There’s even pressure for women, I feel, when commenting on this specific issue. There’s always the lingering feeling I think with writing an article like this that it’s going to be read by men as an excuse, a justification or simply proof of one’s encyclopedic knowledge. Well this is not that. When it comes to electronic music I am certainly no expert. I spent my teenage years listening to its presence in everything from Gary Numan to Radiohead without really digging into the root of those sounds. This was something that, when moving back to Leeds made me a little nervous, knowing I’d be living with my best pal Oliver Walkden, resident Wigan extraordinaire of Brudenell Groove. Not because I didn’t think the boys of Groove would be welcoming, kind and interested in what I had to say. Just the age old nervousness about finding a way of proving some sort of musical intelligence and individuality. Needless to say I’m lucky enough that these fears have never been perpetuated by anybody in the group but myself.
I remember having a conversation fairly early on where these insecurities got vocalised and I worried to another Groove friend that I had very little offer to the tapestry of tastes that everyone in our circle is constantly contributing to. The reply was something along the lines of “everybody always has something to offer”. This was a real defining moment in me realising just how special spaces like Brudenell Groove really are. Playing Groove and talking about it afterwards was devoid of any of the things I was scared of. My stubbornness and complete lack of tech knowledge were not a match made in heaven but rather than assuming I couldn’t handle the tech, assuming I’d need walking through it with my hand held, the boys only helped when I asked for it. Rather than hovering and smirking at my first ever time playing on decks in a club, there was just the occasional nod and thumbs up and “everything good?” from the boys.
I realise it’s very easy for me to have my rose-tinted glasses on because of how lucky I’ve been with my experiences this year. And it’s not to say that I don’t see the gross inequality that still pervades the industry. Within music as a whole, my main experience of this was always related to bands, often discussing with front women of bands the patronising roadies that assumed they had no knowledge of the tech they’d bought and tinkered with themselves. Within music of course there is still very much a glorified version of a male gasp when hearing of a woman electrician: women and DIY not mixing because there’s still an underlying assumption in society that we can’t do it ourselves unaided by men. That’s what has been so impressive about Brudenell Groove for me: the community. It is two boys that helped bring Groove into fruition and it has since extended to a group of mainly men. But any opportunity the boys have had to elevate the voices of women, they have taken. Any opportunity they’ve had to host female DJs, they have taken. Groove’s Blue Planet, the one that I played, was an all-women line-up. However, rather than doing a pink glittery poster and boasting this fact, like a lot of other nights and events sometimes do, they didn’t advertise this as a special or different occasion. Rather than treat a line-up of all women as a token, it was treated like every other night. Why should it be a special, or indeed in most cases one-off, occasion to have only women playing?
Overall, my experiences of this year are super positive. The groups of people I’ve met have been open minded, passionate, inclusive and progressive and are all doing something really special and exciting. Amongst the most inspirational people this year have undoubtedly been women. Seeing women absolutely dominate spaces that are usually so male has been something that has given me faith that maybe (hopeful, I know) things are changing. Even if only on a local and intimate scale. The main insecurity I still have is not necessarily related to playing in and of itself but the kind of music that I can play. There’s been absolutely no external pressure from the boys in the group but still an overshadowing, abstracted societal one. I have plenty of confidence playing jazz because this is something I’ve had as my safety net niche all year. This is something I’ve felt confident talking about with people. But my knowledge of electronic music, producers, labels, even the nuanced differences between genres, is still rusty and nowhere near as honed as other members of Groove. But there are plenty of female DJs within Groove that are playing absolute dutty bangers every time they place. There are plenty of women who are allowed to play whatever they want and it’s met with encouragement. The issue for me is internalised, but is something this year has really helped and started to undo as my confidence grows. I know I’ve got a set in mind that will melt male faces as well as female so watch this space. Maybe next time I play it will be the thumping set I’ve been plucking up the courage to play.
Jessie Florence Jones
Image by Marinella Contestabile of the wonderful ladies in Brudenell Groove. L-R: Amy Alford, Jessie, Ranyue Zhang, Zoya Ahmed and Marinella underneath.