Safe Space Sessions is a Miami, FL based collective that are banning together to create safer spaces for both their performers and audience. They have been organizing live-streams since September to raise funds for different organizations and provide a safe haven for anyone involved in the music community by providing resources for mental health, addiction and victims of sexual assault. On their website they have a form where you can vent anonymously along with an extensive google doc of contact info for organizations that can help. For Halloween they teamed up with Backroom Sessions for their Halloween Bash including performances by Baby G, Bonzey The Kid, Playkill, The Hattts, Shay Pastel, Better Than This, Pocos Postres, The Old Youth and Shoveit, streaming from Twitch on 10/30 at 7pm ET. 50% of their proceeds will be going towards NIVA for the Save Our Stages campaign. We chatted with Safe Space Sessions founder Val Varela about why they began SSS, more organizations to support and why organizing virtual shows is actually easier.
AF: Tell us about how Safe Space Sessions started, your team & goals.
VV: SSS started a few months ago because a lot of people were coming forward in the Cali music scene that their abusers were in big bands and making the scene unsafe. There were stories of sexual abuse and drugging of minors, really horrifying shit. I know sexual abuse is a widespread problem so of course it’s happening here in Miami and I didn’t want to stand by and not make a change. So I got together a group chat on IG with a bunch of bands, venues, photographers and event coordinators in Miami, saying we gotta make a change, telling people the horror stories. There were like 40 people in that chat and the people that stayed to help me plan the event are my kick-ass team (Mel, Will, Abby, Lee, Fi and Tess). We do everything: the flyers, reaching out to bands/venues/sponsors, setlist times, and especially now, making sure everyone is wearing a mask, sanitizing in between bands and taking temperature checks. Our goal is to raise as much money as possible to help other organizations who provide resources for sexual abuse survivors. It is important to have open conversations and give people a place to feel safe. We also do our best to research bands that we hire for events to make sure there is not a history of sexual allegations.
AF: How have your livestream sessions gone so far?
VV: Everything has gone great and it’s been a really fun learning experience. The first two streams were a little rocky as far as technical issues because we’d never done a livestream (and for many of the team it was the first event we’d set up by ourselves) but we were able to raise over $700!
AF: What are some of the challenges of organizing digitally vs. in person shows?
VV: In some ways it’s easier digital because people don’t have to leave their house, they can just log in on their phone. The downside to that is keeping people’s attention and getting them to stay for a three hour stream (especially the 20-25 minute lull where bands are switching). During that we played sexual abuse PSAs and music videos from local Florida artists. Also when it’s digital it’s hard to feel the crowds reaction because you’re playing into an almost empty room so we jump around and hype them up.
AF: What organizations have you raised money for so far and what other resources/organizations do you recommend to support?
VV: ForgeForward (trans & queer resources) RAINN (national network for rape and incest support) and Mujer FL (our local sexual abuse resources for Latinx people). There’s hundreds of organizations but if you can help local or queer ones those are the best because they don’t get as much funding and black and brown queer kids are most at risk. We have to help as much as we can.
AF: What steps do you think need to be taken in the live music industry to make it safer before events resume as normal?
VV: Jfc, first of all, people need to stop having in-person concerts with no social distancing/masks. There’s not much the industry itself can do as they are already going under financially – it’s on everyone to wear a mask, social distance, get tested and donate to relief funds (when possible).
AF: What are you most excited about for the Halloween Bash? Are any bands dressing up or playing covers?
VV: Ooooh, this bash is gonna be so fun!!! A lot of the artists I haven’t seen live before, very exciting so see new performers and mosh (by myself lol). Everyone better dress up!! We sent an email saying we are doing polls on IG. I don’t know everyone’s set lists so it’ll be a fun surprise.
AF: What are your plans for the rest of 2020 and beyond?
VV: Personally after we finish with this Halloween bash/mystery merch bags I’m going to try to take a mental health break for the rest of the year. I’m sure SSS will plan another show or two! 2021 I want to do more live streams and even when shows are safe again I want to do hybrid shows so fans from other states can see artists they like live! Also continue to find creative ways to fundraise and spread awareness for sexual abuse and make our scene as safe as possible.
More great livestreams this week…