Stay Safe – A Series

There’s been so much to unpick from the last few weeks. I’ve recently been sharing the negative experiences beer lovers have had recently while at events, taprooms and festivals and it has been quite a testing time. One which I think has shaken me a little bit. 

I was pretty vocal about my experience at the BREW LDN festival and I wanted to share that this wasn’t an easy choice. I woke up the day after I’d attended the festival a mixture of those raced through my head in a post beer festival haze: “What’s the point? Perhaps I brought it all on? Maybe it was just me?”

I reasoned that if I didn’t share that I’d have done all the people that had campaigned the weeks previously an injustice. On top of that, what if someone had a worse experience than I did and needed a platform to share in private?

So after a few hours of debating here was the resulting tweet:

For the record I was wasn’t angry at the organisers when I wrote this.

A few people responding saying they’d had similar and worse experiences. I was flabbergasted, because in all honesty, I hadn’t left an event feeling like I did that evening in a long time. (Maybe that was the break in events due to the pandemic, though.)

This was the response from BREW LDN which was drafted and published early Saturday afternoon in response to some of the issues that had been raised:

When I read this and saw people applauding the statement, I was a little bit disappointed.

I know you might say this is an overreaction, but I just really wish someone from the organising team had spoken to me direct – I’d have felt heard/seen. I understand now that I wasn’t the only person that had cited grievances about the behaviour at the festival and in all honesty I don’t think this is BREW LDN’s fault that these things happened. But for me, it has highlighted a breakdown in comms about how to escalate things, where to go and what support is available when people get into ‘situations’ at festivals.

I know that BREW LDN is currently working hard to address the items raised from the last festival, however I don’t think this happens at just festivals. You only have to look at Punks with Purpose highlighting safety at work and the perils of being part of a “Culture of Fear” to see that workplaces are still capable of making their team feel unsafe at work. Then there’s Cat Calls of Hospitality, literally scrawling horrendous quotes on the ground that were said to team members in the place of work (examples below):

Photo courtesy of @catcallsofhospitality on Instagram

We also have to consider the pandemic and its affects on the social dynamic – I saw this first hand at BREW LDN and while venturing on the train after a night out post ‘Freedom Day’. This particular line of thought is so eloquently explored in the recent article by Courtney Iseman entitled: ‘Festival Safety, Part One: Introducing an Urgent Collaboration with Women of the Bevolution’. I was interviewed by Courtney and appear in part 1 and 2 – please go have a read if you want to read more about mine and the experiences of many other people at festivals around the world.

Taken from the article: ‘Festival Safety, Part One: Introducing an Urgent Collaboration with Women of the Bevolution’

I opened my DMs on Instagram to anyone who wanted to anonymously share a story about their negative experiences at festivals or in taprooms. You can read these on my Instagram stories under the highlight called: ‘Stay Safe, here’s some exerts from stories shared below.

I decided to start a series called ‘Stay Safe’ aimed at covering some of the topics highlighted in my DMs and also in the news as was the case with Drink Spiking which also seemed to be on the rise in the post pandemic world. Thankfully Leanne aka ‘CraftBeerRedhead’ on Instagram volunteered to talk to me about her recent experience during a live interview.

If you don’t have time to have a watch/listen, three summary points came out the conclusion:

1. Look out for each other – it’s our duty to call 💩 out and when we see someone who needs help or support, BE THERE. 

2. Visit the Drinakaware Trust website for detailed info on Drink Spiking including how to spot the signs and what to do next. Also check out the Everyone Welcome iniatiative started by Melissa Cole if you’re an event/venue/taproom that wants to do better. 

3. Please believe people when they share their story and state that they feel uncomfortable or “don’t feel right”. 

The rest of the ‘Stay Safe’ series includes the following interviews and I’d love it if you could the take the time to watch/listen to them:

Part 2: Ash from Women of the Bevolution

Part 3: Tasha from Crafty Beer Girls

Part 4: Paul from Cloudwater

So many gems dropped in this chat with Paul Jones from Cloudwater!

What’s next?

I really want to take all the learnings from the last few weeks and collaborate with as many industry peers as possible to put some great initiatives in place. You only have to read Courtney’s article and watch these lives to see that there’s so many suggestions and a few quick wins too that would make craft beer safer for everyone.

It’s good to see some brewers and event organisers already taking initiative and I really want to share more of these positive case studies to open the floor for everyone to up level and follow leads of the innovators on this front. This Friday I plan to visit the BrewbyNumbers Riverside Festival and I had a brief chat with their Marketing & Events Supervisor, Mike Burt about their safety pledge and here’s what he had to say in summary:

“Our Riverside Beer Festival is a celebration of great breweries, great beer, but more importantly the incredible people that have helped to build such a vibrant community. It is important for us to state that we are operating our festival as an inclusive and safe space for everyone attending. This means that every single person at the festival is welcome and will be treated with respect, regardless of their gender, sexual orientation, race, religion, age, or disability. We are operating with a zero-tolerance approach to harassment or discrimination in any form. Our security staff and volunteers (as well as our own team) have been briefed to report or deal with any issue that might arise over the two days. We will have a designated member of staff at each session wearing a high-vis jacket. If you have anything to report and feel comfortable in doing so, please report to this member of the team. If you do not feel comfortable reporting the issue at the time, please email riversidefest@bbno.co with the details and we will investigate and take appropriate action immediately. In both regards we will treat each report with confidentiality.”

There’s also Beer Central coming up Mid-Sep in Birmingham and organiser Tom assured me that the We Are Beer team (who are behind this festival and many more epic ones) have pledged to the Everyone’s Welcome initiative:

At We Are Beer we are committed to creating welcoming, inclusive experiences, inviting all to come enjoy and celebrate the world of craft beer. At our festivals we want you to be whoever you are – regardless of gender, sexual orientation, race, health, religion, age or disability – and without any fear to be able to enjoy everything on offer.

Just as we celebrate and enjoy the diversity of beer and flavour, we want to celebrate and promote the diversity of our community, who love good beer, food and drink.

As such, against a rising tide of discrimination in wider society and the craft beer industry’s own issues with discriminatory behaviour, we are reiterating our commitment to the #EveryoneWelcome initiative.

Put simply, we will not tolerate any discriminatory behaviour or conduct at any of our events and want you to feel confident that we take this very seriously.

Please do take the time to read our manifesto, and what to do if you’re the victim of, or bear witness to, any type of discriminatory behaviour (http://beercentralfestival.com/everyone-welcome-initiative/

Come with love and respect – the beer tastes better when you do.

– Team We Are Beer

I recently released a video about Brewdog on Tik Tok and some of the comments I received were pretty scary and I think is a really wake-up call to the behaviour that still lurks in the very industry we love. Take a read if you like… link below.

This article is a starting point for discussion and a place for me to start piecing everything together that I’ve been involved in over the last few weeks. Please feel free to drop me a message in private if you want to share a story or if anyone works in the industry wants to highlight anything awesome they are working on right now on the subject of making craft beer an inclusive and safe place for everyone – let’s talk.

More on this subject to come in future – let’s grow and learn together. #strongertogether

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