INTERVIEW: WOMEN ARE MINT | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image: Lady Nade

Martha Hill’s Women Are Mint festival has been beating the drum for gender equality since 2018. Returning to Cobalt Studios from Friday 20th-Sunday 22nd May, this year’s line-up is as strong as ever and includes electronic experimenter AK Patterson, extraordinary songwriter and cellist Ceitidh Mac, alt. folk duo Good Habits, Americana songwriter Lady Nade, the uplifting dub of Coalescence Sound System, singer/MC Eva Lazarus, vibrant performer Mina+Bryte, Cumbrian DJ Naomi Carole, the ethereal sounds of Elle Chante, soulful North East artist Nadedja, the spectral folk sounds of Northering and inclusive community choir She.

Each day is so different!” Martha enthuses. “If you love live music, especially alternative folk and Americana, then the Friday night is for you. If you love dancing to Afrobeat, reggae and dub then Saturday is going to be unreal! If you can’t go out to night time events any more for whatever reason, or you can’t afford tickets to gigs, then the Sunday line-up is beautiful. It’s all based during the day and tickets are Pay What You Feel.”

Aside from being a cracking way to spend a weekend, the festival also plays an important role in highlighting the continuing normalisation of sexism in the music industry. “So many people look at a festival line-up and just see names of acts, they don’t look beyond it to who is actually being booked and represented. The more light we can shed on the matter, the more apparent it becomes.” She insists.

we can’t have conversations about women’s rights without also talking about LGBTQIA+ rights, racism, ableism and the many other issues that are tied in with inequality

It’s a big subject, and one that’s easy to feel overwhelmed about, but Martha has some tips on how audiences can get their voices heard. “Initiate conversations, comment on posts/contact festivals and events that are promoting inequality, support events that are trying to make a change and be vocal about why, question your own behaviour and the behaviour of those around you. The internet can be a very powerful tool for activism and spreading awareness when utilised en mass, so even just tweeting a festival and questioning their line-up can be important.”

Equally as important to Martha is inclusion and intersectionality. “It is really important to us that we make it clear our festival is a trans-inclusive feminist space. There are no women’s rights without trans rights, and of course men are invited to join the fight towards a safer world. The issue of sexism runs a lot deeper than just a gender-based problem. We have to look at these imbalances from an intersectional perspective – we can’t have conversations about women’s rights without also talking about LGBTQIA+ rights, racism, ableism and the many other issues that are tied in with inequality.” A panel event on Intersectional Feminism and Creating Safe Spaces will take part on the Sunday afternoon, which promises to be an important and informative conversation for those looking to find out more.

Good work is being done in the region already; both BBC Introducing North East and Tees, hosted by Nick Roberts and Rianne Thompson respectively, champion a 50/50 playlist, organisations like Sister Shack, Tits Upon Tyne, NEWISM and Forward NE are fighting to make a difference. “There’s still a long way to go, especially in terms of the larger organisations, but I really feel like the North East is at the forefront of the fight for gender equality within the industry, which is amazing to be part of.”

Women Are Mint takes place at Cobalt Studios, Newcastle from Friday 20th-Sunday 22nd May.

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