Without Exception was founded in March 2020 by Cassandra Frey-Mills and Judy Bec, both experienced professionals working in the UK music festival industry.
Judy Bec’s early career was in child neurological development, driven by the experience of growing up with a severely brain injured sibling. Her work in the festival industry started as the head of Oxfam’s festivals team in 2003. In the 10 years since that role, she has taken on senior operational roles at a range of festivals and events including Glastonbury, Boomtown, WOMAD and Shambala.
Cassandra Frey-Mills has been working in the festival industry for nearly 10 years. In that time she has held management positions at Shambala, Boomtown, Standon Calling, Truck and London Warehouse Events. She is also Chair of Trustees for the sustainable travel charity, Ecolibrium.
Cassandra and Judy have worked together at a number of festivals and often found themselves collaborating on work such as harassment policies and reporting procedures, harm reduction campaigns and campaigning for gender equality. This work involved regular battles to highlight and change non-inclusive behaviour and policies, and to promote respectful treatment of staff and audience members.
The effective pausing of the events industry as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic provided Cassandra and Judy the space for active reflection on the inequality and lack of diversity they had both observed throughout their time working in the festival industry.
The conclusions this reflection led to were:
The industry has had an issue with diversity and inclusion since long before the pandemic.
The impact of the Pandemic is only going to make this worse - festivals will be financially challenged, employment opportunities will reduce and the reliance on a narrow pool of experienced staff will increase.
The unequal impact of the Pandemic on Black, Asian and ethnically diverse, low income and other marginalised communities, from both health and economic perspectives, will make working in festivals even less accessible or attractive.
The latest Black Lives Matter protests prompted serious reflection and commitments to action across UK festival organisers.
The industry suddenly had additional capacity as result of the pandemic cancelling all events in 2020.
We (Cassandra & Judy) have an extensive combined network within the industry and knowledge of how music festivals run.
Despite a wide sweeping of the net, we struggled to find anyone already spearheading a campaign addressing diversity and inclusion in the music festival industry.
There is a lot of work being done across different industries, by organisations, small groups and individuals, and a lot of research materials out there, but it takes significant time and effort to find.
It has become clear that 2020 is a pivotal moment for our industry. Without Exception has been created to make sure our industry doesn't miss this opportunity to make fundamental changes that are long overdue.
• To improve understanding of how these issues affect the UK music festival industry.
• To connect individuals and organisations working on these issues.
• To develop an action plan for change through consultation with diverse voices and experts.
• To support leaders and decision-makers within the industry in making positive changes within their organisations.
Our Guiding Principles
• Work addressing diversity, equality and inclusion should always be guided by diverse perspectives and experiences.
• People with lived experience of discrimination should be given a central role in identifying solutions.
• Challenging prejudice, bias and non-inclusive behaviour is the responsibility of everyone and not just those who experience discrimination.
• Everyone has a responsibility to identify where in their lives they have influence and to use their positions of power to tackle discrimination and inequality.