Next to the queue outside the Statement Festival entrance at Bananapiren in Swedish west coast city Gothenburg, two women were opening a pride-coloured champagne bottle when The Local visited.
The event, open to women, transgender or non-binary people – but not to cis-men, whose gender identity corresponds to their sex at birth – has made headlines all over the world, sparking both praise and criticism.
Sandra, 34, said it gave her hope for the future.
“I've been abused a lot of times at the festivals and concerts since I was 13 years old. Here I can relax, enjoy, and count on that people are not going to harass me,” she said.
Sandra, left, opening a rainbow bottle. Photo: Viktoriia Zhuhan/The Local
The organizers told The Local on Thursday that 80 percent of the tickets had been sold. On Sunday, next day after the festival, they reported attendance of 5,000 visitors. Many of those asked by The Local said they had purchased tickets as soon as they were available and some even donated money to kick-start the festival.
Sandra is not the only one who mentioned personal experiences. Some people became tearful when their friends mentioned abuse at musical venues and declined to take part in the conversation.
Amanda, 30, who identifies herself as queer, said that she got tickets to the festival as a birthday present and was “very happy” about it. She hoped it would spark discussion about issues like gender-based violence.
Her friend Lina, 31, added: “When I was getting ready today, I was thinking: what should I wear? But I can wear anything I want because I don't have to be sexualized by men. There's no risk of someone putting their hand under my skirt, or flirting with me, or approaching me. I can just be free and talk to my girlfriends without being interrupted by a guy who wants to buy me a drink.”
Visitors at the Statement Festival. Photo: Frida Winter/TT
Like many others who spoke to The Local, their group was not bothered by excluding a certain gender group from entering the event. They compared it to environment in pubs where football matches are broadcast: some women would like to watch the games, but wouldn't enter out of fear that men would harass them.
Andrea, 26, however admitted that the format of the festival may not be the best way to prevent abuse at music events, but argued that someone needed to be first and try to find a solution. “We need to create a space where every human, regardless of their gender identity, feels safe,” she said.
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