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WAM Song of the Year

I have never felt unsafe in a Boorloo or Walyalup live music venue. Until tonight when I attempted to attend the WAM Song of the Year Awards event at Freo.Social.

I was offered a +1 a while ago by a colleague who had been gifted tickets by WAM. I arrived a few minutes before my colleague and, as has been my experience previously, expected to be able to access the outer areas of the venue without having to show a ticket. I was encouraged in this expectation by a post on WAM’s Facebook page in which they advised, “food and drinks will be available from 6pm at the SideBar, main doors open at 7pm, with the awards ceremony commencing at 7.30pm.” I arrived at approximately 6.40 pm, prior to doors. I also arrived with a very urgent need to urinate.

I was greeted at the outside entry to Freo.Social by an aggressive member of venue security who advised me I could not come in off the street without a ticket. I explained to him that my friend had my ticket. He denied me entry. I told him that I had an urgent need to go to the toilet. He denied me entry. At this point, knowing that my incontinence would mean that I would soil myself in public if I didn’t get to a toilet very quickly, I walked past the security person, advising again that I needed to go to the toilet. I didn’t look back, I had an urgent need to fulfil.

I was surprised — actually mortified and frightened — when he came up behind me and put his hand on me. I told him in no uncertain terms not to touch me and continued searching for the toilet. After I had fulfilled my basic human need to void my bladder, I was greeted again by the same member of venue security, who was by now accompanied by a member of venue management. I asked to speak to her without the security person being present, as he was still encroaching on my personal space.

I spoke to the member of venue management who, during our conversation was joined by one of her colleagues. I related what had happened and advised that I did not feel safe in the venue. The Freo.Social staff member told me, “He’s (the security person) very young,” an excuse I challenged. She told me the matter we were discussing wasn’t really her area of responsibility, an excuse I challenged. She told me tonight was the first night she had worked with him (the security person), an excuse I challenged. This person’s colleague then asked me where he had touched me, to which I replied, “Does it matter?” I understand that venue security may at times have to remove patrons from venues if they are intoxicated and/or aggressive and that this could involve handling people physically if they refuse to leave. We were nowhere near this territory. I am a non-drinker and all I wanted was to attend the toilet.

I also was asked by venue management what I wanted to have happen. I replied that the person should be counselled, provided with training or supported to choose another career if he wasn’t suitable for his current role, all while he was glaring at me from his position at the entry to Freo.Social, not more that 10 or so metres away. I advised that my main need was to feel safe. The venue staff member did apologise for the treatment I received, but I felt no confidence about her further follow through.

When my colleague arrived, I told him what had happened and then left the venue, where I was clearly unwelcome and where reason was not the order of the day.

I have worked in the music industry as a music journalist and promoter in Boorloo and Walyalup for around 10 years now. I also regularly attend gigs as a punter. I have never once experienced such aggression, such refusal to listen and the denial my basic human needs as occurred tonight. I felt humiliated, belittled and was both physically and emotionally attacked. I posed no threat, I had a genuine need to use the toilet and was of the belief — encouraged by WAM’s post — that tickets would be checked at the entry to the performance area, as has been my experience at Freo.Social in the past.

To say I’m disappointed would be an understatement. I’m not going to make this an issue of gender, because I don’t believe that was the case, but it didn’t help that my use of public toilets as a gender diverse woman already is a highly charged and dangerous experience. I would have thought that WAM, an organisation that constantly trumpets its inclusivity, would have ensured that they held this marquee event in an inclusive venue and that all staff on the night were appropriately briefed about communicating with their guests appropriately and with understanding and compassion.

Clearly this was not a consideration on WAM’s part. In my experience with the WAM, this is just one more instance of the organisation’s inability to deliver on its promises. Funny thing is, I nearly didn’t attend tonight after WAM had deadnamed me yet again just a few days ago. I should have trusted my instinct.

The song remains the same.

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