Major new initiative tackling sexual violence in music venues and clubs launched

afer Dance co-founders Sam Hennerley and Jack Young

A new UK-wide initiative working with music venues, clubs and industry to tackle sexual violence through a framework of support, guidance and technology officially has launched.

Safer Dance, created by Birmingham City University graduate Sam Hennerley and business partner Jack Young, has launched after pilots with three major nightclubs in Birmingham, Liverpool and London.

Launched in partnership with risk assurance consultants RSM UK, the Safer Dance initiative is an holistic suite of tools that provide support, guidance and technology for venues to help reduce sexual harassment risks and ensure a safer environment for music fans and staff.

The new service was first outlined in Sam’s final year Music Industries university project. He said:

“Jack and I have been involved in the night-time economy over the past five years and through conversations with the public and our own contemporary research, we became aware of the issues that are common in certain environments, such as at live gigs and club nights.

“To propel change in attitudes towards sexual misconduct, accessibility to information, guidance and support has always been at the forefront of our thinking. We see the self-assessment tool as the first step for venues to start taking further action to improve fan and staff safety.”

Since graduating from Birmingham City University, Sam has worked with music marketing consultant Jack to develop the initiative over the past 12 months, realising a shared ambition to change attitudes towards sexual harassment and misconduct in music spaces. The duo now plan to work closely with local authorities targeting geographical areas to improve overall nightlife safety, starting locally in the Midlands but expanding across the UK.

The rollout of Safer Dance – with a free online self-assessment tool available - follows a pledge from 100 UK music festivals to address sexual violence and the rise in incidents of alleged ‘drink spiking’ at nightspots across the country, and the emergence of a new foundation to help survivors of sexual abuse in the music industry. Paul Callum, associate director of risk assurance, RSM UK, said:

“Managing sexual harassment can be challenging for venues, so having a risk management framework provides them, their staff and their customers with the confidence that they take safety seriously.

“As clubs and venues have emerged from the pandemic, they have faced a whole new world of uncertainty and nervousness among customers, regulators, investors, social agitators and government.

"Businesses are therefore seeking to formalise and strengthen the management of key risks, and Safer Dance helps progressive business leaders in the night-time economy do that.”

Current Birmingham City University Music Industry students fed into research undertaken by Sam and Jack, and the team are exploring ways to embed Safer Dance into the University’s Students’ Union.

The initiative has also received a boost through support from Birmingham native and techno DJ, producer and record label manager DJ Rebekah, who in 2020 created a campaign called #ForTheMusic, named for the women and LGBTQ+ members of the electronic music scene who want to enjoy gigs without being harassed or fearing for their safety. Safer Dance co-founder Jack Young added:

“After living in Ibiza and travelling to festivals and events around the world I witnessed a dark side of the music industry relating to cases of sexual violence, security incompetence, blackmail and drug abuse.

“In coming back to the UK and starting my business I knew I wanted to offer support where possible to help eradicate these issues. By ensuring venues have the correct mechanisms in place to best manage risk, music fan and clubber spaces can be safer and more enjoyable.

“We are delighted to be at a stage where we can support venues around key business risks with our mission to improve nightlife safety, for everyone. Our collaborations with RSM UK, organisations likes RSVP and movements such as MeToo have helped to make this possible.”

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