Emma Knyckare is a Swedish comedian and radio host, who unconsciously volunteered for the role of festival founder after tweeting an idea to have a female and non-binary music and arts event. Strictly no men allowed.
“I never thought about it being a real festival, but because of the response, we did it...” she says.
The tweet in question was sent in outrage after the amount of sexual harassment incidents that were reported at last year’s Bråvalla, Sweden’s biggest festival. During the four-day-event, a shocking four rapes and 23 sexual assaults were reported. Unable to guarantee safety, organizers shut it down.
“Last year sexual harassment was reported all the time. As soon there was a festival, that shit came up” says Knyckare. “I performed at Bråvalla. It's sad to arrive at a festival and hear something really bad has happened.”
Knyckare’s fem-fest idea struck a chord with other artists and punters similarly dismayed such festival behaviour. After a successful crowdfunding round, Statement was set to launch.
While political in nature, Statement is more a party than any kind of militant protest. It’s still very much a music festival, so any fan of luscious Scandi sounds won’t be disappointed by the mostly Swedish line-up. Piano poptress Frida Hyvönen, the avant-garde styles of Jenny Wilson, and mind- warping electro duo Rebecca & Fiona are some of the names on the two-day bill. Performers are only women and non-binary persons, another facet of Statement that addresses the lack of gender equality in traditional festival bills.
“Half our team consider it first and foremost music festival, but the other half say it’s more a statement…” Knyckare reflects. “I think it is both, they are both important, they are kindred in providing a safe space to enjoy music”.
Sweden isn’t alone with the problem - one in five women have reported sexual harassment at UK festivals. Statement boldly confronts issues of respect, conduct, and security at music events, occasions which should be celebratory, able to bring people together in a positive atmosphere.
But Statement’s no-male principle isn't without controversy. Debates ensue, especially online, as to whether excluding men can really address the issue in the right way.
Knyckare maintains that Statement isn’t the solution, “It is a reaction”. She seems unfazed by any backlash, “I just explain that, yes, not all men are rapists, but all sexual harassment accusations at festivals are made against men.”
“We first said the goal of the festival was to shut it down, that it shouldn’t be needed,” she continues. “But now we would like to keep doing it, so we’re changing the goal to eventually welcome men, to create a safe place, when society is equal and nobody is afraid of sexual assault in the crowd.”
When asking Knyckare when she thinks that could be, she is optimistic. “I don’t know when, but a lot of stuff has actually happened in Sweden that makes me proud of my country,” she says. “This year we passed the consent law, and men are also talking to each other more about the problem.”
“We had a big festival this weekend called Sweden Rocks and they had no reports about sexual violence this year, so progress is faster than I could ever imagine. I am really happy about that.”
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Statement Festival runs between August 31st - September 1st.
Words: Charis MacGowan
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