrusion to be anti-social, such as non-consensually dancing against someone, or dancing so violently that those around you feel uncomfortable. However anti-social acts also include nuanced behaviour that emotionally intrudes on others, such as pestering someone with questions asking 'where are you from'.
Each individual has their own threshold for what they consider to be anti-social.
Source: Australian Psychological Society
Consent is a mandatory agreement to engage in a specific sexual (or non-sexual) activity. Consent must be voluntarily given, and there are laws governing who can and cannot give sexual consent. People who are drunk, high, or passed out cannot consent. Activities that require consent can range from asking someone if they would like a hug, to asking if they would like to swap positions during intercourse.
Consent must be: freely given without coercion or inebriation; reversible at any time; informed; enthusiastic; and specific to the activity you choose.
Sources: Consent is Rad, Planned Parenthood
Diversity refers to what makes us different. It covers sex, gender, age, language, disability, ethnicity, cultural background, sexual orientation and religious belief.
Diversity also refers to our many other differences in education, work experience, occupation, abilities, values and beliefs, socio-economic background, family structure, relationship status and whether or not we have family and carer responsibilities.
Diversity relates to both people and communities.
Pronounced Mee-an-jin, the word in the Turrbal language for the finger of land on which central Brisbane sits.
Source: Meanjin Quarterly
The term womxn is used to emphasize gender inclusivity. It is an alternative to ‘woman’, that highlights the inclusion of trans women, cis women and femme/feminine-identifying genderfluid, genderqueer and non-binary folks.
Source: Feminist Oasis
If you have any suggestions, comments or queries regarding this letter or its content, please feel free reach out!