Sexual Harassment Rife At Edinburgh Fringe, Say Performer Campaign Group

By Meka Beresford, Freelance News Editor 21 Aug 2019
Justice, Women

Sexual harassment is rife at Edinburgh Fringe Festival and organisers must “do better” to put an end to harassment, a campaign group has said. 

Fair Fringe, a campaign group made up of performers and workers at Fringe, described the number of assaults as “appalling” and accused organisers of not taking the issue seriously enough.

The group, which formed in 2017 to tackle exploitation and poor working conditions, explained that sexual harassment was so rampant in part because of the vulnerabilities of working late at night, but most importantly because Fringe doesn’t have a good enough policy.

Sexual Harassment At Edinburgh Fringe

Image Credit: Flickr

“Employers have a responsibility to provide a safe workplace and that includes tackling sexual harassment, whether it’s by customers, colleagues or bosses,” a Fair Fringe spokesperson said, adding that a “clear” policy on sexual harassment would include a clear reporting process, and a “system to deal with customers who sexually harass staff”.

One performer, Maddie Ross, who works with Girl Code Theatre on the show Coming Home With Me, a show about being sexually assaulted, was sexually harassed while flyering for the show.

Maddie and the group took to the Royal Mile to flyer in their underwear as part of a publicity stunt. Most of their interactions were positive, but some men shouted abuse, took pictures and catcalled the women.

When flyering alone, she was assaulted.

“This guy came up to me and asked: ‘What’s it about?’ I was feeling confident and told him it was about sexual harassment in nightclubs and he lurched at me, grabbed my arse and said: ‘I’m not surprised you get harassed.’ Before I could say anything, he was gone,” she told The Guardian.

“I was very angry. I saw the irony straight away. It felt ridiculous, this was exactly why I’ve written the bloody play,” Ross said, adding that she did not flyer again after the incident.

Ross was just one of many performers to speak out about being harassed and assaulted this year, with Charlotte Bence, a representative for the Equity UK union saying that many workers and performers had been in touch saying they had been groped.

“The idea that these indignities are something they have to suffer to promote their work is just appalling,” she told the Times.

“There’s a particular dynamic at play in the fringe. It’s the extra vulnerabilities of the late-night shows. The lack of paid transportation home late at night.”

Fringe’s Response 

Image Credit: Unsplash

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society said that the reason they have found it difficult to hold abusers to account is because the section of the Equality Act 2010 which made employers take steps to prevent harassment was repealed in 2013.

They say it has made it difficult to hold employers responsible if a performer or venue worker is harassed.

However, they insisted that they are taking the complaints seriously and are working with Equity UK to further investigate.

In the meantime, they have urged any victims to contact Police Scotland with their reports.

Everyone has “the right to feel safe and supported throughout their time at the festival,” they added.

Featured Image Credit: Creative Commons