Both Sides Now with Brighter Sound: An Audience with Beth Orton

The strength, the unity, the talent.

Music is a place for sound. Music is a place for soul. Music is a place for freedom of expression, for fantasy and reality. Music is the past and the present. Music is everything. So why don’t women get the same chance as men to be involved in music? Music is meant to unify people of every gender, every ethnicity, every sexuality, every religion: we share music. So why is it that in the UK, only 16% of females are registered musicians, and only 2% of these account for Northern England? They are put in a box by the media, who distort society’s perceptions of women involved in the industry.

Brighter Sound. Sound of the revolution of women musicians. They aren’t standing for the blocked opportunities and outdated stereotypes anymore. They are working to take action and make change happen. Both Sides Now is a five day program which offers female musicians the opportunity to collaborate with others. It allows them to find their creative space on their own terms, to progress in music and to get their message to be heard. From musicians to producers to sound engineers, everyone is welcome.

Speeches galore from the women involved in the charity, which caused waves of emotions: laughter to hope to determination. As the women set up and get ready to fly through their set, my heart wants to burst; I want to cheer and shout about how remarkable it is to see with my own eyes that things may be starting to change for women in the music industry. Beth Orton, who ran the five day program, quickly speaks before the women start their set. Her voice cracks with emotion. A glow of pride and admiration for the women she has helped radiates around her. She reflects on the time spent over the previous days, how the women gave themselves nothing to hide behind. In only a few days, they have created something spectacular and they truly display what is possible when you give people a chance. “We need to not only change people’s perception of women but women need to change their perception of themselves!”

The courage and the love they all share and express through their songs is all individual, all unique. With an array of talents and instruments – cello, bass, guitar, harp, vocals, synth, keyboard and violin – fire, passion and intensity move out of their playing and their souls. Sassy and soaring vocals, groovy reggae rhythms and ambient and mellow music pour out of them, all connecting and intertwining with each others sound. The sparkling lights and psychedelic patterns spiral you into a world of wonderment and mystery.

The one part which made me feel slightly deflated and unsure was the smartly dressed staff handing out complimentary gin and canapés. Even though industry people may be impressed by this, I felt that it wasn’t reflecting what women musicians are truly going through in the outside world. They are out there, gigging at run down bars and pubs, not only playing calm music but performing genres such as rock, metal, grunge and punk. However, Brighter Sound is doing what the industry has needed for a very long time. They are giving women musicians from a wide variety of backgrounds a platform, allowing their voices to be heard and getting people who are in positions of influence to make a stand. I’m looking forward to the day when we don’t need events like this to help women in the music industry, a time when they are all accepted and it is the norm.

“It’s a myth that music is unstable, the world is unstable, so go for your dreams.”

Zara Huxley

Image: Brighter Sound

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