Strange thing, this internet.
You can meet new people, find new things, hear new music, and sometimes find yourself on the receiving end of odd and confused questions for not saying how you feel about something publicly. Or, for that matter, you can find yourself on the receiving end of odd and confused questions for saying how you feel about something publicly, depending on windspeed and direction of travel.
As a result, writing this post gives me pause.
As a brief aside, and this is based entirely the current penchant for social media to be filled with screenshots, I would very much prefer it if you didn’t share, copy, or screenshot this, and I would remind you that any version of those things against my wishes makes you the thing this post discusses.
The recent allegations concerning Peter Guy have been nothing short of shocking, alarming and troubling from any viewpoint, but especially from the position as a long time editor and contributor on Getintothis.
The website has gone, the socials have ceased and any part I have played in the site has ended. To say that is strange is an understatement, as a thing it was bigger than Peter and involved the labour and love of dozens of others.
More on that later.
It goes without saying that any form of abuse, any kind of bullying, aggression or anything that creates unnecessary stress or fear is unacceptable and should be called out at every turn.
During my time with Getintothis I never witnessed sexism nor have I witnessed racism either from Peter or from anyone on the team. I would never work in a situation where either was present and I would happily cause merry hell pulling people up before I walked. I have done it before and I have absolutely no hesitation in doing it again.
I have worked with Peter for a long time, he’s a mate, we’ve drank together and gone to gigs together. We’ve also argued the bit out more more than once, I’ve often told him to piss off when he’s stepped out of his lane, which if we’re honest, we all do from time to time.
Most people will read this and immediatley go to shouty, angry keyboard warrior mode.
I will be called an enabler by people online who don’t know me, while they avoid doing the very thing they are telling everyone else to do on these threads. You know, read the words someone has written before you judge them.
My work for Getintothis was always voluntarily given, it was always offered (and withdrawn on ocassion) and it was always entertaining, though sometimes it could be as frustrating as all hell and not for the reasons you imagine.
Yes, there was the occasional unreasonable demand, and yes I refused to work when those demands were made. But that’s part of the experience of being an adult.
I fully realise my own privilege, I am a straight white cis male who ocassionaly works in a world dominated by straight white cis men, I see the privilege and the privilige in my ability to refuse work and understand that there are people who wouldn’t or couldn’t say no and would feel pressured into doing work they were unhappy to carry out. That is bullying and it is unacceptable.
Any abuse of that relationship, especially when someone is a volunteer, is simply abhorrent. I have worked with volunteers for many years and the single most important thing in that relationship is that if you use volunteers you should be bloody grateful that these people have given their time freely to your project. It has to be said that that wasn’t always evident on Getintothis. And that is a failure.
Where I pause is in my reading of the allegations and the breadth of posting across social media over the last while, it has been eye-opening, especially the joy taken in destroying something that has been a labour of love for so many other entirely innocent people, for a very long time.
Yet, in the words of a very old work of fiction, ‘let him who is without sin cast the first stone’.
There have been an awful lot of rocks flying around and many of them have been either questionable or from fairly questionable sources. One vociferous commentator who has been in the middle of much of this; not so very long ago, bullied me in an online forum when I walked away from a project after I was put in a position where laws were broken, by others, and my name was on the receipt.
Go back and read that again.
I got called everything for taking a stand and walking away from the project after I had been placed in an entirely inappropriate position, I had my very being brought into question on a thing I helped create years previously in another city. Something I was and still am incredibly close to.
But now, apparently, my bully belives that abuse, bullying and harassment is a ‘terrible’ thing.
But there is an altogher more sinister element to some of this that must be addressed and it must be addressed as a matter of urgency.
Some of those in these threads have been using other individuals experiences to boost their own grievances and some have taken to chasing people to get them to tell their stories.
Pestering, emailing, messaging, in an attempt to add some fuel to the fire.
Rule one when dealing with difficult and sensitive issues such as this, is that you never, ever, attempt to drag stories out of people or coerce them into sharing stories they find painful or stressful.
If people are to share their experiences it must be a lived, active decision of their own making.
That rule has been broken on these threads in recent days.
It is unacceptable.
It is reprehensible.
It is egregious.
It is absolutely unforgivable.
We cannot have a conversation about any of this while people in positions of influence use that influence to draw stories from people who are alarmed at being asked.
If you have been involved in that kind of activity while you call out bullying, then to put it simply, you are beyond contempt.
You are the bully.
You are adding to whatever pain an individual has and you are using their pain for your gain.
That is unnacceptable.
