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“A completely inappropriate message to survivors”: Be Reyt festival books convicted domestic abuser

The Sheffield indie music festival has been criticised by campaigners for booking Tom Meighan as headline act, despite his 2020 conviction for assaulting his partner.

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Rachel Rae Photography

Content warning: domestic abuse, violent assault

A Sheffield music festival has been heavily criticised for featuring a singer with a conviction for domestic abuse as their headline act.

The Be Reyt festival, due to take place on 6 May, has booked Tom Meighan, formerly of Kasabian, who is also due to perform at the Academy in December and on Noel Gallagher’s upcoming tour.

Meighan’s assault on his partner was reported to the police by a “panicked and afraid” child who called 999. The Guardian reported in 2020 that the court was told that Meighan hit his partner in the face, shoved her, pushed her over repeatedly, held her by the throat and threatened her with a wooden pallet, before dragging her by the ankles into the back garden of their home.

Carmel Offord from domestic abuse charity IDAS told Now Then that “many people are led to believe that fights, squabbles and assaults are a normal part of relationships.

“What we're worried about is how normalised this kind of behaviour becomes. Looking at it from a victim and survivors’ perspective, what message do we want to send?

“There's no doubt that all of us have a responsibility in that we all have choices to make in everyday life. And the festival have made a choice.”

In a statement, organisers Record Junkee and Network pointed out they raise money for mental health charities:

With this in mind we agreed to make Tom Meighan our headline act for Be Reyt a co-promoted music event with Away Days (A Festival dedicated to showcasing the best upcoming indie acts).

Tom Meighan has suffered in the past with publicised mental health issues and admitted to allegations of abuse towards his partner, which contributed to him stepping down from his role as the singer and frontman of Kasabian.

In no way do our companies believe domestic abuse or abuse of any type is acceptable. Nobody should have to suffer any type of abuse.

However, we do believe that people deserve a second chance.

For Offord, the theme of second chances is one that is powerful in the context of domestic abuse.

When you look at it from a domestic abuse perspective, victims are pressured to give their abusers second chances, and their abusers tell them, ‘I got to a boiling point, I'm sorry, I won't do it again. I'll change’. And victims rightly want to believe that that person isn't going to do that to them again.

We don't know Tom's and Ager’s circumstances. But we do know that the pattern in abusive relationships is that this will happen again.

And [a victim] will be subject to deepening harms over many years. And the normalisation of those assaults will prevent them from getting support.

Speaking of domestic abuse in general, not about Meighan’s specific case, Offord went on:

It's part of a pattern of behaviours that we see from abusers, where they repeatedly ask for another chance. People want to believe that that person can change, they want to believe that things will be better, and they get caught in that cycle.

It's part of the emotional abuse, trapping people in a cycle begging for second chances.

While Be Reyt organisers credit Meighan with admitting the assault, he denied it to the police until faced with a video of the attack. And while they say he stepped back from the band, the band say they asked him to leave.

In an email to Now Then, a spokesperson for Network said:

this is now in the hands of our solicitors im afraid

as there seems to be a witch hunt against our independant business sadly from someone attathched to a similar venue. [sic]

They went on to outline other events that Meighan is due to perform at.

Sheffield Women’s Aid told Now Then:

Sheffield has a strong history of women’s activism and partnership working to tackle domestic and sexual abuse, and in particular violence against women and girls.

As members of Sheffield’s Violence Against Women & Girls Forum, Sheffield Women’s Aid want to express our serious concerns about the proposal to platform ex Kasabian singer Tom Meighan, who is a convicted domestic abuse perpetrator.

Sheffield Women’s Aid also consider that art cannot be separated from the artist, and Meighan’s conviction for domestic abuse would send a completely inappropriate message to survivors that this can be overlooked if you have a position of status or celebrated talent in some way – domestic abuse survivors trauma is paramount and they, not Meighan should be the focus.

We would argue it is not possible to platform Meighan without acknowledging the convictions in his treatment of women.

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