In the wake of Sweden's biggest music festival, Bråvalla Festival, being cancelled after four rapes and twenty-three sexual assaults were reported at the 2017 edition alone, comedian Emma Knyckare vented her frustration on Twitter.
Suggesting there should be a music festival where men are not allowed until all men learn how to behave themselves, she had no idea that she had just founded Statement Festival.
Reaction to this non-Cis men only festival has been, as you might expect, varied, so we thought it would be interesting to go right to the source and set the record straight.
Check out what Emma Knyckare had to say about the origins, practicalities and ambitions of Statement Festival below.
You posted your tweet about the potential of having a women’s only festival on July 2nd and I’m wondering if at that point it was actually a possibility or if you were just venting your frustrations?
[laughs] In the beginning it came from frustration. I was drinking wine and watching the news on television. I didn’t think it should be a real festival and certainly not me working on it. But when I saw all the response on Twitter and Instagram I started to think that yes we could do this for real, because people were starting to email me that they wanted to work with the festival.
So then I collected a project group with 20 people (and now we are 25), and that was the beginning for the real festival. So now it’s actually going to be Statement Festival, the last weekend in August in Gothenburg, Sweden.
How long after the tweet did it take to become a reality?
I think the day after the tweet I was starting to collect people to work with, so it became real very fast. Then we had the first meeting in Stockholm like two weeks after the tweet. And when we first met, because I’m a Swedish comedian, I realised 'shit this is an enormous job to do' [laughs].
I don’t know anything about festivals, but I was lucky because all the people I had collected in the group were really competent and had been working with festivals before. First I was in shock like 'oh shit, how the fuck are we going to do this in just one year?' But now it feels good and I’m safe… a bit [laughs].
I was wondering on a personal level how are you balancing your comedic career with organising the festival?
Actually I’m going to take a break from comedy from January until the festival because there’s just so much work with the festival. So I’m just going to do that for the next half year, everything else is on pause.
So you sent out the tweet and assembled your team in the summer, but of course in the fall the whole #MeToo movement started. Has #MeToo affected Statement Festival at all?
Yeah, when #MeToo came it was more proof as to why we need safe spaces. It gave us as a team more conviction, and showed other people that we really needed to do this because before #MeToo a lot of people were wondering if this is really the solution to the problem?
But we’ve said since the beginning that we aren’t doing this as a solution but as a reaction to the problem. Now more people understand why we are doing this reaction, why it’s needed, and just how big the problem is.
You said you wanted to do this until all men behaved. Do you think this is going to be a one time thing or is that yet to be seen?
I think the meaning of the festival is for it to be a one off, or maybe open it up to all men. I think a lot of things have happened and things are starting to change because of #MeToo. People have been losing their jobs and I think in 2018 it’s not going to be ok to behave like an asshole, not at your job and not at a festival.
I think we’re going to start taking problems with sexual assaults for real this time. No one can hide from the problem anymore. So I hope we don’t have to do the festival more years or that we can allow men to come.
The idea of banning Cis men, do you see this as a political statement or more simply as providing space for women to enjoy themselves.
I’d say the latter. The thing we want to do is a really big, nice, loud music festival that is a safe zone for women, transgender and non-binary people. Again, it's not a solution, it’s a reaction. But it’s not a political statement, more of a safe zone where people can just hang out, drink beer and have fun without looking over their shoulders.
Have any politicians reached out to try and be a part of the festival?
Yes a few have contacted us, but we are not allowing political parties at the festival.
What role, if any, can Cis men do to help if they want to get involved? Or is this one they should just stay on the sidelines for?
[laughs] I think they should do as they do now. The most important thing is to react when you see your friends or people around you behave in a not ok, sexist way. And start talking about how big the problem is and why. And I think men in Sweden are now doing that more than before.
On a practical level, of course there’s the question of how to determine who to let into the festival, but I was also wondering about sound technicians, lighting people, vendors and such. Have you figured out how you’re going to confront that issue yet?
Yeah, we’re going to have non-Cis men as technicians, workers, security guards and the like. The only place we're going to have men is in the musical acts. Because we want it to be free from Cis-men in the festival area, but we can’t tell artists to just put together a whole new band of just women.
So we’re going to say ‘hooray’ if it’s an all female band, but I think we are going to book some acts that have Cis men in their band. It’s too hard otherwise. But the men are going to be backstage and not in the festival area. And also we’re going to have female headliners.
Any clues as to potential lineup announcements that you want to give?
[laughs] We’re going to tell everyone in January. But it’s going to be wide, for both young and old people.
Is the festival looking to work with sponsors or are you trying to run it on your own?
We are doing this with sponsors. Also we’ve done a little bit of of crowdfunding, but we aren’t getting any money from the state, so we are really depending on sponsors.
I know the festival is just a reaction, but do you have any aspirations for what it may accomplish?
What we want to accomplish is to create a safe zone. It’s not harder than that. And do a really big music festival for people that need it.
It’s going to be funny to see what it’s like with like 7,000 women in one place. We’re going to need many toilets.
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