Bristol Breakhouse Wants To Make Nightlife Safer

Catherine Shuttleworth interviews the founders of Bristol Breakhouse and how they are creating safe rave spaces.

Discourse about the rising levels of spiking and harassment in clubs and on nights out was prevalent at the end of last year. But despite a loss of momentum, the conversation about how to make nightlife safer for everyone, particularly women, is still ongoing. 

These conversations inspired the formation of a new collective called Bristol Breakhouse, aimed at making the rave and club scene more inclusive. I spoke to the four founders, Matilda Stokes, Niamh Tillings, Walter Feeney, and Phill Bennet, about what inspired them to form the collective and what they hope it will achieve. 

“Initially I had the idea because it’s no secret that when you go to club events…[most of them are] predominantly male. I realised that if I didn’t have the space [in the nightlife scene] I wanted, I needed to make it”, Matilda told me. She explained that she envisions the collective expanding into branches and holding women-only events. 

Matilda secured the support of three friends and the four of them banded together and formed Bristol Breakhouse, financing the first event themselves. The first event – Monkey Business – will take place at Basement 45 on March 29th and is open to all!

Events such as Sexy Lady Massive that take place in London made the founders realise that these types of inclusive and safe space events were possible. But the group wanted to start with an event open to all initially, with safety and inclusivity still at the heart of the event. Phil shared that “we are aiming to make the focus on all inclusive events, but right now we want to build up our name in [the] space, and [gain enough] experience to be able to create [more] events.”

Matilda explained why it is so important to have safe spaces on nights out: “there is just not a story where someone hasn’t got assaulted or harassed in clubs, that I can think of at least,” referring to nights out in Bristol and in the UK. In 2017, a YouGov poll found that 72% of young people have witnessed sexual harassment during a night out. Furthermore, 79% of women also said they expected inappropriate behaviour when they went out. These worrying statistics prove how important inclusive nights are, and why initiatives like Bristol Breakhouse are not only innovative but necessary too.

Walter added that they want to make a more inclusive space for performers too. For example, the group wants to get more female performers at their drum and bass nights. Phil commented that “it’s not that there aren’t a lot of women within the drum and bass scene, it’s that they either don’t feel comfortable or don’t want to put themselves under the scrutiny exhibited from a male-dominated space. But also, they aren’t given the opportunities by a lot of event organisers.”

The group explained to me that they want to make sure those attending their events feel safe, and able to share their experiences. Walter expanded that they want to have a more hands-on approach to their events, rather than just leaving the majority of issues to security: “[the presence of security] never really feels like a harm reduction thing. It’s in the interest of the legality of the club, rather than the safety of those in the club.” Sharing her own experiences as a woman, Matilda opened up about times when men have acted inappropriately towards her or her friends: “I’ll think to myself in that moment ‘well what you’ve done isn’t right, but it isn’t breaking the law’. And because of that, it’s unlikely that person will face any consequences.” Because of these experiences the founders want to ensure that the collective provides safe spaces at their events for people to report anything, and for it to be taken seriously.

Discussing their goals for the future of the collective, they shared that they really want to host inclusive events. “I really want to start, hopefully sooner rather than later, inclusive nights. Queer nights, which I know are already happening in Bristol which is great, [and] all-women nights too. In terms of queer-inclusive nights, I want to make sure it’s not a queer space that becomes dominated by straight people,” Matilda said. Phill added to this: “it tends to be [that] with these inclusive events the venues get smaller and more out of reach, [so] we want to go into this with the aim of having a consistent amount of exposure and capacity for all our events.”

Having spoken to the collective, it is very refreshing to hear about club events focused on attenders, performers, safety, and inclusivity, rather than simply monetary profit. It’s important to make sure we have these spaces and communities available in Bristol’s nightlife. If you want to show your support you can check out Bristol Breakhouse’s socials here, or get tickets to  their first event at Basement 45 here.

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