Keep proper journalism alive. It's time to Back the Cable
The Bristol Cable

‘You don’t win at this’: the ongoing battle against sexual harassment in Bristol’s nightlife

Money is being poured into providing venues with training and resources against the crime, but it’s just the start of a process of creating cultural change, explains the Trinity Centre’s Aysha Tailor-Whyte.

Photo: Aphra Evans

Edition 29

“I’m about to start processing some stuff that happened to me a long time ago, because I’m about to put myself back in that space where it happened,” says Aysha Tailor-Whyte, who coordinates live music and club nights at the Trinity Centre. “I didn’t realise until I visited the space again the effect it was going to have on me. And it happened 12 years ago.”

 “Like any other form of harassment, it’s always going to be there. All you can do is create a culture in your space and in the city to mitigate the risks of this happening.”

Aysha Tailor-Whyte

Aysha and I quickly find common ground in our experiences of sexual harassment on nights out. The difference is that for me, it’s just personal. 

Aysha, on the other hand, has to make the space where she works safe for people to enjoy themselves, a situation compounded by dark corners, huge crowds and intoxicants. She has put on nights where bad things happen, where she deals with the fallout and handles both survivors and perpetrators.

“It’s heartbreaking if you hear that something’s happened, if it’s at a gig and it’s my event,” she says.

Sexual harassment of all kinds is too common in these settings. But the imprint it leaves is rarely discussed: PTSD, anxiety, panic disorders, not wanting to leave the house, not wanting to put yourself in certain situations, and physical symptoms like headaches, muscle aches and heartburn.

Campaign posters by Bristol Nights

“Anyone who’s experienced sexual harassment, you see the effects of it but I don’t think it’s that shocking,” says Aysha. “You know them. You have them.” We both nod.

Bristol Nights campaign begins in earnest

Over March, Aysha was one of many people delivering training on tackling sexual harassment to 1,000 night-time economy workers, defined as those working between 6pm and 6am. The training campaign was coordinated by Bristol Nights, an initiative set up to support the city’s night-time economy, which began with anti-sexual harassment posters appearing around town and in venues late last year.

The funding for the campaign came from the government’s £5 million Safety of Women at Night Fund, which launched after several recent high-profile murders of women in the UK. Last November, the Home Office awarded Bristol City Council £282,000 to tackle crimes against women at night. Of this, £173,000 went towards preventing sexual harassment, including developing and delivering the training Aysha was involved in, and an awareness campaign aimed at supporting night-time venues to tackle the crime.

Prevention rather than cure

For Aysha, one of the less talked about solutions is diversifying. She describes live music as a very white, male industry. In that space, she says, there will be few people arguing for more action on sexual harassment or racism. And as a Black woman, Aysha is aware of how those two problems run deeper when they intersect: the latest ONS data shows Black and minoritised people are significantly more likely to be the target of sexual assault than white or Asian people.

Get our latest stories & essential Bristol news
sent to your inbox every Saturday morning

The Bristol Nights campaign may have begun in earnest, but Aysha sees this as very much the beginning of a shift in the conversation. It’s not that sexual harassment wasn’t discussed at Trinity before, but now it’s openly talked about, with the momentum of the campaign behind it and the crucial linking together of different venues to tackle one problem. “It’s about creating a safer city, ultimately, not just safer individual spaces,” she says.

She is excited to see the ripple effects of the campaign and the training a year down the line, but under no delusion about the limitations of them. “You don’t win at this,” she says flatly. “Like any other form of harassment, it’s always going to be there. All you can do is create a culture in your space and in the city to mitigate the risks of this happening.”

As Aysha well knows, there’s always the possibility that after something happens, the survivor will forever think of the venue where it happened – or all night-time venues – as unsafe.

“But if you’ve given someone resources, and said this is what we’re going to do, this is what you can do – that’s the level of support you can give after the fact,” she says. “Then they’re going to know you take it seriously and then maybe they won’t have that fear of coming back.”

Join 2,500 Cable members redefining local media

Your support will help the Cable grow, deepening our connections in the city and investigating the issues that matter most in our communities.

Join now

What makes us different?

Comments

Post a comment

Mark if this comment is from the author of the article

By posting a comment you agree to our Comment Policy.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Related content

Owner of ex-pub and cinema should up his landlord game before developing more flats, say tenants

High-profile plans to turn a former Wetherspoons on Church Road into housing have been withdrawn this week. Some tenants of the developer, Landrose, say it needs to improve its service to people already living in its properties.

‘We can move the dial’: can Massive Attack set a new benchmark for low-carbon live music?

The legendary Bristol band have announced a huge hometown show for 2024. But will the eco-friendly event provide a model for a more climate-conscious live music industry?

‘Speaking is a political act’: Bristol artists push Arnolfini for action over Palestine controversy

The prominent gallery has apologised for cancelling two events from the Palestine Film Festival in November – but an emerging artists-led campaign says it doesn’t go far enough.

Listen: Bristol Unpacked with Ruth Pitter on the role of the charity sector, pioneering Black theatre and her recent MBE

Neil chats to Ruth, a daughter of the Windrush generation, on her decades of work with Bristol's voluntary and community groups, how that's changed as public services have been cut – and whether she feels conflicted about receiving an honour associated with empire.

Listen: Bristol Unpacked with Watershed CEO Clare Reddington on cinema, class and council cuts

As Bristol City Council slashes spending on venues including arthouse cinema Watershed, Neil asks its boss Clare why funding the arts matters, and whether the sector's reputation as catering mainly to the well-heeled is justified.

Darin J Sallam on what shaped her creative life, her film Farha and the controversy it sparked from the Middle East to Bristol

Sallam’s film has been praised for its bravery in choosing to tackle the events of the Nakba – one of very few films to do so – but was also heavily criticised by Israeli authorities and prompted a boycott campaign

Join our newsletter

Get the essential stories you won’t find anywhere else

Subscribe to the Cable newsletter to get our weekly round-up direct to your inbox every Saturday

Join our newsletter

Subscribe to the Cable newsletter

Get our latest stories & essential Bristol news
sent to your inbox every Saturday morning