THE BLOG
10/06/2019 09:34 BST | Updated 10/06/2019 09:34 BST

Why We're Opening A New Glastonbury Space To Challenge Toxic Masculinity

The traditional masculine stereotype has become outdated, so we want to build a positive, inclusive space where Glasto-goers can learn to be better fathers, sons and partners, Shangri-La art director Moses Powers writes

Kristian Buus via Getty Images

Working as part of Shangri-La’s art department for the past eight years, I’ve felt privileged to be a part of its community as it has grown and developed. Shangri-La has responded to cultural and political shifts, challenging inherited thoughts and systemic problems, by creating spaces that can encourage, educate and inspire people. 

In 2019 toxic masculinity is an important topic for debate, one which can, for some men, seem like an attack on the masculine expression, or on themselves as men. If you’re a white, straight, cisgendered man then it is possible you have never felt the need to question your masculinity. 

However, the traditional masculine stereotype has become outdated, and the idea of suppressing emotions and vulnerabilities, of trying to fit into one mould of what it means to be a man, is harmful and unfulfilling.

This can negatively impact men’s mental health, leaving some men, young men especially, at a loss, without direction or a solution to these issues, which can in turn lead to negative behaviour towards themselves and others.

Growing up, I was constantly trying to over-portray my masculinity due to insecurities I had surrounding my sexuality.  Masculinity has been something I have tried to fit into and re-confirm within myself for acceptance and also safety. I’ve used my creative work to develop my understanding of what it means to be a man, when not identifying with the ideals that were forced upon me.

The concept for The Shed, Shangri-La’s all-inclusive micro venue, dedicated to positive masculinity, was developed with our creative director Kaye Dunnings. We saw a need for men to reconnect with themselves and each other. We have to be self-aware, and accountable for our actions, whilst learning to be better brothers, fathers, sons, partners, plus allies to womxn, and to each other. 

With The Shed, we have created a new safe space where self-awareness is encouraged, people can reflect together, express their feelings and emotions, share new ideas of masculinity and address societal expectations about how men ‘should’ behave. We have to relearn how we view, listen and work with everyone, from all genders, races, sexualities and abilities. 

Having The Sistxrhood, an all femme-identifying safe space, which opened at Shangri-La for the first time in 2016 was crucial for us in developing The Shed, and we are inspired by their work and positive approach. We want to face these issues head on and approach them from a place of positivity and begin to redefine masculinity for the modern age.

Historically there have always been male-only spaces where women have been excluded; The Shed will be the polar opposite. It is a safe space for all, to promote positive masculinity, pose questions, generate discussion and take a step forward together.

The exterior of the venue will look like the stereotypical ‘man’s space’ paying homage to the garden shed. Upon entering however, guests will shed those stereotypes, and embrace positive new experiences, as they step into a completely contrasting interior with beautiful, positive murals and artwork by talented British artist Adam Neate.

Whilst The Shed is inspired in part by my own experiences, I am not trained in this area and so we are working with and being supported by amazing partners. These include Calm Zone, the men’s suicide prevention charity who raise awareness around mental health and the surrounding issues, Book of Man, an organisation running events, discussions and talks to inspire modern men in a time of great change and Lyrix Organix who run educational youth-led event programmes around the world that support charities and social action.

The Shed’s line-up has been carefully curated, to include pioneering voices and people who are taking a stand and using their talent and creativity to inspire and to open dialogue about masculinity.

During the day we will run a range of discussions and workshops with special guests such as Professor Green, MC Dizraeli, Michael Venom Page and Inja, as well as programming live music by the UK’s finest spoken word, rap and beatbox artists. We will also be creating a Drop-Off Booth, where all are invited to anonymously drop off notes with messages about masculine behaviour that no longer serves them. These will then be used as a subject of discussion on the last day of the festival.

The evening programme will be filled with inspiring live music, performance, spoken word and DJs such as Foreign Beggars, StrangeLove, J’R’Jospehs, Rowdy SS, Lyrix Organix presents: Hobbit x Jack Miguel x Boogaloo Dee b2b Sub:System with many more to be announced.

The Shed is just one element of Shangri-La, which is a huge field of amazing spaces that can be enjoyed by all and celebrated together.

We hope this space, the first of its kind, will be a supportive and positive space away from the sometimes overwhelming experience of being at a festival.

It’s an experiment, one we’ll develop year on year, that we hope will grow organically with the incredible people we have invited to speak and perform, and of course everyone we welcome through its doors.

We hope that this space and project can go on to exist beyond the festival to inspire, educate, connect and encourage a positive and authentic path to equality.

We also have free tea!

Moses Powes is the art director of Shangri-La at Glastonbury