Over 40 Brisbane womxn have contributed to an open letter calling for new safety measures to be implemented in A Love Letter To Raves.
Punter safety, and how we can improve our various music scenes, is a topic that regularly enters the mainstream consciousness. It pops up, normally by way of a particular event not being up to a particular standard or in the worst cases, after an incident where an attendee was put at risk, or much worse. Normally, there's an outcry, a push for everyone to "do better", a couple of measures suggested, and then something else happens and the focus once again shifts away before real change is ever really achievable. That's not to say that change is never achieved, but the topic has become more of a way of calling out bad behaviour, tapping into cancel culture, and then quickly moving on until the next time we need to ask those around us to "do better." But, what if there was a resource created by those who require this change the most, and it was made publicly available for those who can implement change, thus enabling them to actually do so?
Enter "A Love Letter To Raves": an open letter from a total of 41 womxn (including Purple Sneakers editor, Emma Jones) in the Brisbane (Meanjin) to their wider events community. Collated by regular party-goer and real-life angel Frankie Evason, "A Love Letter To Raves" is described as "a love letter dedicated to all people who have attended an event, party, rave or gig in Brisbane (Meanjin)[,] for anyone who’s been made to feel uncomfortable or unsafe [and] the events themselves." Coming from a place of love for the events themselves and because " we want to improve upon the culture that’s been built," the letter calls for tangible, real change to create greater safety and better atmosphere for all.
While it's collated with the Brisbane scenes in mind, these changes are easily applied to scenes across the world, with ten measures which were decided upon thanks to Evason's lengthy researching and crowd-sourcing of answers. By asking a vast majority of womxn in the scene, because it is more often than not womxn who can feel most unsafe, Evason managed to trawl through the 41 responses, and noticed there were particular measures popping up more than others. Extensive consultation saw her continue to learn more about what is both possible for the events to do as well as what attendees feel is required to change the way events are produced, and link the two facets of the live music community to highlight these ten measures.
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From accountability for those who do wrong by others in these spaces to having clearly identified organisers and sober team members on hand to help if the need should arise; from booking more diverse line ups to having more diverse team members behind the scenes, this open letter details measures which could not only improve events for the better, but also help save not only people's nights, but potentially lives as well. In the same vein as The WIP Project (who we interviewed recently), this online resource has been made available to all, allowing those who are in positions where they are making decisions to be able to use them as much as possible. An event that has been produced with these resources utilised not only makes for a safer space for all those who are attending, but being safer means people enjoy themselves more, which should be the ultimate goal of any party.
In a time when live music has ground to a screeching halt thanks to COVID-19, the industry is faced with an extensive, open-ended period during which not a lot is happening. It is a unique opportunity we are faced with as a community to think about how we want our spaces, our industry and our parties to operate, and what we want them to look like. While it is not known when we will be able to gather and dance in a public space again, what we can do is begin to have conversations about what we want to see when things are open again. As we said in a recent op-ed about a particular festival's lack of gender diversity in their line up, "We have a unique opportunity as an industry and a community in being able to rebuild a broken culture for a new era," and its exactly this that Evason is trying to push with this letter. Here, we ask her a couple of questions about the love letter, and what else there is still to do in the fight to make our dancefloors, our events, our parties and our raves safer, more fun, and ultimately better for everyone. Read the full letter HERE.
Why did you want to write a letter in the first place?
I had been thinking a lot about safety at raves, and one night I tapped out about five suuuuuper basic suggestions on my phone that I felt would have improved my own personal experience at events. I was considering sending that short list to my event organiser friends, when I showed it to a small handful of my female friends. That's when I realised that these ideas were (unfortunately) reasonating very deeply with other womxn of the community, who could offer their own experiences to add to mine. That's kinda when I knew I needed to go all in.
What are you hoping to achieve with this letter?
My ultimate dream/achievement would be that after covid, I could walk into any brissy dance event and noticeably see all of 10 of the measures in play, helping people and keeping them safe and comfortable.
One day I would also love to attend an event that is entirely run / managed / volunteered / booked / played at by womxn. Maybe that will have to be my next project :)
Who was involved, and who are you hoping will read it?
Honestly I wish I could have taken it even further than I did, but as one person fitting this into my lunch breaks I could only reach out to so many people!
I reached out to 41 womxn who I personally knew from my local dance community. There is a list at the bottom of the letter for those who would like to see exactly who participated, however there were a number of people who elected to keep their involvement anonymous. I cannot overstate what a privilege it was to have this group of womxn open up to trust me with their experiences. I hope I've done them justice.
The target audience of the letter was specifically Brisbane's electronic dance music event organisers and attendees, but it's been really humbling to see how many people in other communities have shared it around. The furthest it's gotten to (so far) is the rave community in Cape Town, which is insane.
How can people get involved?
Keep pushing the content and ethos of the letter when events come back! For all we know it could be two years till we're allowed to do a 'normal' rave again, and chances are by that time this letter will be long forgotten. So keep annoying your local event organiser with how they can employ the 10 measures at their next event, and offer to help them do it. Volunteer to be the party supervisor, or to look after the safe space, or be the door person. And if you're a femme-identifying, queer-friendly, music-loving ally, consider starting your own events/promoting team! Build your empire!! Take over!!!!
If people have any questions as to how to implement these suggestions, where can they go to seek assistance?
If you're a music event organiser, the chances are you are socially linked to people who attend/run other events. So my immediate suggestion would be to do a post on social media straight up asking for help. There is nothing wrong with openly asking for suggestions, and it would actually be a great way to directly engage with those who are likely to attend. Otherwise, my emails are open to give some guidance, although I'm not sure I'm qualified to!
Introduction and interview by Emma Jones
Images supplied by Nina Evason, promoter of Kunst Klub
First and second image by Tae Young (@mellumae)
Third image by Matthew Mesaric (@milkytingle)