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Finnish music festival takes steps to weed out sexual harassment

Ilosaarirock Festival announces a partnership with the Finnish Red Cross to provide advice and support to festival-goers.

Ilotulitus rytmitti Nightwishin esiintymistä Ilosaarirockissa.
Ilosaarirock Festival will take place this weekend in Joensuu. Image: Antti Pitkäjärvi / Ilosaarirock

Public awareness of the issue of sexual harassment has risen in recent years, due in no small part to the highly-publicised "me too" campaign. Incidents of sexual harassment at music festivals have also been reported and highlighted.

Last summer, an online survey conducted by the daily Helsingin Sanomat found that one in three respondents had experienced sexual harassment at a music festival. The majority of incidents were reported to have occurred at Finland's largest and most well-known festivals.

The seriousness of the issue has inspired the organisers of the Ilosaarirock music festival, held every year in the eastern Finnish city of Joensuu, to forge a partnership with the Finnish Red Cross which will see trained support staff attend the event to assist and support victims of sexual harassment.

Petri Varis, producer at Ilosaarirock, explained that a survey conducted last summer led to the decision to recruit support staff at this year's event.

Ilosaarirockin vastaava tuottaja Petri Varis seisoo Laulurinteellä
Petri Varis, producer of the music festival Ilosaarirock Image: Ari Haimakainen / Yle

"We have identified the problem before, but now we want to pay special attention to this issue," Varis said.

Listening and advising

Jenni Solt, a volunteer with the Finnish Red Cross, will be on duty at the Laulurinne arena in Joensuu for the duration of the festival from Friday 12 to Sunday 14 July.

Solt is a member of the Red Cross' trained support staff, and will be available to listen to, support and advise festival attendees.

"First I will create a safe environment in which to listen. Of course it depends on the case, but people might be in shock, or angry, or confused. They may not even understand what has happened," Solt said.

In addition to listening and advising, Solt will also help with practical matters such as directing a victim of sexual harassment as needed.

"For example, I can help the person file an electronic crime report, advise them on where to get further assistance or, if necessary, accompany them to the hospital," Solt explained.

Respectful flirting still allowed

Festivals have traditionally led to the start of many a summer romance, and Varis says Ilosaarirock has no intention to get in the way of Cupid's arrows.

Solt says people just need to find the right balance.

"Of course we all want to relax and have fun, but it must be done with respect for others," the Red Cross volunteer said.

She praised the Ilosaarirock organisers for their initiative.

"It is really great that Ilosaarirock has taken this bold step, to raise this issue and intervene," Solt added.

The Ilosaarirock festival begins in the eastern border city of Joensuu on Friday and ends on Sunday evening. Last summer, 65,000 music fans attended the three-day event.

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