Loud music and low lighting are synonymous with the typical night out, but when it comes to educational brochures and resources on crisis intervention, they’re not often the first thing to expect at local venues.
Safer Gigs Hamilton is changing that.
Booths covered in pamphlets on topics ranging from bystander intervention techniques to zines about consent and resources on mental health have been popping up all over bars and artist run spaces in Hamilton.
The booths, which can easily be identified by their bright pink logo, are set up by Safer Gigs founders Jessie Goyette, a Leadership in Community Engagement student at McMaster University and Vince Soliveri, a local Hamilton musician and audio engineer.
“We started safer gigs after Vince Soliveri went on tour with his band Downstream at the time,” explained Goyette.
“He met the folks running a gig in Charlottetown, PEI, where they had some pamphlets on safer sex and whatnot. He admired the sense of community and inclusion, something we felt like our own city lacked.”
“We want people to know they are supported. We aren’t in these spaces to preach or pretend we are professionals.”
Leadership in Community Engagement
Since the summer, the Safer Gigs booth has been making rounds at Club Absinthe, Doors Pub, Supercrawl and Hammer City Records. Goyette and Soliveri have a lot of ground to cover, but they’re driven by the importance of increasing accessibility to resources to music lovers and festival goers.
“[W]e want people to have fun and be safe! We want people to know they are supported. We aren’t in these spaces to preach or pretend we are professionals. We just offer resources from all of the really smart organizations in the community that can help,” said Goyette.
Community programs and organizations, such as the Sexual Assault Centre (Hamilton Area), the Aids Network, Mental Health Rights Coalition and the Hamilton Public Library, have been very supportive of Safer Gigs’ mission. Their work has been met with positive responses and much needed dialogue.
“[I] enjoy folks coming up to us and being like ‘I saw online that you had pamphlets about [insert thing]. Can I have some to share with a friend?’” said Goyette.
The Safer Gigs team are quickly expanding and working behind the scenes to increase their programming.
They’ve recently launched a collection of non-profit crewnecks, that sold out in one night. Goyette embroiders them herself to keep production costs low and allow supporters to pay what they can.
“The costs of the sweaters are coming completely out of Vince and my pockets. This initially is a fundraiser for drug testing kits and fennel test strips. We were hoping to raise $100 for that,” explained Goyette.
“Once we meet that goal, any remaining money that comes in will actually go to SACHA, which has provided us infinite resources and inspiration,” explained Goyette.
Most of Safer Gigs’ resources are applicable to all genders, but they are also looking to create more diversity in their content and events they attend.
Safer Gigs also hopes to expand their services in the future by running workshops on how to create safe spaces and also creating kits filled with community resources that others can use to set up their own booths.
Hamilton is known for its art and music scene and Hamiltonians have the right to enjoy what they city has to offer, but things do happen.
Safer Gigs is an effort to reduce harm and trauma, and most importantly, educate others to prevent it.
There are many opportunities to get involved with Safer Gigs, including volunteering at booths or visiting them. Safer Gigs will be making an appearance at this Saturday’s Howling Moons event at the Hamilton Conservatory for the Arts.