Camp Cope & More: Australia’s Fight Against Sexual Harassment

Falls Festival in Australia is meant to be a euphoric celebration to bring the year to an end, yet amongst claims of widespread sexual abuse the festival has served simply highlighted the entrenched misogyny in the Australian music scene and beyond.

Cast your mind over to the far-off land of Australia for a second- think heat, sweat and a population density which is simply a joke for any Hyde Park inhabitant. Now, imagine Reading and Leeds festival, but substitute it’s two locations for four sites nestled next to major Australian cities; Marion Bay (Tasmania), Lorne (Adelaide), Byron Bay (Brisbane), and Fremantle (Perth). This is where flocks of musos and festival goers congregate over New Years to celebrate the turning of the clocks in a wash of good music, blistering heat and swimming pools.

Sounds rather beautiful, doesn’t it? With headline slots from the likes of Flume and The Kooks the music did not disappoint. Sadly, this years festival was not epitomised by the music, but rather the shadowy reports of sexual assault which flooded the world of social media. The misconduct of drunk festival goers whilst both in the crowd and the campsite is not unusual whilst at festivals. Most of the time it is left as just something which naturally happens, the difference in contemporary Australia is that huge local names have been taken up arms to show how illogical these abusive acts are in the cold light of day.

One of the most shocking accounts was relayed on Perth-based artist Stella Donnelly’s Instagram story, where she recalled how her friend was groped whilst working wristbands in Fremantle, and yet security still deemed the man safe to be allowed entry. As a solo camper myself in Byron Bay, there was a lingering feeling that I wasn’t completely safe. With guys trying to get into my tent throughout the night I was forced to tie the zips of my tent together to try an emulate a lock.

In today’s world it’s hard not to be desensitised to sexual abuse, with mass allegations of such constantly flooding the news. There’s only so much anger you can put out unto the world and at some point, it seems logical only to move on. Yet in Australia, the arts industries have constantly persisted to highlight the true nature of sexual abuse in 2017. One of the fastest rising artists in Australia and winner of the Triple J Unearthed Artist of the Year award, aforementioned Stella Donnelly, was thrust into the spotlight by her jaw-dropping ode to the worlds pitiful rape culture ‘Boys will be Boys’ which within 3 minutes captured the hearts of the nation.

If 2017 was the year for talk, the new year is one for action- and at the forefront of this has been the empowered band Camp Cope.

Camp Cope may have only 150,000 and counting listeners on Spotify, but one listen to their latest single ‘The Opener’ can fill you with enough anger to spark a revolution. Lead singer, Georgia, punches out these magnificent lyrics in which she refutes her position as a second-class citizen in the straight white cis male music industry. At all four of their packed out sets on the smallest stage of Falls Festival, Cope combined their rage-inducing songs with impassioned speeches to highlight the lack of female representation on the bill and the atrocities they were seeing all around them. Not many bands have the balls to call out the whole festival and it’s organisers whilst on stage, but fierceness is in the whole band’s blood.

Obviously, speeches and songs are all well and good, yet they are all too easy to erase from your memory. In the latter part of the Byron Bay set where I was present two boys (who knew all the words to their strongly feminist songs, I should add) called out for Georgia to show them a part of her body- something extinct in a crowds interaction with a male artist on stage. What sets Cope apart is that their frustration was utilised to spark a social media and t-shirt campaign to promote the #ittakesone campaign.

Arriving early to the last two days of the festival, Cope handed out tops with the phrase “THE PERSON WEARING THIS SHIRT STANDS AGAINST SEXUAL ASSAULT AND DEMANDS A CHANGE” emblazoned on the chest to any artist, and the usually ignored backstage people, who would take one. The shirt was thus captured by photographers, the crowds mental images and Snapchat stories by true millennials during the sets of Australian greats of the likes of The Smith Street Band, Alex Lahey and Thundamentals. Although most of those wearing the shirt were almost exclusively Australian, a picture was released on Cope’s Instagram (@camp_cope) of Liam Gallagher, admittedly not wearing, but standing with the members Lucas Brasi who were all proudly sporting their provocative t-shirt. A picture can paint a thousand words, but more importantly, it can reach a hundred thousand eyes instantly. The campaign purely hopes that everyone looks out for one another, and maybe one person will see a man trying to get into a strangers tent at 2am and call them out.

If Camp Cope can teach you anything, it’s that a fierce belief in a better future, free from sexual abuse can ignite wildfire. Since Falls the spread of #ittakesone has been colossal in Australia. Georgia, Kelly and Sarah sent a letter to the world that everyone has a part to play on halting abuse because no one else is going to do it for you, maybe it’s time the whole world listened.

Jenny Pudney

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