Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Punk Rock Holiday, Slovenia

The first thing I looked into when planning this summer's European adventure was whether there were any punk festivals happening that I just had to attend. Punk Rock Holiday was in the right place at the right time and with the right lineup and everything fell nicely into place. One of my BFF's was even able to fly into Slovenia from the UK to hang out for a week which was brilliant and not just because she came bearing mix CD's and bourbon biccies although that was a definite bonus. The van did us proud surviving without an electricity or water hook up for the whole week and providing us with perfectly chilled drinks and morning soya yoghurts the whole time. We had a blast hanging out but our week at Punk Rock Holiday didn't come without issues and challenges.

Living in the real world can be a challenge once you've had your eyes opened to all forms of oppression and it's impossible not to look at the world through a critical lens. As someone who identifies as an intersectional feminist and who is aware of (and further educating themselves on) critical theories surrounding race and gender I feel like my lens is wide open. In a lot of cases it would definitely be conducive to my enjoyment of situations to be able to switch that awareness off but honestly, I've tried and it's impossible.

I've been into punk music since I was 16, so over half of my life, and if you've met me or read this blog for a while this'll come as no surprise. For me punk isn't just about the music but the politics behind it. Not every band I like is political, Less Than Jake are all about the dancing, but as I grow older I like the music I listen to to have more substance. I've been attending gigs and festivals to get my fix of live music since I was 17 and have attended V Fest, Reading, Glastonbury, Ozzfest, Groezrock, Slam Dunk, Boomtown and, most recently, Punk Rock Holiday.


Punk Rock Holiday (henceforth referred to at PRH) has been running for four years now and I'd heard a little about in the last couple of years as people I know via social media have attended. PRH has by far the most beautiful setting of any festival I've attended being as it's situated in the Slovenian mountains next to a fast flowing (but utterly freezing) river. The stages are shaded either by trees or by canopies the festival organisers have thoughtfully constructed and, as I veteran festival attendee, I was excited to discover that there were no timetable clashes at all! The smaller beach stage ran from midday until around 6pm and then the main stage hosted bands between 6:30 and 2am. I was able to check out all of the bands on my must see list - Against Me!, Anti Flag, Madball, Teenage Bottlerocket, War On Women and Less Than Jake, as well as spending plenty of time discovering awesome new-to-me bands like Not On Tour, Siberian Meat Grinder, Ratos De Porao and The Decline to name a few.


Wood chips also mysteriously appeared overnight to cover any dangerously slippery patches of mud and they somehow had better wifi serving the camper van area and the main stage than the majority of the campsites I've stayed at this summer have had in their reception areas. This was super awesome because when it costs £1 to make a call to your friend's phone having the ability to fire off an iMessage is important. PRH also had a more environmentally aware crowd than at any other festival I've attended - I think the beautiful location contributes to that as does the €1 cup deposit you pay for any alcoholic beverage but it's also the only place I've ever seen people putting out their (totally gross but that's a whole 'nother thing) cigarettes and depositing the butts into the nearest bin.

From a vegan and sober ally perspective this festival won over all of the others I've been to, yes almost every single one of the other 5000 people there were drunk the majority of the time but people were better behaved in their drunkeness than at any other festival I've been to - nobody set fire to any tents or gas canisters, nobody tipped over any portaloos or tried to destroy the lighting rig and yes, depressingly, this did come as a surprise!

PRH is also incredibly vegan friendly and there were good drink options for the sober walking among us. Every single stall at the beach stage was 100% vegan and the food was both varied and of excellent quality. I was able to get my fix of tofu burgers, juices, kebabs, hummus and roasted vegetable sandwiches and raw vegan ice creams whenever I fancied.




There were also salads, seitan kebabs and raw cakes and you were allowed to take your own water bottle into the arenas where the bands were playing. That's something that's been a no-no at other fest's I've attended and it's one of the more rage inducing things to have your reusable water bottle confiscated by security to then have to spend the day purchasing plastic bottles of water that are more expensive than beer - I'm looking at you Groezrock.

Despite these great things I ended up feeling deflated, irritated and angry on so many occasions during the week because of the rampant sexism I saw coming from both festival attendees and the bands themselves. As a woman who has been involved in the punk scene for a long time it wasn't entirely surprising but as I've recently been moving in more inclusive and socially aware circles it definitely brought me back to the real world with a bump, no, a crash. I was left with a feeling that despite PRH being pretty left of mainstream when it came to the lineup, environmental awareness and prevalence of vegan options that it was ultimately pretty damned mainstream when it came to it's politics. Sure, I saw plenty of anti fascist and anti racist flags, t-shirts and pin badges which was great but where were the people challenging the sexism (and, to a lesser extent, ablism) coming from both the bands and their fans? I ended up giving up noting down instances of sexism because it was just too exhausting (and my phone battery kept dying) but here are just a few examples:

