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Monday, July 19, 2010

Looking out for each other

Alice Glass of Crystal Castles made a plea from the stage for rapists to be castrated. The BBC Suffolk website said that "regular festival goers were shocked by the attack". The Daily Mail added that "police began patrols following the second attack in an attempt to curb fears among festival-goers" and, having found somebody who talked like a sub-editor, quoted her as saying "Now everyone is left reeling after this second rape". The Guardian wagged its rarely-used finger and said following these two alleged incidents that "safety must become Latitude's top priority".

It's difficult to believe that these reports were written by people who actually went to Latitude, most of whom passed a pleasant sunny weekend without being aware of any attacks or any police presence of any kind. It goes without saying that any attack is serious and, if proven, the law should deal with it. I went there (with wife, two daughters and a friend, for what it's worth) and would happily do so again.

In any place where 35,000 people gather there's likely to be some crime. The notion that the organisers of a gathering of this kind can guarantee the safety of every individual all the time is ridiculous. The organisers of an event can be expected to provide security fences and adequate lighting but they cannot legislate for what might happen if somebody stumbles off on their own in the middle of the night. One of the stage announcements I remember from the Woodstock film in 1969 was along the lines of "the man next to you is your brother so look out for each other". This seemed to me to be true back then as it is today.

My son and his girlfriend - final year students at Leeds University - were recently returning to his flat late at night when a cab pulled up and dropped off a young woman who was so drunk they had to help her open her front door. They didn't know her but they took her inside, put her to bed and decided they couldn't leave her in case she vomited. They found her mobile, got the number of her friends and rang them. These friends were still in the club that she'd somehow left. They didn't seem overly concerned about her but promised they'd come back and take care of her. It took the best part of two hours for the friends to return.

I don't think any society can ever stop random attacks taking place but I'm regularly shocked when I see how often drunk young people fail to, in the words of Chip Monk at Woodstock, "look out for each other". Alice Glass, The Guardian and anybody else who can get the ear of young people would be more usefully employed ramming home the message that the safety and well-being of your mate is your responsibility, no matter how drunk and temporarily obnoxious they may be, than waving their arms around and expecting this problem to be solved by either security men or public executioners.