Hey, remember that time the Victoria Electronic Music Festival degenerated into a wild, vicious mob and proceeded to set the capital ablaze for weeks on end? Yeah, me neither. So the fact that VEMF spent this year behind a wall — paid for by a $5 admission to what has traditionally been a free event — leaves me more than a little puzzled.
“It’s not our first choice,” says Jason Guille, General Manager for VEMF. “It has certainly been a lot of work to handle (the change in format) … We’ve spent infinitely more hours on site plan this year and on safety and our security plan.” This in addition to increased volunteer hours and other costs related to building and staffing the perimeter of this year’s event.
Despite some extra work, Guille’s attitude remained positive. “We are more committed to delivering a festival than we are to the details of how that occurs,” he said. “I’m not attached to fencing. I’m attached to VEMF.”
Indeed, the issue here is not whether fences were raised, but why. Police only reported two arrests for public intoxication and one fight. Why does an event like VEMF, which at its highest incident rate doesn’t even scratch the surface of something like Canada Day — which saw its arrest rate almost double this year to 85 plus 264 emergency calls — need to spend time and money to cut itself off from the public? Try as I might, this is a question to which I do not have an answer.
“15,000 people together decide through their actions whether or not VEMF works,” continues Guille. “That’s not in the organizers’ hands. We could do all kinds of things, we could have triple fences and triple searches and triple security, and that doesn’t stop someone from wrecking it for everybody. Ultimately the request is, will you as a community take on co-creating this and ensuring its well-being?”
Attempting to sterilize a free, open event like this amounts to a shift of blame from individuals to event organizers who ultimately exercise as much control over the crowd as you or I. VEMF is an amazing event. It supports dance culture and unique musical expression every year — in turn, it deserves our support. M