In the wake of the pandemic, club culture has emerged transformed. An urgent desire to celebrate life meets a heightened consciousness around personal and interconnected safety, reflecting the collective’s yearning to reconnect and the imperative to protect one another. This unique combination has brought the concept of awareness into the limelight.
Originating from the resilience and solidarity of marginalized communities, awareness has long served as a beacon of protection in spaces where systemic structures fall short.
It should come as no surprise that many collectives implementing this work within the club scene are led by, FLINTA ((Women, Lesbian, Intersex, Non-binary, Trans, and Agender) and BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) individuals, as these groups often face heightened risks to their safety and well-being.
Awareness tools are as necessary as ever and should reflect a commitment to addressing the structural inequities that permeate not only club culture but the music industry as a whole.
“Issues of lack of support, gender discrimination and sexual harassment and assault are endemic in the music industry, intensified for women faced with intersectional barriers”, shows a report on Misoginy in Music by the Women And Equalities Commission published in January 2024.
The study sheds light on the complex challenges women face in the music sector, from restricted opportunities and unequal pay to gendered power imbalances.
This further highlights the necessity of awareness tools within club culture but also stresses the importance of extending these efforts beyond the dance floor. As the music industry grapples with these systemic issues, the role of awareness in fostering a safer, more inclusive environment becomes even more critical.
“Many of the problems of club culture and nightlife are caused by racial and patriarchal structures in society. We try to address these structures of inequality with a diverse awareness team and the code of conduct we developed together." Joscha Hinzpeter, from the Viennese awareness collective Amore AG
Beyond providing safety, awareness is a reflection of the deep-rooted ethos and values at the foundation of the sentiment of community that so many dancers seek on the dance floor. It serves to foster connection, mutual care, and to envision a better world.
According to this RA Pro newsletter, “A safer space essentially refers to a venue, party or gathering that's sensitive to gender fluidity, drug use, mental health, class, race, migration status, and other cultural, plus structural, dynamics. It implements a culture of respect, maintaining a zero-tolerance policy towards harassment, sexism, transphobia, staring, discrimination and breaches of personal space”.
Understanding there will be imperfections, how can we make sure the club is as close as possible to the utopia we wish for our communities? How can the dance floor be kept as a gathering space for sheer celebration and connection, where dancers can forget about the all too familiar worries of the world and leave them outside of the club?
Instead of discouragement, acknowledging this truth is a permission slip to envision what an ideal space could look and feel like; and invites everyone in the party to take responsibility in its co-creation.
And yes, this means that ravers play a vital role in this process too.
Self-responsibility is an element often overlooked, but equally important in building a dance floor that is more welcoming to everyone that wishes to partake in it. Delegating the work of awareness entirely to party organizers is a heavy burden on them and takes away agency from dancers.
Changing this standard is more tangible than it seems.
Simple but effective initiatives can be taken hand in hand with the people entering the club. It can be as simple as sharing the party’s ethos beforehand or pasting tolerance policies around the club - at this point, most ravers are familiar with the “no sexism, no homophobia…” flyers.
There are more active ways in which the crowd can join awareness efforts, and usually, all organizers need to do is ask. For DJ and producer Nuevo Prohibido, creating a horizontal landscape of awareness with guests is fundamental, and it starts before joining the party. “I truly believe that creating a ritual at the door helps people to understand they are entering a new realm.”
Nuevo Prohibido has been experimenting with awareness since 2017 and has landed at a concept that sets the tone by greeting partygoers followed by a tune-in.
Every guest is greeted by a welcome team, that also explains that each person is responsible not only for themselves but also for the overall vibe inside the venue. They also receive a small bell to wear around their wrist, reminding guests they are all “part of the same sound” throughout the night.
The approach has proved effective when implemented at Rhizom Festival, in Zurich. “We went from a festival with several violent incidents and harassment to zero in the last edition,” they shared.
“We want the audience at our parties to be more than passive dancers or consumers of a DJ set. The idea is for them to feel a degree of certain responsibility for the space, but also for themselves. A self-check-in: What can I bear to myself and others? How vulnerable am I today? And what are my boundaries?” Nuevo Prohibido, DJ, producer and co-founder of Metarave
From their experience, Nuevo Prohibido understood that awareness is an idea that needs to be re-learned collectively, in and outside the club. “If you are part of the awareness team once, you stay part of it. Even in daily life situations, we all carry this responsibility”
It is crucial to understand that each group of people at a party is a unique constellation, bringing to the dancefloor a specific combination of beliefs, behaviors, and needs. That means that the awareness work will be different every time, shaped by the interactions of the individuals sharing space and time at the club.
Another important caveat is that awareness teams are akin to mediators and facilitators, not there to police behavior or patrol the vibes.
Sometimes they're silently embodied by people in neon vests looking out for dancers around the club or behind tables providing party-goers with staples like water and magnesium, condoms, and snacks. It can also be the info desk on harm reduction, or simply a quiet place away from the dance floor to decompress from the high-energy experience that is a party.
The approach to awareness work must be co-created with the community it serves.
Some of the elements to be considered usually involve:
Awareness extends beyond immediate interventions; it encompasses the proactive education and training of staff and attendees on issues like consent, recognizing signs of distress, and the appropriate ways to intervene in or report incidents. Providing regular training sessions ensures everyone is equipped with the knowledge and skills to contribute to a safer environment.
Ensuring that awareness teams and staff reflect the diversity of the community they serve is key. Diverse representation contributes to a wider range of perspectives and experiences being considered, promoting more inclusivity and understanding across different cultural, racial, and gender identities. This approach helps in addressing the specific needs and concerns of guests, making the club a welcoming space for everyone.
Party organizers increasingly share their values and expectations before the event, inviting attendees to align with the ethos of respect and inclusivity. By communicating these principles in advance, participants can arrive informed and prepared, contributing to a collective commitment to a positive, safe environment.
Ensuring access starts with the venue's physical and financial entry points. Policies should accommodate diverse economic backgrounds and physical abilities, making the space welcoming for all. Considerations include wheelchair accessibility and flexible pricing models to remove barriers to participation.
Open channels for post-event feedback allow continuous safety improvements. An anonymous reporting system encourages party-goers to share experiences and concerns. This input helps organizers adapt and refine awareness strategies, ensuring everyone feels heard and supported.
This is a non-exhaustive list and each event should have an awareness concept tailored to its context and the needs of party-goers.
Ultimately, the presence of awareness teams in clubs is not just a service, but a labor of love that reflects the collective effort of club management, event organizers, and dancers to create a space where everyone can feel as safe and supported as possible. It is a testament to the power of community care and the dedication to making the vision of a truly inclusive environment a reality, even if it is just for the brief window of time the party lasts.
As we envision the future of club culture, consider what role you can play in this transformative process. How will you contribute to building a community that not only dances together but also stands together in the quest for safety, respect, and inclusivity?