On The Decks: Amy Alford

I grew up with a DJ mum so 4×4 was embedded in my childhood. Some of my earliest memories are of her Vestax turntables set up in the living room. My brother then followed suit around 15; I’d come home from school and him and his mates would be having a mix in the dining room. When he moved to Sheffield for uni I would visit, go to his events and watch him play, always dancing at the front thinking how I wished I could be up there with him. After a few years of raving and becoming more hungry to learn, I finally started around 22. I used to lock myself away in my then-boyfriend’s bedroom and practice the same mix with the same records over and over.

It’s pure passion and determination that keeps me DJing. I always strive to be better, develop my skills, grow my record collection and listen to as much music as I can. Like most people, it’s a hobby that grew into an obsessive passion very quickly. But above all, the sense of enjoyment is euphoric.

For any new DJ on the scene it’s hard to feel confident, no matter what age or sex. For me, most of the DJs I knew at the time were men, so subsequently most of my idols back then were male too. The industry has changed immensely since I began DJing so that now I feel female DJs are praised, admired and have a rightful place. I’m not saying it’s perfect but it’s definitely an improvement. It can be a male-led and stereotypical industry at times, but slowly promoters and industry professionals are waking up to the fact that music lovers support diversity, freedom and equality. The ones who don’t follow suit will inevitably be left behind. At the beginning I never thought I would be booked to play gigs; it was a personal goal to prove to myself I could do it. Now with an immense offering of female DJs, I can safely say nothing will hold me back.

In terms of sexist incidents, when Audio Chronicles resided at the White Rabbit, which happened to be on the same road as a string of strip clubs, DJing there was difficult as some of the punters were rather derogative and opinionated. However, they were walk-ins rather than dancers. There have been times where I’ve felt uncomfortable in situations but that was more my own insecurities. For example, I sat around a table of men for dinner before my Fabric gig. Most have been in the industry for decades and then there’s me: a young woman fresh on the scene. I didn’t feel inferior or shy I felt empowered. I was proud to be sitting there and subsequently played a wicked set. I feel sexism stems from one gender feeling inferior from the other where we should all be supporting each other. So I’ve been lucky enough to not experience any extreme cases of sexism, especially in a welcoming city like Leeds where everyone is so open minded and warm.

Most of my DJing experiences have been extremely positive. I’ve never felt that I didn’t belong behind the decks. The main positives are the gigs I play, the people I meet and the dancers who hear my music. Everyone has always been so complimentary, supportive and most have helped me build my confidence and allowed me to believe in myself. I feel that confidence is key. With every gig, I go in with the same mentality: own it. I feel you should always focus on yourself, your set and the crowd. The times where I’ve doubted myself, I’ve messed up on a mix or lost my concentration. The lesson learnt was to ignore all those insecurities, block out the noise and do your thing.

The next big steps for me are to build a profile in London as I moved here six months ago.Next year I have a few events in the pipeline, radio shows and gigs abroad so aiming to just get out and play. In general, I’m just as ambitious in my career as I am with DJing. I’ve just started a new job so right now my career is my main priority. Living in London, you need to be realistic and financially secure. Plus without a decent salary my record collection would be half of what it is today! Like most, I’m unsure what will happen in the next few years but I’m determined to pursue both avenues until the time comes to choose a rightful path.

Amy Alford

Image: Anna Wallington

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