International Women’s Day 2020: Celebrating women whilst promoting change

On International Women’s Day, The Mic would like to take the time to recognise the importance of celebrating the city’s brilliant women in music, whilst offering a reminder of the work still to be done.

Today, International Women’s Day is being celebrated around the world in the hope of bringing together women from all different backgrounds to celebrate their achievements and push for advances in every segment of life. Throughout the day, an array of individuals and institutions in the music industry have reflected on the progress that has been made so far, and whilst thousands of quotes embracing the day’s celebrations could be highlighted, Primavera Sound’s simple statement that ‘The new normal should just be normal’ epitomises The Mic’s current thoughts on the debates surrounding equality within the industry. Whilst we could recognise the thousands of women who have inspired our internal team’s lives to date, we’d like to offer a moment to highlight the women in and around Nottingham that continue to make the city thrive and grow.

A social media post by Primavera Sound earlier today

It is worth pointing out that this is not a be-all and end-all list of female talent in Nottingham. This is not a promotional list of any sort, merely a statement of recognition from The Mic on a day celebrating women in music. If there is one thing that we hope can come from this post, it is that our brilliant readers will take these names, look out for them around the city and interact with these artists by streaming more and supporting them. Sometimes it takes just a few names to unlock an array of talent.

Over the past twelve months, it has been a delight to see Mollie Ralph and Tori Sheard grow from acoustic entities to bonafide future success stories. An early FOCUS spotlight interview delved into the creativity of Mollie Ralph, and with latest release Traitor gathering serious attention, Ralph is a genre-twisting artist to watch out for. For Tori Sheard, her growth as an individual fails to waiver. Having sold out The Bodega last year, Sheard was crowned Nottingham’s Solo Artist of the Year at The Mic Awards 2019, before playing Rock City’s main stage for Beat The Streets in January 2020.

Indie-rock quartet Velvet Blush have gradually become one of the most recognisable names in the city thanks to their blistering live shows and grunge-heavy anthems: the likes of Fool, Drown and Big Dream channeling Wolf Alice and Courtney Barnett. Oozing style and unapologetic swagger, Ava Saint morphs ethereal vocals with hard-edged rock and roll, whilst alternative rock quartet Babe Punch channel the foundations of feminist punk into the current political climate with 2019 single Shrinking Violet acting as a snarling statement of intent from one of Nottingham’s brightest prospects.

After the release of Pulse, Kelsey and the Embers have started their assault on the city and their recently announced Bodega headline show has the ability of following Tori Sheard and Mollie Ralph, who both sold out the venue in 2019. With only one single to her name at the minute, Sasha Assad has an unimaginable potential going into the future, her knack for blending indie-rock riffs and ear-worm hooks, such as in Silent Disco, making her an insatiable prospect for guitar-driven music in the city whilst emzae, Marty and Desensitised have slowly gathered a cult-like following, driving them forwards as well.

On an individual level, Tash Bird has become a local acoustic sensation in recent years and alongside the likes of Wilted Flower, Katie Keddie, Chloe Rodgers, Catmilk, Emma Buckley, Tilly Greentree and Harpa, the East Midlands acoustic scene is thriving, becoming a hotbed for scouting new and exciting musicians.

Recognising artists is an important part of helping new talent, but it is also important to highlight the individuals behind the scenes. In the last year, The Mic has been lucky enough to notice and enjoy the work of Phlexx Records, the independent record label that aspires to develop and support the community. The label has been integral in their work with Do Nothing, Sancho Panza, Nactus Kunan, Soft Girls & Boys Club and the commitment of Maddy Chamberlain and Cate La Starza, together with Ben Felstead, continues to inspire the creative corners of Nottingham.

As is the case with designated days of celebration and recognition for certain causes, groups and issues, the day will not lead to a sudden change of reality unless true actions are taken. There is a danger the goodwill permeating today will dispel tomorrow, leaving us no further forward. If individuals truly realise the extent of the inequality gap between the genders then perhaps today can be used as a marker for moving towards a fairer society. From a male perspective, to shirk away from the issue is to neglect the respect for friends, family, colleagues and members of society of the opposite gender. Recognising where inequalities lie is a fundamental step towards change, but change will not be instilled until actions are made.

Cate La Stanza (left) and Maddy Chamberlain (right) joined Phlexx records in 2017

On a national level, individuals might not have the direct power to implement change immediately. However, by lobbying politicians, signing petitions, spreading meaningful truths on social media and in person to other individuals in the community, a change in consciousness can start to unravel. Persistence is key at times, and the painful reality that some individuals might not immediately understand the current situation can only be dealt with through patience and dialogue instead of anger and division.

The barrage of attention shadowing the lack of diversity on the Brit Awards nominations list and the 2020 Reading and Leeds line-up (see the contrast below when male artists are taken out of the line-up) are just two examples of society taking a stand against the status quo, and it is the hope of like-minded individuals that this rebuttal will spark something greater for the movement towards equality. Supporting local music is and always will be vital. Sharing new releases from women can only lead to a wider audience, which in turn drives the demand for more women by the industry. Purchasing tickets and helping female artists sell out gigs proves a point in its own right. It forces promoters to take notice and thus in turn leads to greater opportunities down the line. Offering female artists bigger support slots also increases the audience interaction base. More importantly, however, the campaign for greater opportunities for women should not stem solely on the basis of gender, but also on quality.

No artist should feel that they are given opportunities solely because of their gender. Tokenism breeds a dangerous culture amongst certain sections of society and has the capacity to create intensified divisions rather than cohesion and understanding. The focus moving forward should always be on celebrating talent - nurturing it and helping it grow to become an entity that then reaches an array of people. The nurturing and promotion of talented women creates a self-sustaining cycle of inspiration, highlighting to younger generations that women can succeed in the music industry, inspiring them to potentially reach out for an instrument themselves.

Today it is important to recognise and celebrate the contribution and success of women in all aspects of life. Tomorrow it is vital to harness that same energy and continue to channel it towards active change.

Read more about International Women’s Day 2020 here

The work of Women in Music and Safe Gigs for Women have continued to inspire and further educate the publication. Read more about the two organisations below.

Women in Music:

Safe Gigs for Women: