How Do We Halt Harassment?

Discussion Dinner @Loco Club

Our first Discussion Dinner aiming to tackle the problem of harassment in the cities music venues was held at the Loco Club at the end of June. The evening began with a presentation from Ngaio, the Inclusion Team Project Manager and Music Promoter explaining how the evening had come about.

Ngaio started the discussion after one of her friends was sexually assaulted behind the DJ booth while Ngaio was on the decks. From here many concerned groups have come together to explore and try to tackle the problem of sexual harassment and how to make venues safer for partygoers. In attendance we had venue managers, door staff, promoters, performers, many from the LGBTQ+ community along with other interested individuals and groups.

Our ethos within the Inclusion Team is to make art and cultural spaces as inclusive and diverse as possible. The Art of Inclusion was born out of a need to start conversations city wide around social attitudes towards equality and inclusion, as well as how we break down systemic barriers. Over the course of this discussion we explored the problem and set out to challenge the culture of ignorance, tolerance and acceptance of harassment.

Following Ngaio was a presentation by Tom, landlord of The Plough in Easton. The Plough is a vibrant music venue which is often very busy at the weekends and hosts a diverse clientele. After repeated problems The Plough made a very definite stance against sexual harassment, including installing large scale posters challenging the problem very directly. Tom shared his experiences discussing the problems his team had faced and the policies they subsequently put in place.

We also had a presentation from Leighton, part of Place Making Bristol ( ). He gave an insight into his personal and working experiences relating to harassment and some of the problems he has faced as an active and visible member of the LGBTQ+ community. Leighton also discussed a range of projects which he has been involved in which have made the city a safer place, these including Bristol Nightwatch and the regeneration of the Old Market area of town. 

From here we split into groups and discussed our personal experiences. Key topics which came up included where do we draw the line and also where should we draw the line on unacceptable behaviour. This issue is a complex one as many people in attendance shared bad experiences after reporting issues. In some instances the issues were not taken seriously or were ignored entirely, in some situations the victim had been blamed or there was the very real worry that the situation could be dealt with badly putting the individual in an even more uncomfortable or unsafe situation.

We went on to think about the problem from the perspective of venues and promoters, what steps can be taken to make spaces visibly safer and what problems hinder this process. It was particularly interesting hearing the experiences and opinions of the door staff, which gave a very useful insight into how and why there is so much inconsistency in what is thought of as acceptable practice.

This discussion caused me to re-evaluate personal experiences and problems I have come across in my own working life. One particular bar job sprang to mind in which I tolerated ongoing, mainly verbal, sexual and homophobic abuse. The abusive behaviour was visible, but continued because within the culture of that particular establishment abusive behaviour was accepted, however for me to challenge these behaviours was not. 

The question is, how do we tackle a problem so complex and imbedded within society as a whole?

In the next discussion dinner we will begin to put together and interrogate, as a group, a set of policies which aim to make venues visibly safer for partygoers and attempt to ensure that if something should happen, there is proper protocol and training in an effort to ensure incidents of harassment are dealt with properly and consistently. This Discussion Dinner will be taking place on Tuesday 17th September. 

After our set of policies has been agreed we will go on to host a third evening open to venue managers, promoters and door staff. Here we will outline and explain the policies and connecting groups from around the city with the hope of making Bristol’s music venues visibly safer and more inclusive.

Take a look at the notes from the first discussion dinner here…

Photos: Giusi & Caroline

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