A packed concert in Nairobi. [Courtesy]

When it was announced that Nigerian superstar Adekunle Gold was coming to Kenya on November 13, fans were excited. It was yet another shot in the arm for the entertainment sector after nearly two years of silence.

Dubbed the Destination Festival Africa, the event held at Ngong Racecourse, promised a good time.

Also lined up to perform were Kenyan stars Nyashinski, Otile Brown and Fena Gitu.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by AG Baby (@adekunlegold)

But the star-studded festival would be tainted by reports of rowdy attendees, theft, sexual violence and claims of harassment.

A social media user going by the username @Malcandi took to Twitter the day after the concert to say his lady friend was raped at the packed event.

“Whoever raped my friend at Adekunle’s Concert parking lot! May you never know peace,” Malcandi shockingly tweeted.

The concert attendee also called out a hospital, which he said refused to admit his friend at the time of the emergency.

The post attracted a lot of attention. There was shock, the question of safety while at live concerts, victim shaming and cries for justice.

“Our rules when heading out. Keep an eye out for each other, never leave anyone behind or alone or unaccounted for...male or female, watu wawatch their alcohol intake, also at least make sure either one or two of you isn't drinking...mtahitaji mtu sober kwa group. Pole sana kwake,” responded a Twitter user, Bryan.

Another urged friends who go out to play the role of ‘each other’s keeper’.

“Take care of each other. Someone can even turn up dead because you let them wander off. There are feral humans out there, wanyama kabisa!” wrote Caroline Achieng.

The risk of sexual assault while out at a night concert is frightening, yet unfortunately real.

Under the cover of darkness, chaos and confusion, ill-intentioned crooks and bandits lurk.

In a 2015 feature titled 'There’s a rape problem at music festivals and no one seems to care', Canadian-American lifestyle magazine Vice castigated the persistent yet under-discussed problem.

The website recommended that festival organsers need to be trained on potential situations and ensure all incidents are investigated and reported.

“Many things happen at festivals that organisers don't want to publicise. We want them to openly acknowledge problems and make it clear they are doing something about them. We want the whole music industry to be open about issues as a first step to doing something about them. The music industry must not make matters worse by pretending incidents are one-offs,” an activist said on the report.

Dan Odhiambo, an events planner behind the popular Kikwetu Festival says concert goers should never have to worry about their safety while attending a live event.

That, he insists, is the responsibility and burden of the event organiser.

“If a festival customer has to worry about his well-being, it takes away from the fun and the purpose of attending the function,” he says.

“The organiser is tasked with anticipating any issues that may arise and combating them before they occur. He is supposed to hire a security expert who will assess the risk factor of the venue and provide guidelines to be followed,” Odhiambo says.

The live event planner says different venues call for different precautions.

“Safety varies from venue to venue. Some places are completely covered,  especially if owned by an institution that had already put in it’s own security measures. Different venues also attract different audiences."

Sharon Odero, an event organiser with CateChris Limited, an event planning and management company, says for organisers, planning is a detailed exercise.

She says organisers prioritize input from the security team who will alert them if anything is amiss and or needs to be done to make the event a success.

 

A concert in Nairobi. [Courtesy]

And she agrees with her industry counterpart Dan Odhiambo, who says that a successful event is characterised by the safety of attendees.

“You can say you’ve achieved your goal as a planner when all guests leave the venue safe and sound, having enjoyed themselves,” Odhiambo says.

John Chacha Don, popularly known as The Don, operates Sifam Concept, a local events organising firm. He says that the security budget should be the second biggest budget in a live event, after crucial elements like sound and lighting.

“In a secure event, there is one bouncer for every 20 people. That means that if there are a hundred people there should be five bouncers, and so on. This ensures that should anything come up, it can be contained,” he says.

He adds that a well organised event is most critical of its exit and entry points.

Security personnel at a concert. [Courtesy]

“It is all about crowd control,” he says, “You should make sure that guests are not scared off but at the same time, no unauthorized personnel can access the venue. Frisking is also very important to ensure that no one comes in with a weapon.”

American website BuzzFeed wrote in a 2017 report that it is a good tip to familiarise yourself with the layout of the venue beforehand.

“When you get to the venue, keep an eye out for the emergency exit closest to your seat — just like on an airplane. Keep an eye out for a potential 'safe room' near your seat — a closet or other windowless room with a door that locks — where you can hide if necessary,” Buzzfeed reports.

In 2017, 22 people died and over a hundred were injured after a bombing during Ariana Grande's concert in Manchester. [Courtesy]

Odyssey, an American website offers safety tips for show-goers in a 2019 report.

“If you go with other people, have a meet-up spot. Leave valuables in your car, at home or at a place where nobody can see. Make a note of security and the venue exits/layouts,” the tips read in part.

The website adds that knowing who the security is at a show is easy to spot out for a good reason.

“If there is something going on that requires trained professionals (like a medical emergency, fight, etc) then knowing where to find someone to assist with the situation can quickly diffuse what is going on immediately.”

“Additionally, knowing a venue's layout or where every exit is, can be good when it comes to an emergency situation.”

Another tip when heading to a live performance is to pay attention to any warning and security concerns ahead of the function.

Forbes reports that revellers should pay attention to early warnings, noting that before the recent tragic stampede and crash at rapper Travis Scott’s Astroworld Festival, concerns had been raised.

A key factor that organisers need to consider while planning a live event is having a comprehensive emergency response plan.

Safety tips to keep in mind at events:

1.     Get to know the layout of the venue early, take note of emergency exits, safe rooms and security stations

2.     Stick together with friends and have a meeting spot to assemble in case you are separated

3.     Leave valuables behind or keep them extra safely

4.     Organisers should receive adequate training on potential situations and ensure all incidents are reported and resolved

5.     Beware of security warnings and concerns ahead of the event

6.     Party safe; keep tabs on how much alcohol you are drinking and avoid binge drinking. Eat meals  and drink plenty of water

7.     Watch your drinks to avoid spiking, whereby another person deliberately adds alcohol or other drugs to an unsuspecting person’s drink. Do not share with or accept drinks from people you do not know or trust. Better still, buy and pour your own drinks.

Source: HealthDirect Australia, BuzzFeed, Forbes, The Odyssey Online