• I was wolf whistled at five times whilst bending to apply suncream to my legs at 9:30 in the morning.
• Whilst walking with a female friend a man had a quick discussion with another man about whether we were hot or not before waving a "Spank Bank" sign in our direction.
• Whilst War On Women (one of the handful of bands featuring female artists) were playing a man shouted "thanks for the nipples" at the lead singer.
• A man kissed my female friend on the cheek whilst she was sleeping outside her tent.
• One band asked if everyone was enjoying the beach and pointed out that they all were because of all of the "hot chicks" he further went on to explain that he's had "enormous balls" all day because of the way the women there looked.
• A man onstage used the term retarded to describe the way a fellow bandmate was acting
• I spotted one man walking around wearing a "Boob Inspector" lanyard.
• When the drummer and bassist of one band messed up a song the lead singer called them "girls" in a derogatory tone.

Even writing that felt tiring and experiencing it was even more so. One moment I'd be enjoying a pop punky tune, dancing in the sun with my friends and the next I was being reminded about how much sexism, ablism and objectification there is in the world and that despite being surrounded by "punks" nobody else even seemed to notice. These microaggressions added up and conspired to give me a less than perfect view of what could have been a close-to-idea festival.

The white male led punk scene has a lot of work to do if it wants to be more inclusive of women and people of colour and that has to start at the top with the people putting on shows and festivals like PRH. If no consideration is made at that level to include more bands featuring women (including women of colour) the scene itself will remain unchallenged and unchanged. Five bands featuring women on a 56 band lineup is a pitiful and inadequate attempt at inclusivity and I would hope that nobody would suggest that it's because there aren't great bands with female vocalists, guitarists, bassists and drummers out there because there are and they aren't hard to find.

I have since read more about the festival Fluff Fest which takes place every July in the Czech Republic and has an anti sexism and sexual violence policy in place - I haven't been (yet!) but I would assume that such a policy stretches to the things bands say on stage as well as the behaviour of attendees. This must foster a safer space and therefor attract a more radical crowd who are more empowered to challenge sexism when it does happen. I would like to see Punk Rock Holiday adding such a policy so that it can be an enjoyable holiday for everyone attending.

20 comments:

  1. the food sounds awesome but the other stuff not so much. i do not like scenes that state they are open and accepting but really are just the same ol' same ol'...

    ReplyDelete
  2. Aw, that does suck. Especially because we expect subversive subcultures to be more open-minded and less caught up in sexism, racism, etc. It's like they're saying, "damn the man" while doing the same bullshit "the man" is doing. UGH. On a happier note, glad you got to see Against Me! I saw them at Bonnaroo this year, and Laura Jane is just AMAZING!! You gotta give it her to being a proud trans woman in that culture.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes! Exactly! And hell yeah, LJG is the freaking best! I've been listening to Transgender Dysphoria Blues on repeat for months now, it's such a great album.

      Delete
  3. I think that you would love the Ieperfest festival in Belgium, and not only for the all vegan food, but also for their tremendous effort to be as green/ecological as possible! they call themselves a hardcore festival but music ranges from hardcore to punk to metal, and personally I enjoy this variation. They are anti-racist, anti-sexist, etc... It's by far the best festival I ever attended but unfortunately I won't be able to visit this year.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Katja, I'll have to check out the line up and look into attending next summer!

      Delete
  4. You should send this post to the organisers Jojo. Good to hear there were some plus points but a shame about all the sexist elements. I've only been to one festival this year, Tolpuddle Martyrs festival in Dorset. We saw an awesome all female band called The Tuts. If you don't know them check them out.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have done! There were so many plusses so was such a shame that the sexism was so prevalent. And I'll check out The Tuts for sure!

      Delete
  5. The worst part is that this sounds like such an average experience for women. I agree that living in the real world can suck on so many levels. Maybe organising a feminist punk rock festival is project to consider for the future <3

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes yes yes!! A feminist punk rock festival would be so rad! Even more rad would be a feminist metal festival!
      Flufffest looks like they're doing it right. I haven't been to a festival in so long but your experience with sexism and objectification brought back a lot of dumb memories and a lot of reasons why I stopped going to big festivals.

      Delete
    2. Haha, yes! Maybe I should organise a feminist punk fest! That sounds like a fun challenge although probably one to take on when I'm not living in a van! Fluff Fest definitely look like they're doing it right and I'm sorry about the shitty things that've stopped you attending festivals veganvarg - that blows.

      Delete
  6. Wow, the setting is so beautiful and the food being vegan is amazing - but the sexism and ablism you experienced is not :( That's too bad. Here's hoping they'll implement a better policy!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I really hope so, I've been in touch with the organisers and I'm hoping that they'll take my feedback on board and make changes next year.

