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Army of We: International Women’s Day 2015


In March 2010 Oh Yeah put out a call for women in music to come together for a photo that would be included in the NI Music Exhibition. The photo (above) was launched on International Women’s Day (IWD) and was inspired by an earlier more spontaneous image (below), which captured a group of promising young acts that were around at the time. For some reason there were no women in that earlier picture, it wasn’t intentional, but it did get us thinking about the gender gap in music.

Since then we have marked IWD annually by showcasing or celebrating great female talent.

This Saturday evening we will continue along those lines by putting the spot light on Björk, one of the most successful and innovative artists in popular music. It will be an evening of interpretation and inspiration from some impressive local artists, including Katharine Philippa, Goldie Fawn, Sister Ghost, Jai McConnell, DJ Sage and R51.

So, why Björk? Well, not only has she excelled herself with a searing new album Vulnicure, but BBC6 Music are running a feature this Sunday to coincide with the ‘Björk’ exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Then there’s the archive book at the end of the month. But the main reason we decided on Björk is because she recently told the Pitchfork website that women and their artistic contributions are often overlooked or invisible.


This brings us back to the debate on gender inequality in music. The Björk remarks set off a series of discussions and ideas that encouraged us to think seriously about a more long term plan to address the issue.

The debate has certainly resurfaced in the media lately. From Beth Orton’s recent address at an event designed to encourage more women into music, where she said that female acts have to deal with “an ingrained sense of being on the back foot”, to the Guardian article that picked up on that fact that this year’s Reading and Leeds Festival has an 89.6% all-male line-up.

While on the surface it could appear that popular music has a substantial number of high profile female artists – Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift, Beyonce, Rihanna, Pink, Niki Minaj, Sia, Katie Perry, Iggy Azalea to name a few – the official statistics are there too, to remind us what’s on the surface (and there’s the question here of what kind of representation of women we are being offered through many of these artists) doesn’t reveal a true picture.

According to the Association of Independent Music (AIM) just 30% of management, promotion and live sector roles in the music industry are held by women. On the performance side of things the PRS for Music Foundation’s ‘Women Make Music’ fund was set up because it was revealed that only 14% of PRS for Music’s registered creators and writers are women.

This Saturday afternoon as a way of harnessing this debate, Oh Yeah has organised an industry panel to talk about women in music, and includes linking up with the Roundhouse venue in London. We’ll also be Getting To Know… Bronagh Gallagher, the Derry actress and musician who will talk about her life in film, TV and music, with Marie Louise Muir, and the audience will be invited to ask questions.

On a more long term basis Oh Yeah is announcing its plans to continue to lead on this conversation with a weeklong festival in March 2016. ‘Women’s Work’ will highlight, celebrate and showcase women in music, as well as facilitate discussion with industry and artists on the issues surrounding the debate. We have a whole year to talk, so get involved in the conversation now. Charlotte Dryden

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Charlotte Dryden is the Creative Development Manager at Belfast's Oh Yeah Music Centre and Chair of Love Music Hate Racism NI.