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Perth Fringe performers suffer abuse, threats and sexual harassment

Perth Fringe performers suffer abuse, threats and sexual harassment
February 3, 2016

Performers at Perth's Fringe festival have taken to social media to share troubling experiences of a growing tide of antisocial behaviour towards them.

One drag performer in the festival, which this year features more than 700 events, was told he should have his head cut off, while another artist in costume was told it was no wonder women get raped.

Other social media posts detailed how performers had been both verbally and physically harassed as they moved around Northbridge, mostly by young, drunk men.

According to a report by the ABC, some said they had been harassed while returning to their cars after shows, while others were walking between gigs at the main venues at the Perth Cultural Centre and the Pleasure Garden at Russell Square.

Aside from serious safety concerns, performers were worried that the vibrant atmosphere of the festival, embraced by young and old in recent years, was being tainted by the ugly behaviour.

Comedian Sami Shah said he wanted to highlight the problem before it escalated into something more dangerous told the ABC “a lot of people are getting more angry.”

His sentiments were shared by fellow performer Tiffany Barton, who said she was upset to have witnessed a young man attacked near the Shambles Theatre at the cultural centre.

Barton stated "I was in there on Australia Day and I saw a kid getting bashed on the ground with seven boys laying into him.

"It feels very different this year from previous years. It's always felt very safe, community-oriented, friendly. This year it feels very dangerous and scary."

A campaigner for better pay and conditions for Fringe World performers, Barton has raised the issue in an email to Western Australian Premier Colin Barnett, Perth Lord Mayor Lisa Scaffidi and City of Perth councillors, as well as organisers of the festival.

The email stated “many reports are surfacing on social media about antisocial behaviour at Fringe World, and violence and harassment towards artists over the last few days.

"Artists and the general public are very upset.

"You ask artists to help you promote the Elizabeth Quay by performing for peanuts, you've created an event that has become too big to manage, put pop-up bars everywhere, not provided adequate security and now we are being assaulted and harassed as well as underpaid."

In response to the concerns, a Fringe World spokesperson said in a written statement they had spoken to some of the affected artists and tried to find ways to improve their experience.

This included negotiating a discount with ride-sharing service Uber, giving safety tips and talking to police.

The statement explained “we stand by the fact that Fringe is a time where more activity in busy inner-city entertainment precincts means safety throughout the precinct is increased, especially with the diverse crowds and varied demographics that make up the Fringe crowd.

"We encourage every person enjoying themselves late at night throughout Northbridge to be respectful to themselves and each other and need to reiterate that anti-social and disrespectful behaviour within any area controlled by Fringe will not be tolerated."

WA Police said they had received no reports of assault, harassment or intimidation by Fringe festival performers and there were always increased police numbers on Northbridge streets at this time of year.

The 2016 Fringe World Festival runs until 21st February.

Lower image: Dark Matter with Sam Williams. Courtesy of Jason Matz/Facebook.





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