3 Dec 2022

Rhythm & Vines face backlash over decision to keep convicted rapper Dizzee Rascal in line-up

5:42 pm on 3 December 2022
British rapper Dizzee Rascal speaks to the media as he leaves the Croydon Magistrates’ Court in London, on April 8, 2022 following the sentence on his trial for assaulting his ex-fiancee.

British rapper Dizzee Rascal speaks to the media as he leaves the Croydon Magistrates' Court in London, on 8 April, 2022 following the sentence on his trial for assaulting his ex-fiancee. Photo: Tolga Akmen / AFP

Organisers for Gisborne music festival Rhythm & Vines say artist Dizzee Rascal will remain in this year's line-up, despite a conviction for domestic violence.

Earlier this year, the English rapper, whose real name is Dylan Mills, was handed down a 12-month restraining order and a curfew for assaulting his ex-partner.

He has been booked at several festivals this summer in New Zealand.

Last week, in an interview for Stuff, Rhythm & Vines co-founder and director Hamish Pinkham said the artist had "done the crime, done the time and now it's time to do the grime", referring to the music genre that the British artist performs.

In a statement sent to media today, Rhythm & Vines apologised for its co-founder's speech.

The words used were inappropriate and chosen without thought when discussing the serious matter, a spokesperson said.

"Rhythm & Vines does not condone violence of any kind. We regret any distress these words may have caused."

Yesterday, advocacy group Beneath the Glass Ceiling published an open letter to the festival, saying it was sending a message domestic violence is not a big deal.

"Domestic violence is no joke. One in three women will experience intimate partner violence in their lifetime," the open letter read.

"You have the ability to set a hard-line and to say no to perpetrators of violence; it is in your power to help us set a precedent for a safer industry and yet you have chosen not to."

The group also asked Rhythm & Vines to cancel Dizzee Rascal's performance later this month.

"We are asking you to set a zero-tolerance precedent for offenders of violence and sexual harassment going forward," the letter read.

"We are asking you to put victims of domestic violence first and to show rangatahi that we do not condone violence in our music industry by removing Dizzee Rascal from the Rhythm & Vines line-up."

Women's Refuge chief executive Ang Jury told Midday Report the decision to keep the artist on their line-up sent a poor message.

"We always use to say the reason men assaulted woman it was because they could get away with it, and this demonstrate that actually, yeah, they can."

Advocacy groups want to speak to Immigration Minister

Rhythm & Vines said Dizzee Rascal was following the process required by Immigration New Zealand for any artists entering the country.

But Jury said advocacy groups were trying to intervene.

Dr Ang Jury CEO of Women's Refuge

Women's Refuge chief executive Ang Jury Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

"We will be making an attempt to speak to the Immigration Minister about this," she said.

"They might have been following the rules but if the rules allow people with domestic violence convictions to get into the country, then I think they need to change."

Regarding the festival's apology for its co-founder's comments, Jury said it came too late.

"He apologised because he got called out on it, I don't think it was a genuine apology," she said.

Rhythm & Vines said it acknowledged positive work by organisations in the communities to educate people on the importance of safe and healthy relationships, but the festival would not be cancelling Dizzee Rascal's performance.

"Rhythm & Vines respects the justice process in the United Kingdom," the statement said.

Jury said the decision was frustrating.

"We claim to care about things like this, but when it comes to our own particular interest, like going to a festival and having a good time, then maybe it's not quite so important."

Too soon for rapper to be on stage again, says concert photographer

Shelley Te Haara, who has been photographing concerts for the past five years, said the fact Dizzee Rascal had gone through the justice system did not give him the green light just yet.

"He only just finished his sentencing, and the system wasn't even as hard as it should be," Te Haara said.

"He [Dizzee] was just given a slap on the wrist. It would take a few years for people to actually see if he was able to learn from his mistakes."

She believed the festival's organisers should rethink the consequences of having the artist on stage and the festival should take more accountability.

"Even with their apology for what Hamish Pinkham said, the apology didn't even come from Hamish himself, it came from their communications team."

The Golden Lights Festival, held in Christchurch and Auckland, is also advertising Dizzee Rascal in their line-up for this year.

"Easily the most acclaimed and influential artist associated with London's grime scene, and one of the most successful British rappers of all time, Dizzee Rascal. Get ready, this is going to be massive," the festival's advertising said.

Golden Lights Festival has been approached for comment.

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