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Safety for Women Back in Spotlight

Peachy Keen Festival. Photo: Molly D
The music industry has had its off-stage behaviour called out this year - now its the turn of what's happening in front on the stage. Your arts news bulletin tackles more unacceptable behaviour.

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If I was feeling charitable, I’d say the opening report was a case of déjà vu. But if I am being honest, it is just another report of being a woman in a public space.

Over the weekend, it was reported that a 32-year-old man went into Peachy Keen – an all-women music festival in Wellington – and allegedly assaulted multiple women and two security guards.  

Cue the usual flood of unsurprised disappointment. 

He is currently charged with common assault in relation to incidents involving the two security guards. The police are continuing to investigate the alleged assaults on multiple women after several people have come forward to speak to the police about the incident and the accused is due to appear in Wellington District Court today (Thursday). Peachy Keen organisers too have used their Facebook page to reach out to support anyone who felt in anyway uncomfortable.

Tautoko to those who experienced the assault, to everyone who has spoken out against this act of violence towards women and to the security guards trying to diffuse an uncomfortable situation. My hope is that our abysmal track record when it comes to achieving reasonable outcomes for survivors finally begins to take a step in the right direction.

I’ve got a feeling I’ve hoped for that before…..

In January this year, I wrote:

“Silence in the face of sexual assault - be it an inappropriate comment, a purposely ‘stray hand’, rape or any situation that threatens the wellbeing and safety of women and non-binary people - is the implicit acceptance of the violent attitudes, actions, manipulations and power imbalances of rape culture… The [music] industry needs a cultural shift that starts with active discussions between men when they see or hear of unacceptable behaviour. Because it is not up to women and non-binary people to fix this. We can tell our stories until we are blue in the face, but until we are listened to in a meaningful way, until the onus of education around avoiding harmful behaviour is shifted from women and non-binary folk to men, nothing will truly change.” 

That discussion was focused on those actively part of the music and wider entertainment world but the same goes for those who prop said industry up - its customers, its patrons, its fans and supporters.

Peachy Keen Festival was attended by 4,500 people at Wellington's Basin Reserve. Photo: Aaron Moffitt.

It goes without saying that the arts sector as a whole has had a difficult twelve months. In Aotearoa, we are in the privileged position where we can go to events en masse. These events don't only breathe life back into a sector on life support, they offer audiences the opportunity to experience collective joy in the wake of a year where there was little.

Those audiences, like the performers, should also be able to feel safe. 

That this happened at one of Aotearoa's only women-run festivals, highlights the urgency in which this fundamentally male problem that has been going on for far too long, needs to be addressed.

In their Facebook post, Peachy Keen organisers say “we built this festival because of a lack of comfort at other festivals we have attended around the world. This sort of behaviour is completely unacceptable and we will continue to work as hard as we can to build events where everyone feel safe, secure and comfortable.”

Artists deserve more support

In last week’s Lowdown, Mark Amery asked “Am I alone in an aversion to arts news being dominated by auction house news?”

The question came out of the announcement that a Banksy painting sold for $1.7 million in Auckland, making it "the most expensive work by a contemporary artist ever sold in New Zealand."  Amery rightly pointed out that “it's all particularly grotesque, rather than having any great effect for New Zealand art.”

Well Mark, you are not alone. I agree.

It was heartening to read this week that an unexpected benefit of COVID-19 and being stuck at home has led to an increase of people wanting to buy New Zealand art. But I too can’t help but question whether this will have any great effect for New Zealand art in the long run. 

After all, one of the main examples in the article was a Colin McCahon that sold for $300,000 at auction. He is one of our Antipodean Canon. A sure thing.  But what does this uptick look like for emerging artists, those who are just beginning to affect our current cultural landscape?  

Surely rather than focusing solely on fat wallets and sure things, our media would be better off exploring more stories of emerging and mid-career artists? Doing so would go a long way in establishing a vibrant, present, forward-thinking art world rather than one that is always looking back.

A Canterbury tale

Wharenui Recreational Centre, Chrirstchurch. Photo: Oi You! website.

Taking graffiti art off of the secondary market walls and into the streets, Christchurch is in danger of losing its street art capital status without a festival and a mural.  

In 2017, it ranked alongside Barcelona and London as one of the street art capitals of the world according to Lonely Planet. But it needs a festival and new murals to maintain it. 

Oi You! director George Shaw has produced three street art festivals in Christchurch between 2014-2016 and is keen to bring in artists from all over the world.

There are so many creative forces in the Garden City, fingers crossed this is the impetus it needs to bring these events to life.

Better late than never

Subtle Dances ready to debut...finally. Photo: Supplied.

March’s fluctuating alert levels have given early April a touch more arts flavour than was originally planned. Thanks to the wonders of rescheduling, the 25th Anniversary of the Newtown Festival will at last take place this weekend.

Touted as Aotearoa’s biggest free festival and street fair in one of Wellington’s most vibrant suburbs, Sunday is set to be another fantastic, family-friendly day out with 15 stages and 420 stalls. Organisers followed their kaupapa of putting the community first by delaying the original 7 March following a move up to Level 2. 

And the elongated Auckland Arts Festival programme draws to a close this weekend - including tonight’s long-awaited debut of BalletCollective Aotearoa and their performance of Subtle Dances with NZ choreographers Cameron McMillan, Loughlan Prior and Sarah Knox.

Aroha for Allan

Kiritapu Allan and daughter. Photo: Instagram.

Finally, we wanted to pass on our aroha to Deputy Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage Kiritapu Allan, who was diagnosed with Stage Three Cervical Cancer.

Allan may have only been part of the Government’s Arts portfolio for a matter of months but the creative community has jumped in to support her, with an avalanche of artists like Ria Hall, Anika Moa, Stan Walker, Lydia Cole, Miriama McDowell and Becky Manawatu among the many sending their best wishes on social media. 
 

Written by

Kate Powell

8 Apr 2021

Kate is a cultural critic and curator.   To date, she has held a variety of roles as a social media strategist, artist liaison, artistic director, and publicist.  Kate has studied at the Sotheby's Institute (London), Victoria University (Wellington) and AUT (Auckland).

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