Photography: Dillon Vibes
The promoter of the ANU Bar Finale has prompted controversy in the media after accusations of gender discrimination and political incorrectness, after attempting to stave off criticism of an all-male line up.
The event, to be held at the ANU Bar in its final days before demolition on 17 June, is organised by the Greenroom Canberra’s Garry Peadon and has attracted attention from national media outlets.
Peadon’s replies to queries about the lack of female acts attracted national media attention.
The headlining act, Regurgitator, as well as local band Slow Turismo, have pulled out following backlash online.
Regurgitator, in an online statement announcing their non-involvement, said, ‘Music is not about gender but we can not ignore gender in regard to the ongoing practices of music as an industry.’
Slow Turismo’s Louis Montgomery, speaking to Woroni, echoed the sentiment. He stated that ‘if we want equal representation by coincidence, we need to be more careful’.
Montgomery stressed that the band’s decision to pull out of the ANU Bar Finale was not a statement of unwavering derision towards the Greenroom. He said that while the promoter’s initial response was inappropriate, he would not rule out working Garry Peadon again. Montgomery said he respected the ‘just being about the music’ approach Peadon takes.
He said that while there were so many reasons to stay on, ‘it wasn’t about the ANU Bar any more.’
‘Any farewell is tainted due to the fiery debate,’ Montgomery said. While it was important discussion to be had, he said he ‘wasn’t proud of how it’s being discussed’ and that the medium of discussion perhaps aggravated further exclusion by both sides of debate.
The ANU Bar finale was conceived by the Greenroom as a response to the demolition of the ANU Bar, which will begin at the end of the semester. The Finale is not endorsed or funded by the ANU Bar, ANU Union, or the University.
Peadon told HIT 104.7 that ‘it just so happens that I booked the last date’. The Finale included 11 acts connected to the Canberra music scene or the ANU Bar, all of whom are male.
The event is to celebrate the ANU Bar’s history at the ANU, with the event description saying ‘over 60 years, thousands of gigs, tens of thousands of acts’. The description goes on to list some of the many acts that have performed at the venue, from Nirvana to Midnight Oil. However all on the list were male, with some commenters suggesting the organiser had a heavy gender bias, and a lack of appreciation for the diversity of the ANU Bar community.
Regurgitator picked up on these comments, saying ‘Being presented under the auspices of the ANU we also feel the lineup has a need to reflect the typical charter of a university in regard to diversity and inclusiveness.’
The controversy began when one Facebook user asked, ‘Why are there no women or non-binary performers on the line-up?’
Peadon replied to the query with ‘Why do I have too even think about this shit? What the fuck is a non-binary?’
The response from many ANU students was one of incredulity and anger at Peadon’s messages. One student commented on the event’s page, which was locked on 11 April, that she and others would feel unsafe at the event following Peadon’s admissions. Others derided Peadon’s lack of commitment to gender diversity in the music industry, noting that 70 per cent of festival line ups in Australia are male.
However Peadon was supported by many members of the Canberra music community, who praised Peadon’s stance that his decisions should be based purely on musical talent.
Peadon said: ‘This is a gig. Music is not about genre, it’s not about anything’. When asked on 666 ABC Canberra if he would change his method of choosing acts in the future, he said ‘not at all’.
Many commenters in support of Peadon also criticised what they saw as excessive political correctness.
Peadon repeatedly said in interviews that critics of the line up should hold their own event. ‘You’re welcome to go and book your own gig at the ANU bar, it’s open to anyone… So if you want to hold an all-female rock gig, no one’s holding you back,’ he said.
The ANU Union, who own and run the ANU Bar, responded to the controversy with a statement on Facebook. They said: ‘In order to address the concerns raised by our members and students, the ANU Union will be re-opening the offer for acts to perform at the ANU Bar Finale Concert which will be held before the Bar is demolished at the end of June.’