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The artists and DJs de-creeping festivals

The first thing revellers saw when they arrived at the site of Gilles Peterson’s increasingly legendary We Out Here this summer was a huge board welcoming everyone to the festival’s new home. One of the second might have been Don’t Be A Creep’s lo-fi, punky visual campaign that used the slogan ‘family business’ a quartet of photocopied cherubs and a tagline: ‘a place where we look out for one another’. 

“We’ve been at We Out Here since the start and what really stands out is the community feel and the family values says Don’t Be A Creep (DBAC) co-conspirator Maude Churchill. “We used that as a way of diving into the issues.” 

The issues are ones that relate to safer spaces – concepts which were front and centre of this year’s festival season and which are flowing into club culture more generally as the nights draw in and evenings out becomes more venue-centred.  

“It’s house rules!” says DJ, art director and DBAC founder Ruby Savage. “Like at home when there was a pen and pad in the kitchen with your mum’s notes on it – do this, do that, do the dishes by the time I’m home. It’s that idea. We run a household together, we run this space together, we’re a family.”

Header photo by Hannah Burton


Words by Emma Warren

The pair met through a mutual friend and had a conversation about nightlife and the lack of appropriate community spaces. This led to co-promoting a night called Lost Souls on a little venue on the Caledonian Road with an amazing soundsystem. “That was the start,” says Maude. “We both thought ‘this is a good dynamic’ and we just started working together.” 

Since then, this ultra-creative grassroots campaign has spread far and wide, officially with festivals including We Out Here, GALA and Rally and informally – or perhaps unofficially. The pair have noticed venues and events using their DIY-style Don’t Be A Creep logo as shorthand for a commitment to safer space, even when the work isn’t going on behind the scenes. 

They’re making a change on a practical level, already. GALA festival have included people’s experience of their welfare strategy in their sustainability report and were contacted by the Parliamentary and Research Manager at industry association UKMusic. They outlined an inquiry being held by the House of Commons by the Women and Equalities Committee on misogyny in music and explained that they wanted to highlight best practice across the sector – specifically the work of Don’t Be A Creep.

Do DBAC collaborate with other artists or do you use your own visual practice as well? 

Ruby: I went to the Dutch Film Academy and did a BA in Production Design, visualising stories and moods and atmosphere. Speaking visually is heart-gripping, it can bring people together, it can create a conversation. When I started DBAC I made a bunch of T Shirts and at the same time I was working at Brownswood Recordings doing all the art direction for record sleeves.  

Ruby, will you tell us about why you made the original Don’t Be A Creep t-shirts? 

Ruby: It’s based on that song Too Many Creeps by Bush Tetras. I was doing a post-punk night, In Flames with Josephine Chime. We did a radio show on NTS and a party that went with it playing post-punk, post-funk, strange disco, dub. I started DJing and I realised really how many creeps there are out there, I always knew it was part of going out, especially as a woman, but as a DJ I felt very responsible for the space feeling safe and good.  

On a practical level will you tell us how you made it?  

Ruby: It was quite urgent, the T shirt. It’s modernist DIY. I had a marker. I had an app on my phone to get that photocopy feeling, turned it into a file, got that screenprinted, and sold them from the Brownswood office.

Maude, can you tell us about your visual life? 

Maude: I’ve always been artist-adjacent, working alongside artists. I went to art college but studied theory. In my day to day I work as a creative director at Hypebeast seeing the overall picture. I also used to do a lot of writing, started out in editorial before moving over to the commercial side. Now I’m writing the slogans. It’s a really good marriage of skillsets.  

How did the t-shirts turn into a whole campaign with various different festivals?   

Ruby: Worldwide FM was downstairs from Brownswood office. There were a few issues and we needed to say what the house rules were at the studio so we made a policy poster using the logo. We Out Here was the first one we did together, just thinking ‘do we need some kind of policy poster that shares the values of the festival?’ They gave us a bit of budget, we got artist Sophia Lucarelli to make the installation and we made loads of posters. It was really DIY – and the start of a great collaboration. 

And then lockdown happened… 

Ruby: I remember calling Maude up when it became clear that things were going to open again and everyone was like ‘back to the club! It’s going to be like it was!’ and we were like ‘No! We don’t want it to be like it was!’ That’s when Maude came with her genius ‘Don’t Call It A Comeback’ and an instant campaign with Jess Ebsworth. The whole point was – let’s take a moment, we’re all scrambled, let’s go into this consciously.  

Maude: One thing that’s important for us, is that it’s not just the policy poster. It’s doing the work behind the scenes. There are people and places using our slogan and slapping it on everywhere without doing the work behind the scenes. 

How much of this relates to the work queer spaces have done over the years about safer spaces? 

Maude: Queer parties have such strong safer space policies by necessity. The places that need it most in my option are the mainstream spaces.  

