//Long-time B.C. electronic music festival on pause following sexual violence allegations

Long-time B.C. electronic music festival on pause following sexual violence allegations

The Shambhala Music Festival, hosted in Salmo, B.C., since 1998, is postponing this summer’s virtual event after sexual violence allegations were made online against at least one of its performers.

In a news release circulated on Saturday, organizers of the electronic dance music festival said there have been serious allegations made against past and present performers.

“We recognize that forms of sexual violence exist in our society and we take accountability for the role festivals play in this,” organizers said in the release.

The online version of this year’s festival was set to begin July 23, but organizers say it’s been postponed so a review can be conducted of the policies and practices that are in place to keep attendees, staff and performers safe from sexual violence or abuse.

The announcement came after allegations were made about UK artist Billy Kenny, who has played Shambhala before and was set to perform as part of the online event this year.

‘Dismantle rape culture’

Initially, on July 13, organizers announced that Kenny had been removed from its home digital streaming event.

“We take any allegations of assault, whether it be physical, verbal or sexual, very seriously and we do not condone that behaviour in any way,” it said on Twitter.

An overhead photograph of the Shambhala Music Festival from 2013. (Contributed by: Benjamin Jordan)

Outrage grew steadily online as more people spoke out about Kenny and his participation at events like Shambhala.

Now organizers of Shambhala say they will immediately undertake background checks for artists and have “a zero-tolerance policy for assault of any kind.”

The festival will also do further training for staff about handling reports of sexual harassment or violence at the festival.

“We know that these actions won’t reduce the trauma felt by anyone who has experienced sexual violence,” organizers said in the release. “But we move forward with the commitment to dismantle rape culture and we take accountability for the role festivals play in this.

“We would like to offer our sincerest apologies to all of those affected and thank those who displayed the courage to speak out.”

Multiple people online commended the festival for taking further action.

The festival has grown steadily since 1998 when about 500 people attended. That number has grown to more than 17,000 in recent years. 

Organizers say they consider Shambhala Music Festival a leader in harm reduction. In 2015, it began offering information and free drug testing for attendees who smuggled in the substances. The code of conduct agreed to by attendees when they buy a ticket prohibits the possession of illicit drugs. 

Options for Sexual Health also provides sexual health services at the festival.

Organizers have not yet responded to a request from CBC News for further comment on its release.

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