I have been going to gigs for about 20 years now and one band in particular has my love like no other. I've seen the Manic Street Preachers countless times. Dressed in animal print and drenched in glitter, I've traveled far and wide, and patiently the hours of queuing to get to the barrier.
Obsessed? Well music is important to me. Emotionally, I doubt I could go a day without it. Practically, I've worked in a gig venue to help myself through university and have been known to financially cripple myself to go to festivals some summers. So I'm not naive when it comes to music crowds.
Though the nature of gigs themselves may encourage freedom in behaviour and nature - all together in one big, euphoric, often dark setting, crammed in tight and sweaty - it does not make it acceptable to grope, grab or act in any other threatening way towards a woman without her consent. You would think this does not need saying but this is the story of why I felt it was time to speak up and how 'Safe Gigs for Women' has happened.
Through most of my gig going life, Manics gigs in particular, I've felt safe. I've been known to go to gigs alone sometimes when my own passions aren't shared with my friends.
Convinced that the Manic's show in June at Cardiff Castle was quite possibly the most important gig in their history, it didn't matter that I couldn't find anyone else to go with, I wasn't going to miss it. I've been doing this long enough to think I can keep myself safe at gigs and due to being on my own and transport a concern, I didn't go into the thick of the crowd.
Getting on towards the end of the show, I found myself being barged past by a man to get a bit closer during 'the hits'. He then proceeded to keep staring at me. During the end song, I then found myself being grabbed at with both hands by him looking for a kiss, and when I said "no way!" He tried to pass it off as "just cause it's the last song". I stress this man never introduced himself, or even spoke to me.
Given that I was actively trying to ignore him I can't see why this would be seen as appropriate. I appreciate in moshpits it can be hard to assess what is accidental and this wasn't the pit and was clearly deliberate.
Was it the way I dressed and if so I can't see why the man from C&A would think I would be interested? I could ask if at a certain time of night, men do sometimes just "go after anything in a skirt" just because, "they might get lucky", but that discredits men all together and that's not fair, even more so considering the example the Manics themselves have set with regards to women. But anything else I ask tends to push the blame on me, and I'm not prepared to do that.
Sadly my initial reaction was no more gigs alone, but that is clearly not right. A woman at a gig on her own does not, should not ever equate to fair game or a chance to "get lucky" in anyone's minds.
What stays with my though other than his poor dress sense, however, is seeing as I was standing where it was open and other people could see what was going on, when I was clearly not okay with this, why did no-one attempt to help me?
Most of my friends are men, and I feel like I could count on all of them to stand up in an instance like this, but why not others? Cause think about this for a second... If it's fear of getting smacked, ask yourself: how on earth do you think the woman on the receiving end feels? I'm sure most men understand boundaries of normal, safe behaviour but until men start challenging those who don't, how can we ever challenge such outdated, noxious views?
In response to this event, I shared my story, The response I got from other women saying they had experienced similar illustrated I am not alone. From this, I established a Twitter account in order for women to share their stories, and highlight that what happened to me was not an isolated incident (it was also, sadly, not the first incident like this). My current hope is that directed measures will be coming to Camden soon, to try make gigs safer for women. Please contact me via Twitter for more information.
Follow Tracey Wise on Twitter: www.twitter.com/safegigs4women