INTERVIEW: Women Are Mint Festival | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image: Georgia May by Darran Moore

Martha Hill is, in her own words, “fucked off” this year. Musically, the singer has gone from strength to strength. Tracks from her EP, Summer Up North, made it onto BBC 6Music and Radio 1 playlists and her single Grilled Cheese has racked up almost 300,000 Spotify plays. Whilst she acknowledges the difficulty and frustrations of having a large proportion of her job closed off to the world, she has other things on her mind.

It’s total burnout, man,” she sighs, resting her head in her hands. “We’ve taken a huge step backwards this year when it comes to women’s safety in the workplace and in the streets.” She’s referring of course, to the recent murder of Sarah Everard, and more locally, the allegations of sexual harassment and abuse that hang over the region’s music and culture sector. We agree that the feeling of fear and weariness is palpable among women at the moment, exacerbated by the trauma of a year in isolation.

It’s unsurprising then, that Women Are Mint, a three-day virtual festival curated by Martha herself, feels more necessary than ever in 2021. Back in 2018, 45 events and festivals pledged to achieve a 50/50 gender balance among artists by 2022; a pledge that many seem to have forgotten they made. “The reaction to COVID-19 has been to stop prioritising women’s rights. The gender split on festivals has been shocking this year. It’s old, white, male promoters saying ‘We need to get money in, how do we get money in? By programming old white men’.”

The gender split on festivals has been shocking this year. It’s old, white, male promoters saying ‘We need to get money in, how do we get money in? By programming old white men’

The retort from festival promoters has often been that women just aren’t making music, a falsehood that has prompted lists of female artists to be circulated around social media. “It’s just not true,” Martha continues. “It’s a cop out. There are hordes of female artists that could and should headline festivals.” Though perhaps the notion of headliners itself is problematic – Women Are Mint has none, with all artists given equal weight. “I booked all of these artists because I wanted to see them live,” she says, equally excited about local acts such as Georgia May as she is about Mesadorm and “my mate Cadi who’s DJ’d twice”.

Of course, this year will be a little different, in that we won’t be able to see any of the acts live. Delivered in partnership with Howzat TV, local artists will stream from Cobalt Studios in the Ouseburn, whilst those from outside the region will be pre-recording their shows. With a solid team behind her, the shift online has been relatively straightforward, although the running of the day is a different story. “It needs to be flawless really,” she says, “At a live show, people are chatting with their mates and don’t notice if you’re a few minutes late.”

The weekend is set to be a corker, with artist workshops focused on PR, tour booking and PRS alongside family friendly yoga sessions from Shanti Bee interspersed amongst the music. Also slated to perform is Kay Greyson, Lanta, Lady Sanity, POLO, Beccy Owen, Rotem, Cortney Dixon and My Bad Sister. All tickets are pay-what-you-can, so anyone who has been hit financially by the pandemic is still welcomed and encouraged to be a part of the festival. Finally, a little something to look forward to.

Women Are Mint takes place from Friday 14th-Sunday 16th May online via Cobalt Studios

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