Safe(r) Space(s)

Category: community 312

How a pair of Saint John music promoters are working to build a safer, more respectful community.

Matt Carter
Photo: Facebook

Leave it to Saint John to show the rest of us up, again. As the city’s arts community continues to grow in new and exciting ways, some of the city’s most respected organizers have begun to broaden their influence beyond the confines of the typical artist-audience relationship. 

A few weeks ago, the Saint John experimental ensemble USSE offered up its entire Bandcamp catalogue in support of Code Red, a community charity that raises awareness and funds menstrual products for those experiencing periods and poverty (this fundraiser is ongoing until December 22). And now we’re happy to share news of another project helping tackle a different kind of problem facing the community.

Corey Bonnevie and Abigail Smith, two of the organizers behind Quality Block Party, have helped put together a Boxing Day concert they are calling, A Gift From Space.  In addition to performances by Russell Louder, Shrimp Ring and Little You, Little Me, the show will also introduce Show Buddies into the city’s live music ecology.

“Show buddies is a new initiative for creating safer spaces at shows,” said Bonnevie. “The day of the show we’ll post who the event’s Show Buddies will be and how to identify them.”

A description included in the show’s Facebook event outlines the concept and the community need Bonnevie and Smith are hoping to address.

We as musicians, friends, show-goers and venue staff, thank you all for treating this space and the people in it with respect and safety. It’s a community’s responsibility to make effort to ensure that shows are free of unkind, unfair, or oppressive behaviours on the basis of language, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, sex, age, body size, race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, socioeconomic standing, family status, as well as all acts of violence and harassment, sexual or otherwise. If you experience something that makes you feel uncomfortable, please talk to a Show Buddy. Show Buddies are sober volunteers who are present to provide assistance, they can help you with: watching your drink; securing a cab; approaching security on your behalf; addressing violence or harassment; offering information about consent, and; resources on physical or mental safety. Thank you for helping us be a better community. 

“Having sober volunteers whose sole purpose is to ensure people’s safety means that when people come into the space they’re making an agreement to be respectful and make sure that everyone can enjoy the show.”

According to Smith, introducing Show Buddies into the music scene has been something she’s wanted to do for some time.

“It’s something I’ve been researching for a while,” she said. “I’ve been talking to other festivals and promoters about similar programs. A big resource was the Flotilla in PEI. They have done an amazing job with implementation and choice of language.

“Philosophically, it is important for artists and promoters to take ownership of their space,” said Smith. “It is easy to have a bad show and blame the room, but what efforts did you [as a musician] take to making sure the crowd and staff are respectful to each other?”

As Smith sees it, the Show Buddy program is about artists and promoters taking responsibility for the room and the people in it.

“To ask people to come to a public venue and enjoy music is not as innocuous a task as it might sound and for some people it isn’t as easy as you think,” she said.  “Having sober volunteers whose sole purpose is to ensure people’s safety means that when people come into the space they’re making an agreement to be respectful and make sure that everyone can enjoy the show.

“This is something we want to implement permanently in every show we promote,” she said.

Smith would eventually like to see Show Buddies or something similar become a regular part of public events in Saint John.

“I want to make this into a package that anyone can drop into their own show,” she said.  “The idea is that we have a database of appropriate volunteers, high-vis t shirts, and relevant resources so that anyone having a show can implement Show Buddies into their program. It shouldn’t be specific to a festival or promoter.  We want anyone having a public event in Saint John to feel they can access this and use it.”

Volunteers from UBU Atlantic – Transgender Action Community and Code Red will also be on hand to meet with members of the community interested in learning more about their causes and how to get involved. Code Red will also be accepting donations in support of their programs.

Monopolized Records present A Gift From Space | December 26 | Pepper’s Pub | Saint John, NB | Doors at 10:30pm | Show at 11pm | View Event

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