Organizers of the Shambhala Music Festival (SMF) in Salmo have put the event on hold due to allegations of sexual assault.
A woman reported a sexual assault by UK performer Billy Kenny to SMF three years ago before going public on social media last week.
Three separate allegations involving Kenny soon followed and were shared on Twitter, condemning Shambhala for including Kenny in the line up despite the alleged assaults.
In response, on July 13, SMF removed Kenny from the July 23-25 online show, however, four days later, as outrage grew on social media, organizers announced they decided to postpone the festival to review their policy and offer an apology.
“In light of allegations against past and present artists on our performance roster, we recognize that forms of sexual assault exist in our society and we take accountability for the role festivals play in this,” read Shambhala’s Twitter release.
“The industry needs to change, we need to change.”
The festival, which has been running since 1998, has been a popular annual pilgrimage and unique cultural experience for electronic dance music (EDM) fans across the world. In recent years, more than 17,000 people descended on the 500-acre property along the Salmo River just east of the small West Kootenay Village for the four day festival.
Kenny initially replied with a post on Facebook, but after a litany of additional damaging accounts, the Leeds artist has shut down all his social media accounts.
Shambhala also said it would take a social media break as it updates its practices and focuses its commitment to prevent further sexual misconduct at its events.
“We would like to offer our sincerest apologies to all of those affected and thank those who displayed the courage to speak out.
“Our next step will be to work with our team to determine the best course of action. This is an opportunity for us to look forward and to improve the way we run our festival. We acknowledge that we can do better to ensure that our team, guests and artists align with our values and we commit to using the lessons learned to reduce the potential for future harm.”
In the release, SMF pledges to conduct extensive background checks for artists and commit to a zero-tolerance policy for assault of any kind; further improve staff training regarding sexual harassment and violence; educate guests, crew and artists so that they fully understand what it means to receive consent; and train staff to respond to allegations promptly and appropriately.
The incident is just one of several recent controversies involving commercial EDM DJs like Graves, Space Jesus, Datsik and Bassnectar.