In the depths of a Hyde Park basement pre-drinks a couple weeks back, I never expected someone’s 16 year old sister to come up to me and say, “I’m really into feminism and shit, I’ve been following all the music stuff you’re doing and I want to start mixing.” It was a conversation that’s part of a growing dialogue in Leeds right now.
Women are popping up everywhere on various line-ups and the repeated overhead “I want to run an all female night” is unbelievable. Leeds has a very DIY, malleable feel to it; if someone is unsatisfied with what’s available, they run it themselves. I don’t think there’s a city quite like it that has such confidence, energy and enthusiasm from people to run their own events.
Of course, gender disparity in the music industry is huge and ridiculous. The fear of being judged, the male-dominated scenes and a lack of role models are just some of the barriers to the uptake of DJing by women, non-binary and trans folk.
Last year I conducted my own ethnographic research looking at the underlying barriers that women who DJ in the amateur scene and small nights experience in Leeds. Despite my interest in the topic, at the time, I couldn’t find anyone to interview. The findings of my research led to frustration, anger and then action. Since the report, everything that followed has been quite unexpected and exciting.
I bought a controller and practiced a bunch until I had the courage to play my first club night, Scissors: a questionably named queer female night at LUU. Playing in a ‘safe’ space adds a level of comfort that you don’t get in higher pressure venues. Going to Love Muscle and Brudenell Groove has introduced me to various non-male DJs who are autonomous with their music ventures and identity: role models for sure. These radical and progressive nights with diverse line-ups usually have different goals than male-dominated, industry-led nights. If you want to see a varied lineup, alternative events are the one. Recently I was part of an all-female takeover of the bar room at Flux and played alongside O’Flynn at Brotherhood. More and more female bookings are signs that people in the industry want to address the issue, Flux and Brotherhood show exactly that.
I have an esoteric approach to the songs I love playing. It’s hard to pin down a genre really but it’s a lot of world music and disco funky sounds originating from all over. My best advice for those wanting to start is to love your tunes and play in spaces you’re comfortable and feel supported in. There’s more DJs than people in Leeds so plenty of opportunities for practice.
Image by CW Photographics