INTERVIEW: Bend & Shake | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image: DJ Awkward Black Girl by Amelia Read

Waiting for our video call to start, I start to get nervous. Navigating a pervasive cancel culture and the many labels that have arisen over the past few years, I’m keenly aware of my middle-class-straight-white-woman status, so talking to a powerhouse activist like Chantal Herbert about gender, race and inclusivity suddenly feels incredibly intimidating.

I shouldn’t have worried. Oozing passion and enthusiasm, chatting to Chantal left me inspired and hopeful for the future. Founder of feminist CIC Sister Shack, Chantal is a formidable force for change in the North East, championing marginalised communities and throwing a massive party while she’s at it!

Ahead of Bend & Shake, a queer party taking place at World Headquarters on Friday 19th November, we talked about her career, what motivates her and her hope for a North East that’s safe for everyone.

Borne out of a feeling of being ignored as a woman in the music industry, Chantal decided that she would make the change she wanted to see: ‘’I knew a male DJ who said that women could probably be more successful, but they don’t try as hard. They don’t put themselves out there enough. He ran a festival every year but never hired women to do sets. And I thought, well screw you, I’m going to do something.’’

Bend & Shake is run and promoted by women and non-binary people of colour, which is something you don’t see in the North East at all

Living in the North East for nearly 20 years, she says that things are changing, but it’s not enough helping one marginalised community while excluding others. ‘‘It’s just backwards,’’ she says. ‘’Newcastle has so far to go compared to other cities. There’s a hell of a lot of gatekeeping in the North East.’’

With a background supporting marginalised communities from asylum seekers to domestic abuse survivors, Chantal has taken these experiences and created a community where everyone is welcome: ‘’There needs to be some kind of shift and I’m going to make it my priority, hence why Bend & Shake is happening. It’s a space for everyone who feels like there’s something that they’re missing up here. It’s run and promoted by women and non-binary people of colour, which is something you don’t see in the North East at all.’’

She’s fiercely passionate about accessibility and equality, with a number of tickets kept aside for anyone who’s struggling: ‘’If you contact me and can’t afford to come, I have a guestlist and you’ll be able to come. I think that’s just the basics of humanity, you know?’’

With a handful of events coming up before the end of 2021, Chantal says she’s busier than ever, but Sister Shack is a labour of love. ‘’I’ve thought about closing it hundreds of times. Then I’ll get a message saying something I posted really helped someone, and I’m like, ‘okay this is why I do it’.’’

Chantal has a rare combination of fiery determination and genuine warmth which is infectious and entirely disarming. In a culture where we’re discouraged from voicing our opinions for fear of being cancelled or shamed, changemakers like her are exactly what the world needs to move forwards.

Bend & Shake featuring DJ Miss Mixtape, Bandit, DJ Awkward Black Girl, DJ Hollie and more takes place at World Headquarters, Newcastle on Friday 19th November

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