Ask for Angela poster (Image courtesy of The Southhampton Tab)
Creating a successful safe space policy for your venue can translate into increased attendance and profits at events. There’s no doubt that patrons of various genders, ethnicities, abilities and sexual preferences want to feel safe when they go out, and there are many organisations and resources out there that can assist you in assessing your current policies and improving these policies when needed.
It may sound like an obvious point, but the main purpose of a safe space policy is to promote behaviour amongst patrons and staff that is safe, inclusive and that will not negatively impact fellow patrons. Often Safe Space policies are enacted by using a 'zero tolerance' approach to unwanted behaviour.
Music Victoria's Best Practice guidelines for live music venues says that"to actively prevent instances of sexual harassment and assault at a venue, adoption of a zero tolerance policy for all forms of sexual harassment and assault, between patrons, staff, performing artists, security, or any other person engaged to work at, or visiting the venue is required."
The following points are suggestions taken from various sources. We recommend keeping your own venue in mind and selecting some that you think are both appropriate and easy to implement within your venue. And even if you have a safe space policy in place, this resource will help you when it comes time to review it.
Many sources, including MusicNSW and Music Victoria, encourage a gender balance of staff where possible. They also encourage the training of staff to be able to manage incidents that involve sexual harassment and assault.
This includes security bar and other venue staff, who can often be the first point of contact for someone who is experiencing unsafe behaviour.
One safety measure is the ‘Ask For Angela’ Campaign. It was launched in the UK in 2016, and “encourages patrons to approach bar staff and ‘ask for Angela’ if they needed help to leave an unsafe situation.” Staff are trained to deal with these situations. You can contact the Department of Industry - Liquor and Gaming NSW for more information and training.
Music Victoria also says venues should note "that women, and people of diverse gender and sexualities, are primarily the target of sexual harassment and assault by men. However, both can occur to any person, regardless of gender or sexuality."
No doubt your venue staff already have excellent radars for spotting inappropriate behaviour and actively support patrons who are feeling unsafe.
Security guards should also be trained on how to respond to incidents in an appropriate and non-discriminatory manner, while being sensitive to the victims claims and subsequent emotional and mental state.
The Sydney Morning Herald has previously claimed that “most standard security training doesn't contain a module on dealing with harassment and sexual assault.” While things may have improved since this story, it’s a good idea to check with your security staff provider or in-house security staff on what they have been trained in and start a dialogue with them on how best to get them up to date. Again, each venue is different and you might already have policies in place that security must follow around these issues. There is also a general sentiment among the public, venue operators, and stakeholders that security should not use physical force unless absolutely necessary.
Professor Bianca Fileborn from the University of New South Wales outlines a key component of staff/security guard reactions is that all staff “should be aware of venue policy, should believe and support victims if they report something, and should take actions to remove the perpetrator from the venue or contact police where appropriate.”
Training can be done in house. However if you feel that your venue could use assistance, you can contact organisations such as Your Choice or Good Night Out to get tips and possibly organise someone to come into your venue to conduct training with staff.
Posters can be a great tool to use, both inside and outside the venue to promote safe space and zero tolerance policies. The above poster is just one example that you could use, and Your Choice also have a great poster that outlines general ‘House Rules’ that you could display around the entry of your venue.
Customised posters with useful phone numbers and other services could also benefit patrons.
Some of the numbers or organisations to include:
Another point relating to promotional material is to consider avoiding gender-specific venue promotions.
Katie Pearson of the advocacy group LISTEN suggests that promotions such as a designated ‘Ladies Night’ or free drinks for ladies on arrival can promote ideals of “getting women really drunk and vulnerable.”
Promoting an equal balance between genders through all-encompassing promotions can ensure no one feels alienated or more than others. Read more of her tips here via SBS.
Getting performers on board with promoting your safe spaces can often prove very important in getting the message across. An example of this is Big Fun Festival in Canada, who have this set out in their own ‘Safer Spaces Policy’. They outline: “Big Fun Productions has a responsibility to advise all contracted performers of our policies regarding the creation of safer spaces and zero tolerance for incidents in the various spaces occupied by the Big Fun Festival.”
Doing this as a bare minimum can spur a performer to ensure this is part of their messaging during their performance, however you may wish to be more direct in encouraging performers to firmly adopt this messaging throughout the event.
The campaign is based upon the idea that it only takes one patron to call out sexual misconduct and anti-social behaviour in live music venues. Check out the video here more insight.
While this can be a controversial issue amongst many in the music community, if you feel it should be a pivotal part of your venue’s safe space policy to avoid booking artists with a known history of sexual harassment, violence or discrimination of any kind; then include it in the policy.
Over the years, Australian festivals such as UNIFY Gathering and venues such as Melbourne’s Corner Hotel have been seen to avoid and even remove billed performers if a history of sexual misconduct or discrimination comes to light.
“A copy of our safer spaces policy will be provided in all artist packages.
a) Big Fun Productions reserves the right to nullify artist contracts upon discovery of any performer history that is in violation of our policy.
4. Performers with a known history of sexual or discriminatory violence will not be booked to play unless they have participated in some form of demonstrable rehabilitative counselling.”
Having a neutral space where a victim can go to if they experience any sort of anti-social behaviour is a good way to defuse a situation and maintain the safety of a victim, perpetrator and their fellow patrons.
Carolyn Worth from Centres Against Sexual Assault (CASA) states that, much like festivals that provide “safe tents” for patrons in distress, venues would benefit from having an area such as an office or back room where a victim can seek refuge and be safe.
They can remain in this area while the incident is being handled by appropriately-trained staff or, in some cases, the police.
As stated earlier in this article, posters or graphics outside the venue and around the venue entrances can be a great way to do this.
Other ways to consider include:
You can contact these organisations for assistance in creating or updating your venues safe space policy: