Primavera Sound Instates Zero Tolerance Policy Against Sexual Aggression and Harassment

Xavi Torrent/WireImage
Grace Jones performs in concert during day 4 of Primavera Sound 2017 on June 3, 2017 in Barcelona, Spain.

The May 28-June 3 festival will follow nightlife protocols initiated by Barcelona’s mayor and City Council.

In addition to its highly-curated lineup of international artists, this year’s Primavera Sound Festival in Barcelona will feature prominent signage intended to discourage sexual aggression. Trained “anti-sexual harassment staff” will patrol the festival site.

“We want to let people know that Primavera is a safe space,” Marta Pallarès, the head of international press relations for the festival and spokesperson for Primavera’s new initiative, tells Billboard.

Primavera Sound, which will be held May 28-June 3, is expected to draw average crowds of 65,000 people a night.

 “Of course, we can’t have our eye on everyone going into the festival, “Pallarès says. “But we can let people know that we won’t allow [acts of sexual aggression], and we hope that this is something that can create some awareness. This is something that we can do and that we want to do.”

Primavera’s efforts are part of a new citywide nightlife protocol instigated by Barcelona’s City Council and Mayor Ada Colau in February. Sónar and Cruïlla, the city’s other big spring and summer festivals, have also pledged to follow the initiatives, as have a list of Barcelona music venues.

Under the measure, of which the slogan is “we won’t keep quiet” ("no callem" in Catalan), club and event staff receive training from Barcelona City Council to “know what sexual aggression is, how to deal with the victim, how to spot potential sexual aggressors and where to direct the victim, depending on how serious it is and what the victim wishes to do.”

The venues and festivals have also pledged to stop “discriminatory or sexist access criteria” and “avoid activities that foster gender inequality,” like offering drink specials for women only, and imposing different dress codes according to gender. In addition to giving staff “the tools to spot possible situations of harassment and attend to anyone who is attacked at night,” they will be instructed to deny admission to “people seen to be showing harassing or disrespectful attitudes outside the venue.”

“We are taking another step towards the whole of society sharing responsibility,” Colau said when the initiative was announced. “We won’t keep quiet as a city against sexual harassment or male violence. We hope this inspires more cities. There must be no impunity.”

In addition to echoing the #MeToo movement and in tune with to reports of sexual harassment at last month’s Coachella, the Barcelona music scene’s actions are also a response to the problem of gender violence in Spain, a country in which over nine hundred women have been killed in by their current or former partners over the past fifteen years.

Five million women in Spain (including the female staff members at Primavera Sound) abstained from work in a general strike on International Women’s Day this past March 8, and hundreds of thousands participated in mass demonstrations for women’s rights across the country. Then, in April, a regional court returned a verdict on the gang rape case known as La Manada (The Wolf Pack). Five young were convicted of sexual abusing an 18-year-old woman, but the court of judges found them not guilty on charges of sexual assault, despite video evidence, with one judge even suggesting the victim was “having a good time” along with her attackers. More street protests, this time spontaneous, erupted immediately in cities around the country after the verdict.

More specific to incidents at entertainment venues and festivals in Catalunya, a 2016 Survey on Male Violence Against Women in Catalunya found that “sexual aggression by people known or un-known to the victim occurs on public transport, in public places, sports centers, friends’ houses, schools and the work place as well as during night time leisure,” according to a memo from Barcelona’s City Hall. “55.2% of violent sexual fondling took place in public places and 29.9% in leisure venues, while 42.3% of similar places occurred on public transport and 31.03% in leisure venues.”

The City Council called the new nightlife measures “pioneering” for Spain.

Primavera is also addressing the topical theme of women’s representation at festivals this year. Pallarès notes that the main stage headliners on Thursday May 31 are Bjork, (all-female) indie rockers Hinds, and War Paint and Scottish band Chvrches (fronted by Lauren Mayberry). On Saturday, June 2, Lorde, Jane Birkin and Barcelona singer-songwriter Christina Rosenvinge, who is signed to Primavera’s record label, lead the main stage line-up.

“It’s not a quota system,” says Pallarès, noting that the overall festival line up is 30% female. “It would be really easy to say we are just going to fill in the lower parts of the line up with women. We believe in quality over numbers. We want women in all the spots, we want women of all the music genres, we want women on all the stages, and we want women to be represented at any time of the day.”

Festivals 2018