Researchers gather experiences of harassment with pop-up dancefloor events

The Dancefloor Project: a unique research collaboration that aims to reduce unwanted behaviour in public spaces and make nights out safer

“Every woman has a dancefloor story, a walking home alone story, a workplace story, a bus journey story”

A unique collaboration between psychology researchers at York St John University and York based community projects collective Bolshee is working towards a list of ‘Dancefloor Demands’ to reduce sexual harm in public spaces.

The researchers are using innovative pop-up dancefloor events to find out what would make people feel safer and to gather examples of unwanted behaviour.

The next Dancefloor Project pop-up event takes place at the Streetlife Hub, York City Centre on Saturday 1 April. Media opportunities are available before the public event.

Participants at the specially curated club can dance, chat and enjoy themselves and, if they want to, literally write on the Perspex dancefloor walls to share their ideas on how people should be treated in public spaces. They can also choose to disclose personal experiences of harassment. This can be done anonymously online or via a locked box if preferred.

The team also provide participants with a map of York and ask them to indicate areas they feel safe or unsafe in the city.

Dr Anna Macklin, senior lecturer in psychology at York St John University said: “The dancefloor was chosen to provide a safe and welcoming environment to open up these tricky conversations about behaviour and public safety. To make individuals feel heard and be part of the process for change.

“The more we can challenge, educate and raise awareness of inappropriate behaviours before they escalate, the safer public spaces will be for all.

“We want to encourage everyone to consider their own behaviours, the behaviours of friends and the impact this can have on others. For example, a friend challenging an inappropriate comment can be very powerful in changing behaviours, everyone has a role to play.”

Paula Clark, Creative Director at Bolshee said: “We want to create all sorts of projects that bring to light and address the sexism and inequalities experienced by women and girls.

“Every woman has a dancefloor story, a walking home alone story, a workplace story, a bus journey story. We are tired of it and we want to be actively doing something relevant and vital to help fuel the discourse.

“This is a tough subject, it’s very real and very frightening. We want women to come together on the dancefloor in solidarity, to have a great time with their friends and call out this sexual harm and demand better. We are all tired and we are livid. We demand better.”

After the series of pop-up events, the team hopes to use the stories and data that they collect to generate resources focused on Dancefloor Demands – a code of conduct for how we should treat each other. They plan to provide these resources free of charge to organisations to promote a message of safety.

The project has been enabled by funding from a community research grant from York St John University’s Institute for Social Justice.