It was 3am, and me and a girlfriend of mine had gone for some drinks and a boogie at a club in Sydney’s Newtown. After going for a couple of darts in the beer garden, we headed inside to get our dance on. Out of the hazy crowd a couple of guys ran past us and one decided that it would be a good idea to spank my mate and yell in her ear as he ran past. Top bloke, right? Over it, my friend and I decided to leave, opting for a less distressing drink at home. On the way out, she told the security what had happened. One of them asked her what he looked like. She told him, he went inside, and a few minutes later he booted that sleaze out.
‘I’m really sorry that happened to you’, the security guard said. We were back inside cheers-ing over some VBs a coupla minutes later.
People often chat about the responsibility of venues when they address the issue of harassment. A mix of great stories, like my experience, and problematic recounts (with venues showing various levels of tolerance of anti-social behaviour) all come into play. As one of the prime stakeholders involved in this issue, where do our venues stand on the problem of harassment?
We reached out, and a massive amount of venues and party organisers holler’d back. For many of them, it seemed just the right time to state exactly where they stand on sexual harassment at da club.
“It’s a major problem that was laughed off for so long and hopefully now people will realise that it is a real issue with real victims”, says Adam Campbell of Sydney’s tiki party house, Cliff Dive.
We asked the clubs how they felt about the issue of harassment and they were realistic about the obstacles they would have to overcome to nurture a safe party space. “Unfortunately large crowds combined with drinking and drugs make nightlife areas an easier environment for harassment to take place, and the scum of society take advantage of that”, said Pierce Ericson from Perth’s Metric Events. Sydney’s The World Bar’s Clint O’Hanlon agrees. “…people who go clubbing in Australia do so because they want to have fun, be entertained and meet people. This means that music venues, bars and nightclubs could potentially present a unique opportunity for those who would seek to take advantage of people who’re purposefully lowering their inhibitions.”
The clubs that responded also surprised us with how much they understood about the culture of harassment, which was heartening to see. “When individuals are in environment where they can blame it on so many other factors, people don’t realise that they are 100% accountable for their actions and the impact these actions have on others,” says Adam of Cliff Dive.
Those people may get a rude shock when they step into these venues.
“Whether that’s harassment, violence, or plain idiotic behaviour that could harm others, I genuinely believe it needs to be dealt with swiftly, firmly and often culprits need to be made an example of,” says Daniel Petchy of CANT SAY in Melbourne. Kiran De Silva from Sydney’s Meanwhile is on the same page, ‘we don’t stand for it and people who don’t get on board with that don’t have a place within our party.’
[Party times via Metric Events]
The venues were quick to talk about how they tackled perpetrators and prevented harassment in their spaces. Fuck yeah, these guys have been thinking ahead, and they have been thinking clever. The World Bar makes the best of lighting dark corners, ‘Correct lighting is paramount so we ensure there are no unlit, dark corners whilst still making sure it’s not so bright as to kill the vibe’, says Clint. CANT SAY have no issues with imposing bans on harassment perpetrators, “[We] essentially have a one strike rule. If people mess up, and we catch them in the process (no matter the situation) then they usually receive a ban from the venue for a few months, and in extreme cases lifetime bans.”
Huge interaction with security is also of massive importance for all five parties/venues. “We work closely with security to make sure there is always a zero tolerance policy in place,” says Kiran. “We take the matter just as seriously as any other incident in which someone essentially breaks the law.” Cliff Dive’s management roams the dance floor and front door, with Friday and Saturday nights seeing four security guards at all corners of the club. They also doesn’t hesitate to get the authorities involved; “We have a very good relationship with Surry Hills Police and we don’t hesitate to call them if something needs to be addressed.”
“Of course, security can’t be across absolutely everything going on in a venue”, says Pierce. “So we also encourage our own staff (promoters, photographers, DJs etc) to keep an eye on things and to bring up possible issues with security, and also to take care of anyone who is looking a little worse for wear.”
[Cakes at The World Bar]
From the promoters point of view, Pierce also mused on the culture built around partying and the responsibility events have to create a party discourse. “You have control when it comes to creating a culture around your events before they even happen, be it via social media or club night photography, so it’s important to harness those powers for the betterment of your patrons. Putting forward a message that doesn’t belittle or degrade either sex is essential before your night even starts.” The culture is important, and promoters can play an extremely significant role in the trajectory of the event. Food for thought.
In concluding statements, the venues and parties we spoke to unanimously agreed that if patrons didn’t feel safe at their party – they could take their business elsewhere. Many agreed that if nothing else, protecting patrons makes good business sense. Fun and safe party spaces are key.
“Our ethos revolves a lot around ‘party unto others as you would have party unto you’,” says Clint.
All of the clubs featured in this article will be a part of the #freetomove Handbook: Clubs & Parties. If you are a venue or events company who would like to give statements for the next instalment; please contact [email protected]
Huge thanks to The World Bar, Metric Events, Cliff Dive, Meanwhile and CANT SAY for standing up to sexual harassment and showing support for #FREETOMOVE.
Follow Izzy on Twitter @Izzy_Combs