So I took this idea from NY and Portland and decided that Summer Camps aren’t really a British thing, as I didn’t quite see that taking off without some groundwork and also didn’t feel like I had the means to do something like that. I had a tour coming up early in the new year (March 2011) and I decided to pick schools around the country wherever I was on my days off in between gigs and go to them with this idea.
It was intimidating at first, doing a talk to school halls of 200 girls, an extremely important audience. I interviewed each girl on camera about why they felt there were these giant gaps in the industry and why girls weren’t making their own music as much as boys. The answers were at times heartbreaking, when I asked a girl with a cute floppy fringe why she thought she couldn’t write her own music or play gigs, she answered, looking down and hiding in said fringe, “Because you have to be beautiful, not ugly”.
Most of the topics that were brought up were of insecurities. They felt they were ugly, fat, talentless, too scared to play, they didn’t see any point in pursuing a career in music because of how they would be judged as women. These were 14-year-olds. It disgusted me what the media and we the British public have let happen to our society. A culture so obsessed with celebrity, reality TV, crap singing contests, gossip magazines, comedians that bully and shock, TV presenters that try and embarrass the person they are interviewing, anyone and everyone discussing the weight/age/drug/alcohol and mental health problems of women in the spotlight as though it were any of our business. I feel like it’s become so extreme lately, even ‘indie’ bands and artists talk unashamedly of wanting to be massive celebrities, seeming to care more about being huge stars than playing good gigs or writing good music and not being embarrassed of what it takes to get there, happily selling their soul and credibility for a chance to become the face of a brand.
I think this has had a terrible effect on young people. Particularly girls. All these years of feminist history, women fighting it out against sexism, against themselves and against society and still the main thing we are judged on is our body, our face and what we are doing to climb the ladder. Being satisfied with having a career as a musician and a songwriter leaves me feeling like a freak for not wanting to better myself by becoming more famous for selling songs to adverts, appearing on The X Factor or getting my tits out in some lads mag.
I’ve been going to the schools for 10 months now. I go to the same six; one in Portsmouth, Bournemouth, Liverpool, London, Yeovil and Reading. I bring the girls who play in my band or friends who play or write to help do workshops. I’ve seen girls play the drums for the first time ever and set up their kit how they like it, not realising what they’re doing. I’ve seen girls reading out their poems and lyric ideas in front of the whole class and applauding each other afterwards. We’ve started getting bands together and we’re planning on doing some shows next year. They are also going to be given workshops on sound, lights and what it’s like working at a label and for a management company. I can’t wait to interview the cute girl with the floppy fringe straight after she’s come off stage and see how her opinion differs from the shy, self-deprecating girl I met in March.
To be honest, you can’t really teach songwriting, we can teach them the technical sides to playing an instrument or working a sound desk, but that’s not really what this after school club is about. They’re really young, they have plenty of time to nurture those interests and skills later in life. The after school club is a safe environment where girls can hang out and come up with ideas that aren’t going to be judged, they can try things out for the first time and play music with their friends, they will be encouraged and listened to and exposed to examples of other great women in music. Really, it’s as simple as telling somebody that they’re entitled to doing this. I hope that by encouraging young women to do something that they really want to try but are afraid to (for some fucked up reason) that I can help change a statistic that made me cry when I listened to the Ramones.
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