When I arrived in this city I was entirely ignored, every publication I approached, every arts venue, every festival, every individual ignored me for the better part of a year. I was offering to work for free and having spent years working for voluntary arts organisations I was a little puzzled.
I had a folder in my email account titled ‘Ignored in Liverpool’.
After a decade of working on magazines, festivals and events across Ireland and beyond, producing content for everyone from the BBC to MTV, I got here and discovered that I wasn’t scouse enough.
I couldn’t write about this place, photograph this place, or work in this place because I was an outsider. A ‘wool’ of all things, a Paddy ocassionally, a Provo even, once, I was frequently accosted in this city with derogatory, offensive terms used to mark territory, to belittle those considered outsiders.
Is there a word for that?
Peter Guy and Getintothis was the first place to get in touch. There were two festivals that followed suit (after numerous emails), the one mentioned above that put me in the a legal quandary and another that strip-mined my phone book, used my friends, harvested what they could then spent a few weeks abusing, insulting and, in current parlance, cancelling me when they were done.
On reflection, it was a phenomenal piece of work. One where the partner of a person involved was used in the creation of an issue to pin on me while everyone feigned horror at what I had done.
(Someone asked – I had booked a room for an event using my own email address after numerous attempts to get onto the festival account were ignored / missed / misslaid, and no, I’m not joking)
(That’s called gaslighting.)
They treated me like a pariah then circled the wagons when I dared to call them out. In one memorable incident I had to almost plead with them to get into a show I helped set up, I practically booked the thing. I got my hands on a record from a friend before it had been released and that became the opening show of the festival.
I was told that was a nonsense too and that they had discovered it. More gaslighting. The pièce de résistance was then the festival team then tried to change the review I published in Ireland by approaching the magazine I was working for on the morning of publication.
(That is called bullying.)
It was a glowing review of a collaboration that has only been performed three times in it’s life and it lives in these pages. I was vague in the description part of the review of how the show came to be, of how it came to be in the city; their problem was that I had failed to mention them in the piece.
They were correct, I had absolutely failed to mention them, on purpose as it happens. What they failed to recognise was that in not mentioning them I was also disinclined to share the full story of my involvement with them to save my friends, the artists and their management any blushes.
This from a citywide festival that has a management board, charitable status and staff. So you would imagine that they should know better. Apparently not.
Individuals from both festivals have come out over the last few days to call out bullies and abusers, which, sat in this chair, at this hour, is absolutely remarkable. And altogether hilarious.
I have been involved in anti racism campaigns and projects for the better part of 15 years, I have worked with community organisations, justice organisations, victims organisations and across the arts sector. I have written policy and prose and I believe I speak with some degree of experience.
My silence to this point is related to seeing people I know who have acted in inappropriate ways, who have bullied and abused, seemingly wash their hands of their own behaviour to appear saintly in the middle of a scandal and that is as uncomfortable to watch as the current situation.
For this conversation I’ll join in the bigger question if I am permitted to, but as of this moment in time, I’m not quite ready to applaud our ‘new space’ as that ‘new space’ still has to let a little sunshine in.
The question is, is this what we want for a ‘scene’?
This one we have now?
One where we accept some bullying, from some people or approach bullying in a way that says if it doesn’t happen to us or people we care about, then it doesn’t really matter, not really; or if we all collectively can’t be arsed with someone then they can take what’s coming and we can all jump to conclusions, enjoy the spactacle of a pile on with “I’ve never met X but I have always thought” posts of little to no consequence?
Is that okay?
Must we boost stuff that comes from nowhere and adds nothing?
Do we want a scene where some of the most egregious comments I have heard in my life have been discreetly buried for a moment to make way for platitudes of peace and change and calls for unity?
My experience of this ‘scene’ has been through two festivals where I was abused and bullied, that is not a great experience in anyones book. As for Getintothis, it has been an enjoyable ride that created lifelong friendships and interesting conversations. Does my experience count anywhere here?
Does the experience of anyone involved in the magazine count or are they all labelled enablers by people with a laptop and an internet connection? How can we make this a serious conversation?
Getintothis hasn’t always been right, but the wider team involved are a solid bunch of decent, honest, hardowrking people who love music and love this city. And yet, and yet in some small way their involvement in this magazine has left their names tarnished in a conversation about bullying and worse. If you’ll excuse me here, “let that sink in”.
Personally, I would take my experience with Getintothis over the experience of those two festivals any day; and yet here we are, where bullies are telling us that bullying is wrong.
Self reflection is our greatest tool, it sets us apart as a species, it sadly seems wanting in many parts.
It’s a strange thing, this internet.