Ruby: Taking it back to queer spaces, they’ve had to be so protective of their spaces, having to work together and listen carefully to each other. That’s a huge inspiration for any space really … This idea of music, it’s the community. If we keep looking at it just as a punter, venue owner or security it’s not going to evolve – we’re in it together. Maude’s genius phrase is ‘we’re not trying to call people out, we’re trying to call people in.’ There are so many amazing organisations doing hardcore grassroots work. We’re trying to promote the conversation.

That whole ‘we’re not calling people out, we’re calling people in’ – that’s genius. It’s so warm and inclusive.  

Maude: There’s no growth in cancel culture, but it feels like a huge taboo, still. Growth and change comes from accountability.  

Ruby: It calls on doing the work and a lot of people don’t want to do the work. It’s hard, it’s uncomfortable, you’re going to get it wrong. The whole point is that we have to keep trying to get it right. If we cancel people we’re not going to get it right. 


There’s no growth in cancel culture. That’s so true. It fits with your whole ‘mutual future’ strategy that you used at GALA festival. 

Ruby: It’s a soft little guilt trip. Music is about moving forward, it’s movement. Do you want to hold these ancient ways of being with each other? We’re saying, ‘do you want to come to the future with the rest of us?’ 

On a practical level, how are people responding on the ground at festivals?  

Maude: For We Out Here in 2021 we used the slogan ‘Tune Into A Higher Frequency’ and we collaborated with Ladies Music Pub. We had Guardian Angels, white hi-viz jackets, and we handed out the safer space policy on postcards to people at the festival. That was such an interesting experience. It was very mixed. Some people were very dismissive, some were like ‘cool, we need that’. Being able to have that personal engagement was so illuminating.  

Ruby: You start to get a sense of where there’s curiosity or if there’s a silly comment. When I first made the tees and I’d wear them you’d get this direct response. People – especially men – would be like ‘what’s a creep?’ Yes, ask yourself! It asks you to put your antennae on, to feel out a situation. It allowed space, for men especially, to become allies. If we’re calling people in, we need to literally get everyone thinking about it. Women suffer the most from unsolicited behaviour but we can’t fix that if men aren’t on board.  

Ruby: Big ups to the team at GALA who went through the really uncomfortable process. They have someone who works on it year-round. They sent out questionnaires after the festival, reached out to people, took responsibility. The channels are there now. Festivals investing time, money and energy and making themselves vulnerable – but that’s what makes the change. The vulnerability is the strength because people start to really connect and it becomes more than just a party. That sense of purpose makes something really powerful.  


How amazing to take that feeling from you being a DJ at In Flames led to Don’t Be A Creep spreading so far. Now I hear you’re involved with Resident Advisor’s new scheme for next generation promoters… 

Ruby: They’ve started a programme a bit like Future Bubblers, a programme supporting emerging artists that was run by Brownswood Music. There’s a group that’s been selected of young people that want to go into promoting and RA’s taken on this role, running workshops and masterclasses. We’re running a session on making spaces safer. It’s really cool they’re doing that, it stimulates young people to run dances and keep spaces open and creating a mutual future – one that’s supportive.

Maude, do you have a sense about next generation promoters: what do they understand automatically, and what might they need more support on from people who’ve been doing it a while? 

Maude: I feel like the younger generations know more than us. There’s a lot of really brilliant more niche smaller communities and collectives springing up. Gut Level – ingenious spaces. What they’re lacking is actual space, but maybe that transcends physical arenas. For me, growing up, the space was the community. Maybe now it doesn’t need to be a physical space. It’s more abstract. Maybe they can take themselves anywhere and carry the values through. It feels like a distinct shift, and that feels affirming when so many physical spaces are closing down.  

Ruby: It becomes about state of mind rather than a look or a scene or a fashion. The state of mind creates the spaces we want. 

That’s transferable… 

Maude: And it’s contagious. 

Ruby: I remember speaking to Ade, founder of Plastic People and he was very clear – I don’t want genres, I want one flyer with all the nights on it because I don’t want people to box themselves into one genre. I want people to find out they like other things. That’s so genius, and it’s why it became legendary.

OK, so tell me about what you’re doing next? 

Maude: We’re speaking to London venue Pickle Factory who’ve received more investment from the Gala people, talking about how we can partner with them. Summer’s always our busiest time. Ruby and I have a lot of big dreams. Next is to sit down and work out – where do we want to put our time and energy and how do we want it to blossom? 

Because yes – you both have somewhat busy professional lives too… 

Maude: A pipe dream would be to have something on Resident Advisor so you have to read it before putting on an event or going somewhere, so you’re aware of the state of mind we’re trying to share.  

Ruby: We want more collaborations, not just slapping a logo on the poster. Next steps are how do we expand it without it being exploited. We get a lot of requests but who can we actually do the work with? We can’t manage all the requests that come in, sadly. Sitting down, connecting, building – that takes time and energy. It’s about where can we put our energy. I really hope policy posters become as necessary as a bar and a toilet – as important.

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