A few words with… Seán McGowan
Photo Credit: Tom Langford
Hi Seán! Thanks so much for giving up your time to talk to us- we know you’re super-busy with your biggest ever UK tour about to kick off! Can you tell us how you got involved with Safe Gigs for Women?
Hello! My pleasure! I first heard of SGFW through my friend Frank Turner. I then met Tracey at a show at the Tooting Tram. It was after meeting Tracey and having a good old chat with her about SGFW that I decided I wanted to get involved. Since, I’ve become good friends with the entire team!
There are so many charities and causes in the UK to be supported. What was it about Safe Gigs for Women in particular that you really wanted to get behind?
Like many others I think I was quite naive and oblivious to it [sexual assault and harassment]. I’ve been going to and playing gigs for as long as I can remember. It would never cross my mind to behave in the way some people clearly do, so I think I was just unaware of how much of an issue it actually was. Live music takes up most of my time. As a punter I want to be in a safe space, not just for myself, but for everyone around me. As a performer I demand a safe space – for everyone. To be quite honest I think any person with an ounce of decency in their existence would support SGFW. We have a moral obligation to include, support and look out for anyone and everyone at shows. It’s just what we should do as humans.
Something that we encounter quite often when talking to people about assault and harassment is that many men (and this is generally speaking) don’t realise how much of an issue it is, simply because they have never been on the receiving end of it. What advice would you give to male music fans about how they can contribute to making gigs a safer environment for women?
I completely agree (as I mentioned in the last question). It is so easy to bury your head in the sand. I think firstly you need to put yourself in the shoes of someone who has been harassed. Just take a moment to think about how truly and utterly dreadful you’d feel. Or if your Mother, Sister, etc etc had been. It’s such basic and fundamental respect at the end of the day. I would hope that’d be enough to make any person give their head a rattle and behave properly. I would also encourage people to get involved with you winners. It’s amazing how much you learn after a conversation with people who have a different perspective.
It can also be very difficult for young men to navigate society’s’ expectations with things like ‘lad culture’ encouraging young men to disrespect women. Have you ever experienced guys finding it difficult to draw the line between ‘banter’ and ‘harassment’?
Oh absolutely. The word ‘banter’ makes me cringe into oblivion but I know what you mean! In a world where everyone exists on social media and everything is a competition and the most important thing is perception, lines are blurred constantly. I think the step forward is when you start having internal debates with yourself. When you automatically question something before you do/say it. “Is this a shitty thing do to…yeah it probably is…don’t fucking do it then”. Being able to recognise when something is wrong and act on that by stamping it the fuck out is where progress begins. But in order to get to that point, you need to be educated. If one of my friends does something a bit shitty – I call them out on it. Every single time they reply with “woah, why you pulling me up on that”? That is a clear indication that they’re unaware of the gravity attached to their words/actions. This is why I support SGFW. Not only because you provide support for those who’ve been affected, but your initiative to tackle the problem at it’s source. Nothing is ever fixed by shouting on the internet. But when you open up a dialogue, have a discussion and educate people – that’s where you see change. We will get there.
Interview by Sarah Claudine
Be sure to catch Sean McGowan on his biggest UK Tour this September, where he’ll be joined by SGFW Volunteers fundraising and talking to gig-goers!
Check out Seán’s social media pages for updates on the tour and his work with SGFW: