Bråvalla Festival is perhaps unknown to many across Europe, but to the Swedish natives, it provides one of the biggest annual events the country has to offer and has acted as the pinnacle of the Swedish music scene since its inception in 2013. Having boasted a host of world-famous artists from Kanye West to The 1975, from Avicii to Kings of Leon and having attracted over 50,000 fans each year, you would have thought that this relatively new festival would be on the rise, and set to expand. However, this is not the case. Bråvalla has officially been cancelled for 2018, the reason… a string of reported sexual assaults at the festival. The past two years has seen 9 cases of rape and 35 other cases of sexual assault. Thus, in response, the festival has been postponed until “all men have learned to behave themselves” as Swedish Comedian/Radio presenter Emma Knyckare put it.
This wasn’t the only comment made by Knyckare. She also suggested that a new festival should be created, with no men allowed. Now, what started as a humorous remark has been taken extremely seriously by Swedish festival curators and this “man-free rock festival will see the light next summer”. Knyckare tweeted that “In the coming days I’ll bring together a solid group of talented organisers and project leaders to form the festival organisers, then you’ll hear from everyone again when it’s time to move forward”. It is not yet known where, when or who will play, but what we do know is that this act will open up the ongoing, intertwined, debates of feminism and gig safety.
Most would agree that these issues of sexual assault have to be dealt with immediately, yet the method of how to do this is less mutually accepted. With all the friction currently being caused by the feminism debate, surely to alienate men in such a way does not solve the situation but merely adds to the growing tension. Some might think of it as an extremely sexist act and question why this is acceptable when a festival that forbid women would never be allowed to go ahead in today’s climate. In one way this is a fair point, but in reality we have to accept that in the case of Bråvalla Festival, women have not been a problem, it has been all men committing the offences. Having said this, the issue is that many of the men that this new festival excludes may be fully committed to attaining equal rights with women and to providing a safe event for women to feel comfortable in. Thus, by banning them from attending the event, you are rejecting help from and almost turning against thousands of individuals who would not cause any problems and could act as allies in this campaign for change.
Consequently, this proposed idea must be treated with a great deal of caution. As Sweden, amongst other Scandinavian countries, is considered to be leading the way for equal rights, it would be a shame for something as uniting as music to divide a forward-thinking nation. As of yet, the new festival seems to have the right intentions…to end sexual assault. The one thing they must do is to stay true to this aim and even if banning male fans, still book male artists as they have not been the source of the problem in previous years and to do so could seem to be fighting men rather than fighting the problem. On the other hand, if Knyckare and the festival organisers can maintain the idea that this is not a pioneering development for the long-term future of the Swedish music industry, but a poignant protest against sexual assault then this event could have an unimaginably significant impact, not only on music culture, but on European societies as a whole. We will just have to wait and see which way this new festival swings.