Femmestival, a festival for all.

Written by Disha Takle & Anna Maria Papaoikonomou

The music industry continues to be plagued by a case of gender inequality. It is obvious everywhere: the mostly-male lineup of Wireless 2023, or at the pub, where there is always a man with a guitar ready to belt an off-key, impromptu rendition of Wonderwall. It comes as no surprise that the recent USC study on inequality in the music industry reports that women are underrepresented in many areas of the music creation process. Or that in 2021, less than 5% of women held producing positions in the Billboard Hot 100 charts. In the last decade, the needle has not moved for female singers, songwriters and producers as they have virtually been shut out of these spaces.

“We know there are talented women from all backgrounds who are not getting access, opportunity, or credit for their work in this arena,” says Dr. Smith, the author of the USC report. She points out that another key barrier is the male dominance of many platforms and resources. Coupled with ageism and gender-based harassment, this makes it harder for women to thrive in the industry.

To address the gender hierarchies and inequalities within the music industry, Talia Andrea, a Comparative Literature student at King’s College and Editor of the STRAND, introduces Femmestival. This is London’s new music festival featuring exclusively female artists and will be held on October 1st. Her dedication and vision for the festival are evident, as she explores the importance of women-focused spaces in the creative industries. In an exclusive interview with Talia, we delve into the journey that led to this remarkable initiative.

So, how did you think of Femmestival? What led you to go out there and make it into a reality?

“The nature of journalism is to observe everything around you in all aspects of an event. I noticed that there could be multiple artists on a line-up, but they would often be mostly men. Surely, there are women in London who are interested in being part of the music scene. London has over 50% women, so they must be there somewhere.”

Femmestival emerged from a simple yet powerful realization: the need for more women’s voices and talents on the music stage. Talia was ready to take matters into her own hands. “No one else was stepping up, so I thought, why not take the plunge?” she mentions.

“I saw a newsletter from Youth Music’s NextGen Fund, a fund designed to equalize access for young artists in the music industry, announcing funding applications were open. I thought, why not give it a shot? I had nothing to lose,” she recalls. This brought her one step closer to gaining the confidence she needed. However, creating Femmestival all by herself demanded more than just confidence; it required unwavering passion and determination.

“Honestly, I wasn’t entirely sure it would pan out, but if no one else is doing it, why not be the one to start?” Talia admits. Over time, she gained the support and confidence needed to forge ahead, knowing she was making a profound difference by simply creating a space for upcoming artists to come together. “It’s heartwarming to hear people say it means something to them. That’s given me the confidence to keep pushing forward.”

How has the planning been so far? How did you organise your team and get started with it?

“It started out as a one-woman show– I was doing most of the designing, outreach, accounting.. most of this was new to me, and in some cases I was really just going for it. I think once I got started and word got out, more people started reaching out. It was really cool seeing that so many people wanted to help out in any way they could and that they cared about this. I think it was the start of the kind of community I wanted to create and be a part of. Women-focused spaces level the playing field and are vital for women’s progression in the creative fields.” However, despite the influx of support, Talia is still running this event singlehandedly. Having the support, guidance and resources from people reaching out has given her the strength and confidence to continue powering through on her own, she explains.

When asked about the future of women-centred spaces in a utopian world which has achieved gender equality, Talia offers a thought-provoking perspective. “Perhaps these spaces won’t always be necessary, once gender equality within the music sector is really achieved. But they still offer a unique opportunity to explore women’s shared experiences, it’s like a themed art gallery gathering a like-minded crowd.”

How would you like to take Femmestival forward then?

“In the grand scheme of things, what matters most is keeping this movement alive.” Looking ahead, Talia has big plans for the all-female music festival. “Ideally, I’d like to do another one,” she disclosed. Her main goal is to expand the platform, featuring more artists and DJs. She also envisions smaller community-based events, like exhibitions, workshops, and coffee mornings, to foster a sense of unity and connection. “I don’t want Femmestival to be just the festival, I want it to be an ongoing community, a permanent place for creators, musicians, producers and enjoyers alike!”

As the festival debuts next week, it stands as a symbol for something new and a reminder that there’s a lot more that needs to be done. Femmestival is a reaction to the tokenistic lip-service of the current state of inclusivity and equality in the music industry. It is a community in action, a manifestation of the change larger record labels and festivals need to internalise , and most importantly it is a space women can inhabit to express themselves, as they please.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *