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Esperance: Safeguarding at Cambridge Folk Festival

Updated: Jun 1

In Summer 2022, Esperance piloted new ideas for safeguarding at Cambridge Folk Festival with the aim of making safeguarding procedures more visible and obvious. The festival already had a solid safeguarding policy and is consistently working towards gender equality as part of Keychange and by giving support to Esperance and other initiatives.

As part of the pilot, Esperance created safeguarding posters to display in the youth area - The Hub - and in toilets and communal areas across the site. Similar to posters used in schools, these showed the faces, names and contact details of the safeguarding team so that they could be easily identified by children and young people. Other posters showed what is expected of people at the festival, reminding them to show respect and tolerance to all those around them. The reception to the posters and their use on the festival site was overwhelmingly positive. Staff, audiences and families fed back that they appreciated having a face and a name to speak to if needed, and many commented that they would like to see these posters at other festivals too.

Rebecca Stewart, Festival Manager, explains “The Hub and the safety of those that use it is so important to the Festival. We want to create a safe, supportive and fun space for young people to learn, make friends and hopefully go on to bigger and better things. Working with Esperance has allowed us to build on the strong foundations we already had and ensure we are developing safe areas across the site for everyone attending Cambridge.”

Nicola Beazley - Esperance co-founder, music educator and Section Head at The Hub - put together a set of guidelines for anyone leading a one-off workshop with children and young people at the festival. This made it clear to artists interacting with the participants what was expected of them as a tutor, not only making sure it was clear where the festival stood in terms of protecting young people, but also offering advice and guidance about how to interact with the young people, as not all artists had prior experience of working in an educator role. The guidelines included information about how to report concerns, rules about not sharing personal contact details with or spending time alone with young people, and a reminder that educators should be positive role models.

Musician and educator Archie Churchill-Moss describes his experience as a tutor:"The level of safeguarding provided by the pastoral team at Cambridge Folk Festival's The Hub was exceptional. As a tutor at last year's festival, I felt supported by the other staff members and was able to deliver my workshops to a high standard because of this. The communication before and during the festival allowed me to enter that work environment with a clear understanding of what was expected of me with regards to the safety of the young musicians."

We combined these guidelines for tutors with a safeguarding chat with the young people at the start of the weekend, where the young people were given a chance to voice any worries, meet The Hub safeguarding team and learn what was expected of both parties. It was Nicola’s hope that we would both arm the young people with the knowledge and language that they could use to talk about issues, while making it clear to any adults that a breach in safeguarding would not be tolerated.

Nicola says “When I work in schools, I am asked to show my DBS certificate, read a code of conduct and have a safeguarding induction, but when teaching at folk festivals, safeguarding is barely mentioned. It is common for performers to also teach one-off workshops at festivals - which is one of the great things about our scene - but they don’t often come with prior knowledge of how to safely and appropriately interact with the young people, both during the workshops and afterwards on social media. I want anyone who is teaching at The Hub to know what is expected of them. Clear guidelines and open conversation means that, as a community, we can make the scene safer by knowing what is acceptable - and all of us want a safe scene for our young people to thrive in.”

Esperance wants festivals to be bold and loud about safeguarding! Safeguarding is the responsibility of everyone that is involved in any events that include children and young people. We believe a safeguarding policy, visible code of conduct, open safeguarding conversations, a clear procedure for dealing with incidents, and aftercare for people affected by harassment or abuse will benefit all. Our experience at Cambridge Folk Festival showed that simple measures were met with positive responses and contributed to creating a safer environment in which there was a clear set of expectations and visible support.

Take a look at our example resources from Cambridge Folk Festival, which you are welcome to adapt:

Need help? poster

Respect poster

Behaviour Expectations

We also recommend looking at these organisations and their resources:

The BIT Collective

English Folk Dance and Song Society

Fair Plé

Fanny Riot - FLAPS project

Esperance is interested in piloting safeguarding ideas at other folk festivals and would welcome expressions of interest. We’d also like to hear from folk festivals that have new or established initiatives relating to safeguarding audiences, children and young people, artists, staff and volunteers. Please contact us at with your thoughts.

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