Meet the people making festivals a better place for women
Looking for a more female-friendly fest? These event organisers are on the case
It’s no secret metal festivals often struggle to fairly represent women. This spurred Kaija Kinney, frontwoman of Canadian melodic death metallers Anarcheon, to establish Metalocalypstick. The festival places “female power” at its heart by only featuring bands with at least one female member. Kaija set up the fest, held every summer in the mountains of British Columbia, after growing annoyed with the lack of festivals open to including her own band on their bills. She says: “The world’s come a long way with fighting for women’s rights, but it’s no secret the metal industry male-to-female ratio is about 100:1.
“A huge reason I created this festival was the lack of female-based heavy music fests, but also my daughter. She is very shy and discouraged from playing metal. I see her eyes light up every time I show her a woman playing metal. It’s empowering for woman to realise that aggressive music isn’t only for men.”
While 2018’s bands are yet to be announced, the combination of three days of female camaraderie, amazing scenery plus free beer – yup, free beer – has seen Metalocalypstick widely lauded as the world’s best festival for female metalheads.
Elsewhere, Swedish comedian-turned-festival-promoter Emma Knyckare has gone even further. Featuring a female-only line-up, her two-day rock festival, Statement Festival, has, controversially, banned men from attending.
“After many sexual assaults at Swedish festivals last summer, I tweeted: ‘What about having a festival without men, until all men have learned to behave?’” explains Emma. “It’s for women, transgender and non-binary people, because the most important thing is to create a safe zone for people who aren’t safe.”
Banning men from events is an extreme reaction that’s faced disapproval from men and women. “Not all men are rapists, but almost 100% of those who rape are men,” says Emma. “It’s not alcohol, it’s not immigrants – it’s men. We can’t know who is a rapist, so by excluding all cis men, we won’t have to think about that. This is not a solution; it’s a reaction. The [idea] isn’t to punish [men], but to create a safe zone for people who need it.”
Meanwhile, in the UK, the Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) have designed a more inclusive – and, arguably, practical – campaign to confront sexual violence.
“With the Safer Spaces campaign, we wanted to raise greater awareness across everyone from audiences, to artists, to staff and volunteers at festivals,” says AIF General Manager Paul Reed. “We wanted to reiterate a zero-tolerance approach to all sexual assault and abuse, [including understanding] consent and not being a bystander. Sexual violence can happen to anyone – no one deserves or asks for it to happen. By not talking about these issues or acting upon them, they remain hidden.”
Signatories, including Download, ArcTanGent, Reading and Leeds, comply with a “charter of best practice” – advice on how to raise awareness and train staff in supporting those reporting incidents. The campaign made headlines when festivals shut their websites down for 24 hours last May in a “digital blackout”.
“It started the conversation and we had 71 festivals sign up,” says Paul. But work is still needed to drive change. “There have been past criticisms that music festivals haven’t done enough to raise awareness or make provisions for victims. The blackout was a great media flashpoint, but it’s all about it translating it into actual change on the ground.”