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“We take this very seriously”: AIF, Secret Garden Party release statement on festival safety

The Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) and Secret Garden Party have released joint statements regarding attendees’ safety from sexual assault at festivals this summer.

The statements are in response to what both organisations feel to be ‘scaremongering’ from national media. Though neither statement mentions specific media, Access understands that a recent article in Cosmopolitan UK has raised concerns amongst AIF’s membership.

Paul Reed, general manager of the AIF, writes: “As a trade association representing the interests of over 60 festival organisers in the UK with a collective audience of over 600,000 people, we wish to respond and provide some clarity regarding recent articles in the media addressing sexual assaults at festivals in the UK. It is extremely disappointing that some sections of the media are engaging in scaremongering on what is obviously a very serious subject.”

Reed told Access that while his office is always open to requests from journalists, no one from the national print media had reached out to them on this particular subject.

Secret Garden Party, which is mentioned briefly by name in the Cosmopolitan article, released this statement: “There have been a number of articles in the press recently regarding sexual assaults at festivals. We don’t have a problem with considered and well-researched articles as this is an important issue, but there are some media outlets that have published articles recently filled with inaccuracies and false claims.

“This hurts, especially when we are striving to deal with this issue to the best of our ability. The care of our attendees is always our first priority. Festivals are generally safe and friendly environments.

“We have consistently shown a willingness to engage on this subject and added the issue to the agenda of the AIF in April this year. We have requested dialogue with women’s organisation Good Night Out, who so far has not responded. The London Feminist Network organisers of Reclaim The Night have never approached us. We would have been grateful for their advice and input. We have engaged with individuals who have concerns on this issue, offering an open and transparent forum for debate. We have regular meetings with the police, our security teams and other relevant organisations to ensure we have robust and responsive procedures in place for the provision of a safe party.

“We are doing everything that we can to make Secret Garden Party a safe, secure and happy environment.”

There was one reported case of rape during Secret Garden Party’s 2015 festival. Cambs Police Chief Inspector Laura Hunt said: “The police and event organisers were very open and transparent in our joint response to this serious crime because it was our firm view that this would better keep people safe and, of course, deliver a duty of care.”

AIF’s Reed added: “This is an issue that is taken very seriously by AIF festival organisers. AIF are planning a public facing awareness campaign addressing this issue, working with appropriate partner organisations to get clear safety messages out to audiences alongside producing a shared charter of best practice and vulnerability policies for members and the wider industry.”

Access also understands that the AIF is advising its members to look at their procedures in place for responding to media requests.