At 19 it didn’t occur to me that I couldn’t DJ.
By this I mean I wasn’t aware that my gender might be a barrier – lucky me. Having recently moved to Leeds, I found women role models wherever I looked from the mostly female resident DJ rota at Vague, I-Spy and then SpeedQueen, plus DJs on the wider scene, promoters, friends, in pop with Ray of Light-era Madonna reigning supreme and Baduizm blowing my tiny mind. When I handed in my audition mixtape (C60) to Kas and Suzy for a residency at SpeedQueen, it didn’t cross my mind that my gender could present a disadvantage as women DJs at this time were so visible to me, with seemingly more and more coming up through the ranks. And the residents I played alongside were (still are!) so bloody good at it – surely with time and practice, I would be too.
At 29 I wondered if I should continue to DJ.
SpeedQueen stopped hosting weekly club nights around this time and without it I felt vulnerable. Missing the space itself obviously, but also losing out on the invincible “I got all my sisters with me” feeling I took to other gigs. Out in the real world I’d have nights out but the lack of regular visibility of women DJing disco and house took its toll. I played more sets in bars, to keep my hand in and to make up a shortfall with losing my main residency plus the guest bookings that status attracted. This less community focused and much more monetised DJ setting didn’t chime well with me and neither did the frequent comments about my ability or taste in music based on my gender. Apparently I’m “not bad… for a bird.”
The progress I felt we made at SpeedQueen in providing a platform for women DJs seemed to be eroding before my eyes, in wave after wave of very male line ups. The loyalty and sisterhood I’d taken for granted was not a given in other DJ booths. I’m eternally grateful to my Mancunian lifelines Northern Disco and Homoelectric for giving me something real and that I am proud to be part of, and to one of my DJ sisters offering an opportunity to teach DJing and club culture which was too good to miss (thanks Rebekka). Without that support I’d have allowed the negativity of sexism and harassment disguised as ‘a bit of fun’ to be part of making a decision to jack it all in.
At 39, I’m glad I am still DJing.
I see women DJs, club promoters and venue owners in the ascendant in Leeds, and more guest bookings for women presented without tokenism; they inspire and challenge me to raise my game in a positive way. Their presence has helped me to realise that I haven’t paid my dues by being part of something which models women working and being safe in clubland, at one time in my life. And I can’t quite believe my luck that in the lovely supportive community that is Love Muscle, I’m able to contribute once again (although, I also can’t believe we’re still protesting this shit).
Listen to Lucy’s playlist of her fav tracks below, and check out her most recent mix on her Mixcloud