Music Waste works to promote a safe festival space

Music Waste, a local DIY music festival, does something few other musical festivals do: promote a forward-thinking policy regarding instances of sexual assault, a pressing issue for gigs and festivals.

Through their partnership with Good Night Out Vancouver, Music Waste prioritizes creating a safe and comfortable environment for artists and attendees alike by working with venues, volunteers and artists who share their ethos.

The festival is upfront about their values, saying in a statement on both their website and in venues, “We aim to create a supportive and non-threatening environment. To us, this means: No sexism, No racism, No homophobia, No queerphobia, No transphobia, No fatphobia, No ableism, No ageism …in short, respect the space + each other!

Music Waste does not tolerate harassment of any kind. This includes any form of verbal or physical abuse, and the use of derogatory or discriminatory language, gestures or actions.”

The festival aims to take an approach where all coordinators and volunteers are working towards a unified goal of safety. This is addressed by prioritizing the presence of trained volunteers. Music Waste volunteers are present at every event and are responsible for addressing and resolving safety concerns. While it’s common for festivals to hire third-party security teams, Music Waste keeps most of the security in-house.

“We’ve extended that training to all of the volunteers and everyone who is involved in putting on the festival,” said Natalie Corbo, a member of the festival’s organizing committee.

Each volunteer receives training in conjunction with Good Night Out Vancouver, which covers harm reduction, anti-harassment bystander intervention and overdose response. Corbo also says that Music Waste ensures “All venues are equipped with Narcan, and that there's someone there that could use that, if the need ever arose.”

Too often, artists who commit assault hold an unbalanced level of power in their community, leaving the survivors ignored or silenced. Music Waste aims to support victims by emphasizing that their policy of safety and respect is upheld by their performers.

“If we were to hear something from one of the performers or see something on their website, or anything that was in contravention with any of the values in our statements, we definitely wouldn't select them, and do make [our] statement available when [bands are] actually submitting to the festival.”

This policy works both ways, as performers are also protected by this code of conduct.

Overall, it feels that Music Waste should fancy itself a role model in terms of the level of awareness and thoughtfulness that should go into ensuring the safety of their attendees. This clean-cut ethos is one that, through Music Waste’s 25-year history, has improved over time.

As the festival is entirely volunteer-run, Corbo emphasized that if issues arise, "people are very welcome to getting in touch with us and let us know."

She also noted how proud the team was of this year’s turnout, as they felt they achieved their goal of "being explicit about our values, and trying to enact those in practical ways."

"This is something that will continue and progress in future years as well."