      Delete
  7. Great post! I really loved the setting and how great prh was organized. Bands were great but i really missed more females in that part as well. I have to agree on the sexism part unfortunately. ..i went to prh with 3 of my female friends and our neighbours asked us where we had left our men and if they let us do that alone. I am sure they didnt mean to be assholes but i just really am not a big fan. But what really shows me how male dominated the punk rock scene is, is that many men seem to assume that me listening to and enjoying punk rock must be related to relationships with men. I once got asked (not at prh though) which of my exes brought me to punk rock. As if that is something i couldnt come up with myself. Yep,Didnt happen there but that still makes me so so mad. Another guy really thought that i was attending shows simply to impress him. What? Seriously? Yeah, weird thought that i enjoy the music and shows but those things really show me how men dominated that whole scene is. Very disappointing

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for your comment Kat. I'm sorry you experienced sexism at the festival too and that you've experienced similar sexism in the punk rock scene.

      Delete
  8. I can agree with You. I also thought that PRH is much more „open mind“, freer and solidarity festival (but in a more honest and proper way). On the one hand they are too relaxed when it comes to drugs, drinks, having fun in different ways, broaching sexism, and on the other hand, they are too repressive, and act like control agents when it comes to improve atmosphere, and when visitors want to show a little bit of rebellious spirit. I experienced a large dose of hypocrisy at this festival this year.

    But I also had a good moments, where people were good, and Seitan kebab is great, btw. This year, the vegan food was more sought then meat and animal based products, for bands at the festival. Maybe it will goes the same for women bands in future, or at least near that relation.

    I have a feeling that PRH is afraid to move few steps further in creating better festival in terms You mentioned. It seems to me that they are calculate too much about the „aura“ of festival. They do not want to be much into politics, to be a subversive place, and meeting spot of groups and individuals who make a difference. They want to be a little, happy, drunk, vacation and holiday for punk rock people on the beautiful place, without any deeper message and relations in society in general.

    But, at the end, what should we do? Try to make it better place, or leave it?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "Happy, drunk vacation holiday" is exactly the right way to put it! That's how it felt and I think PRH needs to move with the times and realise that everyone can still have plenty of fun even with an anti sexism and sexual violence policy in place. I think trying to make it a better place has to be the way to go but we can't do that by just showing up and hoping for change. I've been in contact with PRH to let them know about my experiences and so far have had no response. It's pretty disappointing and I hope to hear from them soon.

      Delete
  9. Yeap, You will be contacted or not, but it seems that the problems are always put aside. You as an individual can not bring material profit to PRH, or bring more people with Your last experience on festival site, if things will not be better. The question is also, whether they see Your experience as good thing and something to improve the festival in the future? They are sure that every year they will have a fan base/visitors who come on holiday without obligations and social consciousness.

    We as people, always have a need to overrate other people, situations etc. and we see them better then they actually are. Your friend mentioned above expectations of "subversive subcultures to be more open-minded and less caught up in sexism, racism, etc". You wrote about bands and band members about their behavior when it comes to sexism. I was surprised when I saw how many bands and band members order and drink "Coca Cola" (except Anti Flag, they are consistent).

    It is hard to find these days consistent, persistent people with opened minds. (bands, fans, festival organizers). Also active when it comes to fighting fascism, sexism, racism, machismo, lookism. At the end, after all these fights, You still have to sit down and eat Seitan kebab. Ughh!

    ReplyDelete
  10. Agreed, PRH has a totally gorgeous setting, and is really good for vegan and sober provisions.

    I really enjoy their policies on bringing as much food and drink as you like to the campsites. I think that when people don't have limitations on what they can bring in there isn't this frenzied attempt to 'smuggle' in as much as one can. I also didn't find evidence of the kind of frenzied drug culture one sees at Boomtown Fair and other UK festivals. Free showers (though they were bloody cold!) were a brilliant idea, not that I needed them much with all the swimming in the river.

    I've been to many festivals that are much much much worse for sexism (I'm mainly thinking of Boomtown Fair and Mighty Sounds with their heavy usage of pin-up imagery and objectification of women in marketing and decor). However, PRH could do with more women and POC on the bill because you're quite right, they were under-represented.
    I think also that due to their low security presence that if there was some discriminatory bullshit going on it wouldn't be easy to get the offending person chucked out. Wherever you go, one has to got to be brave to call people out on things like sexism and ableism, but the more people that do, the better. On the part of the organisers they need to not go back and re-book bands that say these kinds of discriminatory things as you listed in your post.


    Did you send this email to the organisers in English? I might know some people who could translate into Slovene, you might get a better response speaking to them in their own language?

    ReplyDelete
  11. Found this an interesting read. I have no experience in festival going but have been tempted by this year's line up. Would you say prh is a safe environment for a woman on her own to go to? I'd have a fair way to travel (from the UK) & this is another aspect that makes me unsure as I have never travelled abroad alone before.

    ReplyDelete

I love reading your comments, they make my day!