There have been a number of real serious critiques made of Eyegum and the way in which we’ve let people down with regards to our Safer Spaces policy and practice.
This has been an ongoing discussion that we’ve been attempting to grapple with.
This is not something that we are going to sort out immediately, it’s complex and we’ve made some serious mistakes. The number and seriousness of the problems identified testifies to that.
We’ve had a number of conversations about whether to continue Eyegum or not. We feel based on feedback that we should continue, but that we must take some decisive steps in remedying these problems.
We started running house parties in late 2014, we also started talking about Safer Spaces. Good intentions are meaningless unless they are followed through. We outlined part of the problem as being the constant pressure we felt and put on ourselves to put on weekly parties. What happened with this pressure was that we were in effect treading water with respect to dealing with problems and were limited by this as to how we were applying Safer Spaces. We might have had some good will in late 2014, but people were being burnt out by our own pressure and were becoming frustrated at a lack of progress. By mid-2015 there were a number of people raising issues with the way we were applying Safer Spaces, both from within Eyegum and outside of the Collective.
A lot of this comes back to Joel. He’s done some great work and been really important in Eyegum doing what it has done. But as Eyegum has been shaped by his strengths, it is also limited by his weaknesses and we’ve definitely become aware of both over time. When we’ve been working with a skeleton crew, Joel was handled Safer Spaces. The problem is that various people have described him as arrogant, ignorant and callous in how he handled a number of those situations.
If Safer Spaces is about the emancipation of women and gender minorities from the effects of sexual harassment and assault, it needs to be led by those people. The community as a whole needs to buy into this, but it needs to be led by women and gender minorities. We need white, straight dudes to be involved, as allies, but not in a dominating role. We need guys to be talking with other guys and supporting this challenge to the status quo.
We’ve taken the criticism we’ve received seriously and are looking to change the way we run Eyegum.
Joel is seeking out the people we’re aware of who have been hurt by his [our] actions. We are now in the process of contacting the people who have been affected . We have some apologising to do.
Joel is stepping away from managing the weekly Wednesdays. Sophie and Gayaal have stepped in to start doing that. We’re finishing up the handover over the next few weeks.
We’ve been talking with the Sexual Abuse Prevention Network for a little while now and are working with them to facilitate an open workshop on Safer Spaces, alongside their ‘It’s Our Business’ programme with San Fran. We’re interested in being part of a broader conversation around Safer Spaces and we want to do what we can to help make these conversations happen. There is a lot of listening that we need to do within this. We also need to be prepared to take criticism where it’s due.
Putting safer spaces into practice is a fluid thing, there’s no way to apply a blanket policy, beyond the guidance it can provide. What is needed is active listening and being responsive to women and gender minorities who are experiencing harassment or abuse, which is why looking to organize public workshops with SAPN is really important moving ahead.
Accountability and transparency is not about us asking or demanding forgiveness. It’s not our place to ask or expect that. As hosts and organisers we have responsibilities we need to meet. If people want nothing to do with us, don’t trust us or are still angry at us; they have every right to be and that shouldn’t be taken away from them.
We’ve got some exciting new ventures with the initial preparations for an Eyegum festival, as well as starting to roll out a national touring element to Eyegum shows. Free Wednesdays are an important space for new and established bands to play and keep things turning over.
We hope to see you again.
Eyegum Music Collective